How To Meal Prep Chicken

When you think of meal prep or batch cooking, chicken is one of the most popular ingredients as it’s nutritious, healthy, budget-friendly, tasty, and can be reheated within 3 to 4 days.

However, how do you meal prep chicken, and which is the best cut of chicken? In this guide, we will break down the best choices and methods on how to reheat chicken for meal prep.

Benefits of chicken for meal prep

There are many benefits of using chicken for meal prep.

From a healthy eating perspective, depending on the cut of chicken, it can help you with your health and fitness goals as there’s plenty of nutritional value in chicken.

Chicken is high in protein, but some cuts are leaner and lower in calories which can be ideal for your diet, which ultimately depends on your goal.

From a money-saving perspective, chicken is usually budget-friendly because it works out better value for money when you purchase in bulk.

The benefit of buying and cooking chicken in bulk is that you can divide it into multiple servings for the week-ahead which you can refrigerate or freeze.

Therefore, the cost per meal is far lower compared to buying takeout meals which makes a difference in the long-term.

Also, from a productivity-boosting perspective, meal prep helps you save time during weekdays by cooking in bulk or batches on the weekend.

Types of chicken for meal prep

Chicken breasts

Chicken breasts are the most popular cut of chicken for meal prep because it’s leaner and macro-friendly.

This is an ideal protein source to help you stay on track with your health and fitness goals whether you’re looking to lose weight or build muscle.

The downside to cooking chicken breast for meal prep is this cut of meat can be less tender compared to thighs and drumsticks, and in other words, it’s a dry cut of meat.

When reheated, it can taste dry but thankfully, there are ways to help overcome this issue with recipes such as curries, stews, pasta, shredded chicken, and so on.

Furthermore, once you learn how to cook chicken breasts to perfection, you won’t have this problem.

Nutritional breakdown (per 100 grams):

  • Calories: 165 (kcal)
  • Total Fat: 3.6 g
  • Protein: 31 g
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 85 mg
  • Sodium: 74 mg
  • Potassium: 256 mg

How to cook chicken breasts:

Chicken breasts may seem complicated to cook because it’s naturally uneven which means several parts can be undercooked and overcooked.

To overcome this issue, simply use a meat hammer to flatten the chicken or use a knife to slice the chicken breast in half (butterfly chicken).

This allows the chicken breast to cook evenly and perfectly which keeps it tender.

Chicken breasts can be baked in the oven, grilled, added to a stir-fry, cooked in an instant pot and air fryer.

By using a meat thermometer, cook chicken to an internal temperature of 73°C / 165°F.

Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs is another popular cut of meat and is generally more preferred because it’s more tender and reheats well.

It’s darker meat compared to chicken breasts and contains more fat which is why it’s less popular for meal prep.

However, chicken thighs are incredibly tasty and when you divide the servings accordingly to your daily macro goals, it can be a great way to prepare make-ahead meals.

It’s also a great source of essential nutrients like iron and zinc.

It’s perfect for recipes like curries, stews, tray bakes, chicken salads and so on.

Chicken thigh (without skin) nutritional breakdown (per 100 grams):

  • Calories: 219 (kcal)
  • Total Fat: 17 g
  • Protein: 16 g
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 98 mg
  • Sodium: 77 mg
  • Potassium: 205 mg

How to cook chicken thighs:

There are various types of chicken thighs you can purchase from boneless, with bones, skin-on, or skinless.

Ultimately, it’s down to your preference but chicken thighs will take longer to cook compared to chicken breasts.

In the oven, it can take around 30 to 40 minutes, whereas it can take around 20 to 25 minutes on the grill.

This is why checking the internal temperature is important for chicken thighs because times will vary according to your cooking method.

Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks is another dark meat option, which is also another underrated cut of meal for meal prep because it goes well with many recipes.

They are very tasty and can be seasoned to perfect with various types of dry rubs and marinades.

Although it’s slightly high in calories, it still has many benefits and the meat is very tender which can taste great when reheated.

Chicken drumstick (without skin) nutritional breakdown (per 100 grams):

  • Calories: 214 (kcal)
  • Total Fat: 11.06 g
  • Protein: 26.8 g
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 85 mg
  • Sodium: 412 mg
  • Potassium: 227 mg

How to cook chicken drumsticks:

Chicken drumsticks are often purchased skin-on but you can remove the skin if that’s for preferance.

There’s many chicken drumstick recipes with tasty dry rubs or marinades from Asian inspired to BBQ chicken.

It will take longer to cook than other cuts of chicken, as for example, it can take around 40 to 45 minutes in the oven, or 30 to 35 minutes on the BBQ.

However, checking the internal temperature is the best way to ensure it’s cooked to perfection.

How long does cooked chicken last?

Cooked chicken can last in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or you can freeze it for up to 2 to 6 months, which is why it’s perfect for meal prep recipes.

Batch cooking your favorite chicken recipes and dividing them into multiple servings can help you save time, save money, stay on track and stay healthy for the week ahead.

If you plan to store leftover cooked chicken recipes, you should use an air-tight meal prep container because it helps keep the food fresher for longer.

You should also follow the 2-hour rule when storing your leftovers because to prevent bacteria growth at room temperature.

How to tell if the chicken has gone bad?

Although cooked chicken recipes can last in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, there may be signs that it has gone bad and if this is what you suspect, it’s best advised to discard it.

Cooked chicken gone bad could be because of how it was stored in the first place or whether it has passed the “use by” date on the packaging.

Here is what to also look out for:

  • Change in smell or color: This can be difficult to tell if the chicken has been marinated in spices or sauces but if you have more or less plain chicken that resembles an acidic smell, it has gone bad. Likewise, if the chicken has turned into a gray or green color, it has definitely gone bad.

How to reheat chicken for meal prep?

Most chicken recipes can be reheated in a microwave, oven, stovetop, barbecue, slow cooker, or air fryer.

Here are the general rules for reheating chicken: reheat only once and ensure the meat is piping hot throughout.

The three most common ways to reheat chicken is by using either a microwave, oven or stovetop.

Using a meat thermometer is a great way to check if the internal temp of reheated chicken is correct.

Although instructions will vary according to the type of chicken dish you plan to reheat, the below is a general guide.

How to reheat chicken in the microwave:

  1. Transfer the chicken dish to a microwavable plate or container.
  2. Depending on the type of chicken recipe, add a touch of oil or water to help keep the meat moist.
  3. Cover with a microwave splatter guard.
  4. Reheat for 2 minutes but do it in 1-minute intervals to ensure the chicken is piping hot throughout.
  5. Allow the dish to cool down for several minutes and serve.

How to reheat chicken in the oven:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. Transfer the chicken dish to a baking tray or oven-proof container.
  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes but check and stir halfway through.
  4. Allow the dish to cool down for several minutes and serve.

How to reheat chicken on stovetop:

  1. Preheat your saucepan on medium-high heat.
  2. Add your preferred choice of cooking oil.
  3. Transfer the chicken dish to the saucepan.
  4. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes (depending on the recipe)
  5. Allow the dish to cool down for several minutes and serve.

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