I love freezer cooking -- after it's all done and waiting in my freezer, that is. I still want to do a big "once a month" cooking day, like I used to, but my schedule just hasn't allowed for it lately. So what do you do when there just isn't time for "The Big Cook Day?"
I'm so glad you asked.
This method is perfect for those who are interested in stocking the freezer, but are intimidated by the idea of cooking 30 separate meals in one day. It is also great for the times you just don't want to face sticker shock when you wheel an entire month of groceries to the check-out counter.
It's called Dump Cooking -- because all you do is dump the ingredients in the bag and freeze. That's it. It's fast, and then it's done. You just grab your meat (either pre-frozen or not pre-frozen. Just don't thaw the meat if it's been frozen), throw in your spices, label and freeze. When you are ready to use your meal, just pull it out of the freezer, thaw, and cook (you can bake, grill, broil or crock-pot these -- you're choice). Throw together a quick salad and a bread or potato and BAM! Dinner's Done!! You're family will think you're a super-hero!
Today, I made 10 different chicken entrees using the recipes found at When The Dinner Bell Rings -- Dump Cooking 101. I just went through the list and chose the recipes that looked good to me. If chicken isn't your thing, or you want more meat variety, you can simply use beef or pork instead of chicken in the recipes.
I printed the recipes up so that they would be easy access (my Mac is a desk model, so it's a little hard to see from the kitchen. If you have a laptop, ipad, etc, just whisk it into the kitchen. Even easier!) Then I made a quick grocery list. I already had most of the staple ingredients in my cupboards, so I made a trip to Aldi's for some chicken. Twenty-seven pounds of chicken, to be exact. My family can eat. A lot. While I was at Aldi's I grabbed freezer bags and the few other ingredients I would need.
I wanted be able to tell you how long this took me to make, so when I got home, I started a timer. Then I started ripping open bags of chicken. I put the correct number of chicken breasts for a meal in each ziplock bag. For us, that is 6-7 chicken breasts per meal.
Next, I labeled a second bag with the recipe title. I like to double bag because I'm just funny that way. I rarely have a freezer cooking catastrophe, so double bagging probably isn't necessary. But if you are worried about a bag leaking in your freezer, by all means, double bag.
Then I just dumped the ingredients for my first recipe into my first bag of chicken. Once everything was in there, I just sealed the bag and squished the ingredients around to mix. If you are obsessive about really mixing your ingredients well, you might put everything but your chicken in the bag first, mix, then add your chicken last. I find that it works either way. Just do what is fastest and easiest for you.
A couple of freezer cooking tips to think about:
*There is a reason factories work in assembly lines. It is more time efficient. So I try to do all like actions at once. For instance, in my speed cooking session, I separated all the chicken first, then started dumping my ingredients in. If I was making multiple bags of the same recipe, I would put each ingredient in all the bags before grabbing the next ingredient.
*I don't bother to put ingredients away if I know I will be using them again. Like salt. Why put it away between recipes when you know you will just have to get it out again? This looks a little messy while you're working, but it saves time in the long run.
*I have two sets of measuring scoops and spoons -- one for dry ingredients and one for wet. This saves lots of time washing between recipes. Dry ingredient spoons just get dusted off and wet ingredient spoons get a super quick rinse between ingredients.
*When you seal your freezer bags, squeeze all the air out that you can. This prevents freezer burn (not that mine stay in the freezer long enough to actually get freezer burn.) It also saves freezer space.
*Freeze your entrees flat whenever possible. This saves freezer space and also shortens thaw time later.
Next, I just carried them to the freezer. And here they are!
10 different chicken entrees ready to use! *Smile*
Time invested: 55 minutes. I didn't do any pre-chopping, or prep work, so that time includes all chopping and everything from getting out the ingredients to opening up all those chicken bags. It also includes the time I took to stop and take pictures.
And here is my kitchen counter afterwards:
Scary, huh? But it isn't as bad as it looks. Here is the same kitchen counter 12 minutes later:
Total time: 1 hour and 7 minutes. And now I have 10 entrees ready to go and a clean kitchen.
That calls for a celebration! Here I am drinking my celebratory smoothie and rocking out to some Tommy Emmanuel. (That's some pretty cool classical guitar, for those of you who are wondering.)
Have fun stocking your freezer speed style!
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