The combination of chest freezer and vacuum sealer is a powerful one. As someone who needs to eat a lot of protein (because of the powerlifting) and hates repeat meals (because I’m a finicky little baby), being able to buy meat in bulk and freeze it has helped me cut down on takeout. Chicken, steak, pork, prawns — it’s all in my freezer, waiting to satisfy my whims and cravings.
I’ve even got some chicken breasts in there. I’m usually not too big on white meat — I’m more of a thigh guy — but I do love a thin, pounded-out piece of breast meat, browned and crisped in a pan. As I’ve mentioned previously (over five years ago!), there are many advantages to taking out some aggression on a chicken breast, transforming its lopsided, teardrop shape into something thin and uniform:
Pounding a chicken breast is quite easy, and it has a many advantages. A piece of meat with a uniform thickness is going to cook much more evenly, and a thinner piece of meat is going to cook much more quickly. You’re also mechanically tenderizing the meat, which is kind of like a mamma bird pre-chewing baby bird’s food, only much less gross. This means you’re going to get juicier, tastier chicken on the table faster, which is the best of all possible outcomes. (Also, flatter chicken makes for better chicken sandwiches, and chicken sandwiches are very important.)
Pounding out a frozen chicken breast is difficult, however, which is why I take a mallet to mine before I freeze them. It eliminates an extra step when I go to cook it, and it freezes and thaws more evenly and quickly.
How to pound out a chicken breast
To pound out a chicken breast, you’ll need to wrap it in plastic. This prevents the raw chicken juices from flying around. Some people use plastic wrap, but I prefer a sealable freezer bag because it’s made of tougher stuff that’s less likely to tear, and you can close it up.
Trim the meat of any white stringy bits and excess fat, and place your lopsided chicken breast in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Grab a heavy, blunt object — I use a metal soup ladle but a skillet or sauce pan works well too — and whack it, starting from the thickest part of the breast and working your way outward, flipping as needed to get it as even and thin as you can without tearing the meat. Aim for a 3/4-inch thickness.
How to freeze a chicken breast
If you have a vacuum sealer, use that. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, wrap each breast in a piece of plastic wrap, then place them in a gallon-sized freezer bag. When you’re ready to eat it, transfer to the fridge to thaw, either on its own or in a marinade.
How to cook a chicken breast from frozen
These methods can be used on any frozen chicken (pounded or not) but you can pan fry a flattened breast directly from frozen. Doing this to an un-pounded, teardrop-shaped breast would be folly — it would take forever for the thickest part to reach a safe temperature and would dry out in the process — but a thin, even breast will thaw and cook in the pan much more quickly, all while developing a lovely crust. Just make sure to keep your heat around medium-low (especially if you’re working with an extra hot electric range), otherwise you might end up with a burnt exterior and too-pink interior.
Add enough fat to coat the bottom of a stainless steel pan (or use a very well-seasoned cast iron), then salt both sides of the breast by sprinkling one side with salt and letting it sit for about 30 seconds, then flipping and repeating on the other side. Add the meat to the prepared pan set over medium-low heat. Let cook undisturbed on one side until the edges look quite browned, then flip. Add some butter to the pan and baste the breast while the other side browns, then remove once it registers 155℉ on a digital thermometer at the thickest part (which shouldn’t be much thicker than the rest of it, thanks to your pre-pounding).
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