One way to really speed up your dinner prep time and your “in the kitchen” time in general is to put the concept of batch cooking to work in your favor. If you already have cooked ground beef or cooked and shredded chicken waiting for you in your refrigerator or freezer, you could shave 15-20 minutes off of your dinner prep time.
But I have to take the time to cook it at some point, right?!
I knew you’d ask!
The key to batch cooking it to have several things happening in your kitchen at once. Much like a three ring circus. With you playing the very important role of ringmaster!
If I were to interview a real circus ringmaster, chances are he/she’d say she’s got a plan. If not, the the elephants and lions could get in a little squabble, and the tightrope walker could be accidentally knocked off by the flying trapeze artist who missed the other bar and was sent hurdling towards the unicyclist up on the high wire.
I use this analogy to tell you that you need a batch cooking plan. If you’re going to have 3 things happening at one in the kitchen, you’re going to need to be sure that you don’t need the same pot for 2 different things, and that you make sure to start things in the right order, as to not spend more time than necessary to get the tasks on your list accomplished.
One of the most common things that I include on a batch cooking plan is “slow cook a whole chicken.” Here’s why…
- Whole Chickens are the cheapest way to buy chicken. Saves $$$.
- The broth from slow cooking a chicken can be saved to use in soups and stews. Saves $$$.
- It takes approximately 2 minutes to get a whole chicken going in the slow cooker, and about 10 minutes to shred the chicken once cooked. Saves TIME.
Here’s what it looks like practically on a “batch cooking day”…
If you plan to do your batch cooking during the morning hours, then slow cook the chicken overnight and it will be ready for shredding when you are doing your batch cooking in the morning.
If you plan to do your batch cooking in the late afternoon, around the same time you are preparing your dinner, then start the whole chicken in the slow cooker first thing in the morning. It will be ready when you need to shred it during the afternoon/early evening.
The hands on time for cooking and shredding a whole chicken is very little. And here’s the specifics on how to make it…
1 4-5 lb. whole chicken
Garlic powder, salt and pepper
Optional: carrot pieces, celery stalk, and/or garlic cloves
- Place the chicken into the base of the slow cooker. Add 2 cups hot water (this is to dilute the broth that will form as the chicken cooks.)
- Season the chicken with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- For additional flavor, add carrot pieces, celery stalk, and/or garlic cloves.
- Set slow cooker on low and cook for 8-10 hours.
- Once cooked, remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Let cool about 10 minutes before handling. Debone and pull off all the white and dark chicken meat.
- Separate into 2-3 cup portions and let cool. Place in plastic freezer baggies and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight, or in a bowl with warm water if you forget to pull it out the night before.
- Strain the broth, let cool completely and store in plastic freezer baggies. Keep for up to 12 months in the freezer.