I love the challenge of taking a bargain price meat like Ham, Turkey or Boston Butt and really making the most of it – but I really like finding a healthier “premium” meat, like bone in Chicken Breast and doing the same. I look for prices of about 99 cents a pound (the low in my area) and stock up, and use it to its full advantage. Note: In 2014, regular sale price of chicken breast in my area doubled to $1.99/lb, while the rare great price is $1.69/lb. Keep that in mind as you look at my pricing.
Boneless breasts are often on sale for the same price as bone in, but which is really the better deal? It really depends on if you use the bones to make stock, an expensive item to buy, especially when the quality of home-made is so much better. There is a vast improvement in many dishes made with home-made stock.
Also consider, Bone in Breasts:
- Tend to be larger
- Stay moist and flavorful when roasted or braised
- Can be trimmed into quality pieces that are much more uniform than packaged boneless breasts.
Cost Comparison, bone-in to boneless:
- Four breasts with skin and bone came to one pound, 10 ounces (26 ounces) and cost $1.61 at 99 cents a pound.
- The bone, as clean as I could get it, and the skin portion came to 10 ounces, or $.62. The four boneless breasts came to a pound, or $.99 cents.
- So, in essence, I lost that 19 ounces/62 cents – except I made stock from it and the bones still had enough meat for soup.
How clean are the boneless breasts?
- Some are pure breast meat, no waste.
- Some may have two to three ounces per pound of gristle, fat, etc. Wasted, out of a pound @ 99 cents would be 12 to 14 cents.
Recently I bought four packages of bone in breasts (11.5 pounds) at $.99 a pound – there were 12 breasts total, three in each package – total cost: $11.38. Most families of four I know would simply buy two packages of breasts and cook them; the cost for the protein portion of the meal would run about $5.70, even at this great sales price.
Me, I make multiple meals out of the 12 breasts, maybe more. I know I’ll make at least 12 meals for four, maybe more, and will have left overs from some of those meals. Without even counting the left overs, that makes my protein average about 95 cents per meal. Crazy, huh? and all for a few minutes work that I’ll show you how to do, below. (By the way, most of the health gurus and nutritional guidelines recommend that an adult eat no more than 6 ounces of protein a day, so these amounts are not skimpy – some meals will have a little less, some more…)
Here’s what I plan on doing with my chicken, keeping in mind that some of these recipes make more than 4 servings, which mean some of them will have left overs in addition to the meals I’m making:
- 4 Chicken Cordon Bleus (meal 1.)
- 8 boneless breast (two packages of 4) to freeze for meals (meals 2 & 3.)
- 3 1/2 cups of cooked chicken: some for soup – probably about a half cup will go in my Chicken Noodle Soup (meal 4) and I might make a casserole and use about 1 1/2 cups of chicken – maybe my Artichoke and Chicken Casserole – it has cheese, too, to stand in for protein, so I can short the chicken just a bit. (meal 5.) I may make a Chicken Salad like Fruited Chicken Salad (meal 6)
- 6 packages of chicken tenders and trimmings for things like this marvelous stir fry, based on Mah Gu Gai Pin. My kid would kill me if I didn’t make chicken nuggets (I’d just modify Bobby Flay’s Oven Fried Chicken recipe. This simple Chicken Coconut Curry is a fantastic way to stretch a bit of chicken, and I’d probably make a burrito or burrito bowls with one packet, and then make yet another stir fry – this one Cashew Chicken. (meals 7 – 12.)
- Chicken broth, which I like to condense down, and use part for soup and freeze the rest in ziplocs. (I use the same recipe for turkey and chicken broth)
Here’s how I break down the chicken. Caveat: Make sure your knife is sharp – the same few minutes of work with a sharp knife will be a misery with a dull one. And do wash, wash and wash when doing a project like this!
The last thing I do is weigh and portion the meat. I trim each breast to between 5 to 6 ounces, and bag, label and freeze the chicken. (Well, I don’t actually weigh anymore because I seem to have developed a really good feel over the years, but I certainly used to!) I’m a firm believer in having a small kitchen scale around and a small electronic one can be as little as 15 bucks or so.
I like to put the number of breasts I’ll use for a meal in one package, and place the trimmings and tenderloins into packages of about 6 to 8 ounces each. To me, that’s a great size for stir fries, nuggets or casseroles.
As the broth cooks, I’ll remove the breasts, strip them of their meat, then toss the bones back in to simmer for a couple of hours. There is always enough meat to get a casserole and chicken for soup out of it, and enough broth to make two soups (or a double portion of one.) If you leave the meat in the whole time the soup cooks, it won’t taste very good at the end.
When I first started cooking on my own, I was a bit squeemish about all this, so sometimes I would roast the chicken first, then remove it from the bone – I still sometimes roast the bones or the chicken for flavor – it makes a great stock. It all depends on whether or not I want precooked chicken or raw chicken for future recipes.