Chicken Meal Prep

Chicken is one of the best protein sources out there. It’s real, chew-able food unlike a protein shake and chicken breasts are much leaner than most cuts of beef.

The downside to chicken is cooking. Babysitting a frying pan full of chicken breast is a horrible grind, especially if you are cooking several batches to have your meals prepared for the week ahead. It can also be tough to reheat chicken without drying it out.

This article is a quick summary of cooking methods that can make cooking enough chicken for the week ahead a breeze.

Chicken in an Instant Pot

What works

  • Chicken thighs – with or without skin or bones. As long as they are not frozen 7 minutes on high pressure with a 10 minute natural release works great for 4 chicken thighs. Because of their high fat content they also reheat well.

What does not work

  • Chicken breast – While the Instant pot is certainly capable of cooking chicken breast, it always comes out tacky. There’s nothing worse than listening to your teeth separate from the food after every bite.

Sous vide Chicken

  • Sous vide reliably produces delicious chicken that is a pleasure to eat. Also, once everything is set up there is no need to watch your food while it cooks. The one downside is the length of time it takes to cook.

What works

  • Chicken breast – Every. Single. Time. If you are cooking full chicken breasts go with 150F for 60 minutes.

What does not work

  • Chicken cutlets – The cuts of meat are simply too small to retain much moisture. If you were to marinade them you might get better results. However, based on my experience, the 145F for 45 minutes that most of the internet and sous vide cooking apps recommend does not produce great results.
  • Chicken thighs – Technically these do work but they call for incredibly long cooking times, 4 hours in some cases. The thighs turn out good but really are not distinguishable from the Instant Pot chicken thighs that take less than 30 minutes from start to finish.
    • In defense of sous vide chicken thighs, they do produce some amazing juices compared to the Instant pot. If you plan to cook down the leftover chicken juices in a sauce pan you may want to try sous vide chicken thighs at 165F for 4 hours. Cooking down the juices left over from sous vide produced a much better sauce than the leftover sauce from the Instant Pot.
    • There are two possible explanations for this. First, the Instant Pot juices are diluted with a whole cup of water. However, this can be boiled out. I think the better explanation is that the four hours of heat from the sous vide breaks down additional structures like collagen and release them into the juices.

Additional considerations

Based on personal experience I stay away from recipes that ask you to cube the chicken before cooking it. This is a cheap trick. The recipe author is asking you to cut the chicken small enough so you will not notice the unpleasant texture resulting from poor cooking technique.

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