The Most Juicy, Savory Chicken Breast
Meal-prepped pastured chicken breast is a great option for animal protein. It’s a staple at our house. We usually make a couple pounds worth at the start of the week and it ends up getting thrown into everything. I have played around with many formulations over the years, and sometimes in the summer I still grill my meal prep chicken. But for year-round speed, hands-offness, flavor, juiciness, fool-proofness, and overall versatility, this method is consistently the favorite.
How To Use Meal-Prep Chicken Breast
These are the top 3 meals that we are so grateful to have pre-cooked, pre-chopped chicken breast at the ready.
QUICK DINNER: Any night we arrive late home from soccer practice/swim lessons/futsal games/orchestra rehearsal/crazy day at work and just don’t have the energy or time to cook – this chicken is great thrown into a quesadilla or on top of an entree salad made from whatever is already in our fridge. It beats Domino’s!
SOUP SUPPLEMENT: Anything soup related that doesn’t already have a meat protein. Good pairings: Coconut Curry Lentil Stew or Creamy Vegetable Bisque.
SCHOOL LUNCHES: My daughter is a fan of the chicken thrown in with bite-sized pasta (usually a box of farfalle pre-cooked on a weekend), with a homemade apple cider vinegar italian dressing, and a generous dusting of grated parmesan. I serve the lunch bento-box style with two different fruits like grapes and a banana, and she’s a happy camper.
This lunch may not win you any Pinterest Parent awards, but it’s very nutritious, easy to throw together and doesn’t take forever. It’s loads better than what the school lunch system feeds its kids these days. And I’m not saying it wouldn’t also make a fantastic adult work lunch.
Sourcing the Chicken
The photo shows this recipe made with one package of chicken (2 breasts), but of course you can double or triple the recipe based on how much you’ll use. I try to use anything I chop up within 4-5 days.
My source for this chicken is Aurora Valley. This is a mid-sized chicken company that is about 40 miles south of Portland. They are owned by Pacific Foods. I like them for a couple of reasons:
- They aren’t an industrial sized operation. They’re cleaner, the birds are cleaner, and they are actually allowed to go outside.
- They are local so the meat isn’t transported long distances.
- They are becoming readily available. New Seasons has started to carry breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings, and whole birds. Whole Foods is starting to as well.
- They are decently priced – in fact, their breasts are cheaper per pound than the Draper Valley or Ranger brands (which are unfortunately just subsidiaries of Perdue), or Smart Chicken (which is owned by Tyson). Tyson and Perdue are two of the largest poultry producers on the planet.
I also found another hyper-local chicken company called Marion Acres. This weekend, we went directly to the farm and purchased 2 whole, cut up birds at $4.75 per pound, and some bone-in thighs at $9 per pound. Their breasts were $13 per pound. I didn’t get them because we are trying to do more “whole animal” cooking – and I wanted bones leftover for making broth.
I’ll let you know how it is when I cook something, but I’m super excited to have found them. Not only are they only 5 miles down the highway from our house, but we could see those little white chickies running around on TONS of open, grassy pasture space, and that made me happy. I’ve heard great things from restaurants in the area about Marion Acres.
Look Out For White Streaks
Regardless where you buy your breast, look out for white striations within the chicken breast. The white striations are fat streaks. This is unnatural in chickens, and is a sign the chickens are being force-fed to amp up their slaughter weight (more money to the growers who are paid based on the chicken’s final weight). All it means to you is fattier chicken breast! Look for lean, pink breasts with little to no white striations throughout.
As you can see, the only thing I put on these guys is the Trader Joe’s Garlic Salt grinder (it HAS to be the grinder – big nice chunks of garlic and salt that sop up the chicken juices while baking), and Smoked Paprika.
I don’t bother trimming my chicken before I bake it. I find that tendons and excess fat is faster to remove after cooking, during the chopping process. But as mentioned above, I also tend to buy high quality, organic and/or local chicken that looks pretty clean to begin with. I did nothing to these breasts, they are straight out of the package. You’re not going to see Foster Farms breasts in bulk from Costco that look like this. They’ll have all kinds of fat and tendons hanging off of them.
After I season them, they go into the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Yep, that hot! (Full Instruction List is below.) I flip them once during baking. They come out looking like this (currently drooling over here…):
I typically cut this in one of two ways post-baking, I either slice it at a bias, rotisserie-style (which is what is pictured below, and is super pretty), or for more bite-sized usable pieces throughout the week I’ll just dice it up, which is quicker using a big chef’s knife.
Reminder: Try not to cook any more than your household can use up in about 4-5 days. Research is showing that cut up food grows bacteria known as “endotoxins” at a much faster rate than whole food, due to the increased surface area.
Endotoxin build-up on ANY food, even healthy food, can lead to gut damage/leaky gut, and inflammation. Consider keeping the breasts whole in the fridge until you need to cut them, if you’d like it to keep closer to a week.
We like to advocate for “plant forward” diet, but clean animal protein is an important part of the human diet and always has been.
Fresh, small farm, humanely raised and slaughtered chicken breast is an EXCELLENT source of lean protein, vitamins and minerals. Good quality animal protein also boosts the immune system and builds/repairs tissue.
Animal protein provides all 9 of the essential amino acids that our body cannot produce itself. Very few plant proteins do that. So you don’t need a lot of animal protein, but a little is good for you! Just two, 3 oz servings a day will give your body all the essential amino acids it needs to protect itself, and about 40-50% of your total protein needs.
You can get the remainder of your protein requirements through healthy whole plant sources that are also high in fiber and minerals, like lentils, split peas, quinoa, faro, and all variations of beans – or through healthy animal vegetarian sources, like farm eggs and grass-fed local dairy.
Check out Where To Shop for more info on sourcing pastured meat.
Nutrition Per Serving