The Only Chicken You Need to Make (Easy, Make-Ahead Recipe)

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This easy, make-ahead chicken recipe goes with EVERYTHING (tacos, salads, soup, sandwiches, pasta, casseroles, etc.), uses any cut of chicken, cooks in the oven, slow cooker, grill, or Instant Pot!

If you like this recipe, you might like our other Chicken recipes and Make-Ahead recipes.

The Easiest and Only Chicken I Have to Make - from CheapskateCook.com

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How long does it take you to cook dinner? One of the biggest complaints I get from singles or working professionals about cooking is how long it takes to make a meal.

I mean, I don’t know what the problem is, really. After working all day and coming home exhausted, my favorite thing to do is chop, boil, sweat, bake, and wait an hour for the chicken to cook while answering questions from the kids about when dinner will be ready.

And this from someone who enjoys cooking.   

Easy Make-Ahead Chicken

One hack that shaves down my dinner preparation is cooking most of our protein in advance. This is especially handy for chicken. There are pros and cons to make ahead chicken. On the one hand, you don’t get all the spicy, saucy flavors of your dish soaked into the fibers (or whatever) of the meat. But on the other hand, you have a life because you aren’t in the kitchen all day.

Make-ahead chicken takes my dinner preparation time from 1-2 hours to 15-20 minutes. And our food tastes great.

Make-ahead chicken takes my dinner preparation time from 1-2 hours to 15-20 minutes. And our food tastes great.

My philosophy is, if I want to eat healthy and frugally, it has to be simple, flavorful, and time effective. Since I love cooking, periodically I turn on some music, pour a glass of kombucha (or whatever), and spend the next hour in foodie paradise. However, doing that daily is neither practical nor fun, so I need a balance.

Make ahead chicken is our balance.

How to Use Make-Ahead Chicken

We use this Make-Ahead Chicken for EVERYTHING:

chicken, yellow rice, and veggies

You can use this seasoning for any cut:

  • breasts
  • thigh
  • legs
  • drumsticks

Use any cooking method:

  • Bake it
  • Grill it
  • Slow cooker
  • Instant Pot

Use it in nearly any cuisine or flavor profile:

  • American
  • Mexican
  • Greek
  • Middle Eastern
  • Italian
  • Indian
  • Chinese
  • All of them, friend. I have yet to find a flavor profile this doesn’t fit.

Freezer-Friendly Make-Ahead Chicken

This chicken also freezes well. When I make a batch, I refrigerate what we’ll eat in the next few days. Then I toss the rest in a plastic container or freezer bag for later. Boom. Chicken dinners are ready for the month.

Easy Make-Ahead Chicken that goes with EVERYTHING (from CheapskateCook.com) - use for tacos, salads, soup, sandwiches, pasta, casseroles, etc.

Save Money with Make-Ahead Chicken

One way that we save money and eat healthy is by treating meat more like a side dish or condiment for most of our dinners. We try to get plenty of protein, but meat gets expensive – especially if you try to buy clean, sustainable meat.

When we cook chicken in batches, shred it, and add it to our main dish, we end up eating less meat. This helps us save money and eat well.

(This post is part of How to Build Your Healthy Frugal Pantry – a series that is hopefully self-explanatory, haha. Here’s how we save money on quality meat and find cheap, healthy grains)  

This Make-Ahead Chicken is:

  • Easy
  • Delicious
  • Paleo
  • Keto
  • Make-ahead
  • Freezer-friendly
  • Easy
  • Whole30
  • Real food
  • Instant Pot
  • Slow cooker
  • Perfect for meal prepping

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag a photo #cheapskatecook and @cheapskatecook on Instagram.

The Easiest and Only Chicken I Have to Make - from CheapskateCook.com

Easy Make-Ahead Chicken

Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

This easy, make-ahead chicken recipe goes with EVERYTHING (tacos, salads, soup, sandwiches, pasta, casseroles, etc.), uses any cut of chicken, cooks in the oven, slow cooker, grill, or Instant Pot!

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs chicken, (any cut works - whole, thigh, breast, drumstick, bone-in or boneless)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika, (to taste) (optional, but WORTH IT)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  1. Whatever your cut of poultry, sprinkle with seasoning. If you sprinkle the top and bottom of the meat, the flavor will be even better, but it's not necessary.
  2. BAKE: Place in a baking dish with a splash of water. Bake at 375 F for 30-50 minutes. Check for doneness - cooking times vary for different cuts. Bone-in will take significantly longer and boneless cuts.
  3. GRILL: Cook over direct heat several minutes each side, flipping once. If using indirect heat, cook, covered, for 30-50 minutes, flipping occasionally. Check for doneness (see notes). If using boneless cuts, flatten them with the flat side of a meat tenderizer before cooking until they are an even thickness.
  4. SLOW COOKER: Place in crockpot with 1 cup of water. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Check to ensure the meat is cooked through.
  5. INSTANT POT: Place steamer rack in the Instant Pot and pour in at least 1 cup of water. Place the chicken in the Instant Pot. Cook on manual pressure for 10 minutes for boneless cuts; 15 minutes for bone-in.
  6. After the chicken cools slightly, serve with anything - on a salad, in tacos or a pita, chop for soup, pasta, nachos, or casserole. Or serve it with barbecue sauce or gravy alongside potatoes and veggies. 
  7. FREEZE: Chop or shred the chicken and pack 1-2 cup portions in a quart-size freezer bag (squeeze the extra air out) or pack somewhat snugly in a plastic container. Label the bag and toss it in the freezer. When ready to use, thaw in the fridge overnight.

Notes

HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR CHICKEN IS DONE:

Are you as freaked out about raw meat as me? The trick is to check the juices. With a knife and fork, cut into the thickest part of the chicken and gently press the meat. If the meat is done, the juices coming from it will look clear. If they look pink, your bird needs to keep cooking. I found these pictures and videos helpful.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 3 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 375Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 160mgSodium: 157mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 41g

Please note: The actual calories and nutrition of this dish will change depending on what ingredients you use. Nutrition information is not always accurate.

Buffalo Chicken Dip with celery, crackers, and pretzels
Buffalo Chicken Dip

What You Can Do Now:

Have you ever tried making chicken in batches and freezing it?

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