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How to Meal Prep Chicken

chicken prep
Do you meal prep? (Do you want to?) Make your life so much easier with our chicken meal-prep guide. We’ll show you how to prep a big batch of freezer-friendly chicken, how to store it, and how to use this versatile and protein-packed ingredient to make a week+ of easy dinners and lunches. Do it for Future You! MORE+ LESS-
Updated May 21, 2019

How It Works

The internet’s really onto something with those meal-prep plans that are popping up everywhere. And the only thing easier than having one meal prepped ahead of time is having a whole bunch of them prepped ahead of time. That’s where our secret weapon comes in: big-batch, freezer-friendly ingredient prep.

How it works: 

  • Pick your ingredient (we picked shredded chicken breast) and prep a whole lot of it
  • Divvy chicken into storage containers that each hold one recipe’s worth
  • Fill your freezer with prepped, cooked chicken that Future You will turn into easy dinners 
  • Defrost as needed to make a whole lot of recipes
  • Marvel at how your life is about 1000x easier

Ready? Let’s meal-prep a ton of chicken!

What You'll Need

Food:

  • 8 chicken breasts (or more; this is a choose-your-own-chicken-adventure!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or more depending on how much chicken you’re making)
  • Salt and pepper

Not Food: 

  • Oven
  • Cutting board
  • Paper towels
  • Large rimmed baking sheet
  • 2 forks
  • Food storage bags and/or containers
  • Permanent marker and/or masking tape, for labeling

How to Cook Chicken Breasts

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Arrange chicken breasts on a large cutting board and pat completely dry with paper towels. Brush both sides of chicken breasts with olive oil (or drizzle and use your fingers to coat the chicken).

brush chicken breasts with olive oil

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper to taste, and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. (We were able to fit 8 chicken breasts on ours; if you’ll be cooking more than 8 breasts we recommend working in batches with a single pan rather than cooking multiple pans at once.)

sprinkle chicken breast with salt and pepper

Cook 15-18 minutes until chicken breasts are cooked through (internal temperature of 165°). Remove to a cutting board to rest for 5-10 minutes so the juices can redistribute. (This keeps the chicken from drying out when you shred it.)

How to Shred Chicken Breasts

shred chicken

After your chicken has rested, grab a couple of forks and start shredding the chicken. Stick one fork into the chicken and hold it in place as an anchor, and use the fork in your other hand to pull the meat apart into shreds.

How to Store, Freeze + Defrost Shredded Chicken

Now that your chicken has been shredded like an air guitar solo, what do you do with it? If you’re planning on consuming the chicken within the next day or two, storing it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator will do. If you want to be a real meal-prep boss, it’s to the freezer you go.

chicken prep

TO STORE: Make sure to let your chicken cool completely before you store it. Warm chicken will still give off some moisture, and that’s freezer burn waiting to happen.

We recommend dividing the chicken into amounts you’re likely to use in recipes. Choose containers that are similar in size to the amount of chicken you’ll be storing, so there’s not a lot of extra air around the chicken. If you’re using freezer bags, seal them almost all the way after filling them, and then squeeze out as much excess air as you can.

Make removable labels for your containers with a piece of masking tape and permanent marker. If you’re using freezer bags, label them prior to filling for the most legible results. Definitely include what you’re freezing and how much (“Shredded Chicken, 2 cups”) and if you’re prone to losing things in the back of your freezer, write the date on there as well.

TO FREEZE: Put in the freezer, and walk away! Cooked chicken should freeze solid in 4-6 hours, or overnight. Frozen chicken will keep up to 6 months, but we recommend using it within 3 for the best texture and flavor when you defrost. Speaking of…

TO DEFROST: As with any meat (and extra especially with cooked meat), the best way to defrost shredded chicken is to transfer your container to the fridge and let it defrost overnight. Using any heat (either your microwave or running water) can cause the meat to defrost and heat unevenly, even overcooking it in parts. Just move it from the freezer to fridge the night or even morning before you plan to use it, and you’ll be golden.

What to Make

Now that your freezer is chock-full of chicken, all that’s left to do is figure out what’s for dinner. Check out these 5 painless meals you can make with your meal-prepped chicken, plus other poultry-positive recipes just waiting to be part of your weekly dinner lineup.

Knowledge is power! More cooking how-tos are right this way.


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