Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Niblles & Bites: the Chicken Connection

An easy thing to do, if you’re goal is to eat a bit healthier, is to eat more chicken and fish compared to beef and pork. Most people know this. But a strange thing has happened over the years when it comes to the median size of a fresh chicken breast.

If I buy a pound of chicken breasts at the local grocery store I invariably end up with 3 breasts in the package and almost always it’s 2 very large ones and 1 not quite as large. None, however, are anything close to 3-4 ounces, which is a serving size of chicken.

Since 1 lb of chicken should yield at least 4 servings (5 is closer to goal, but I’m not going to quibble about an additional ounce of lean chicken, especially if it’s being prepared healthily, as I would be about an additional ounce of potato chips or fried something or other) so a mis-matched package of 3 leaves you with a few options to serve 4: buy 2 packages and store the leftover 2 in the freezer for another application or, using a bit of basic math*, divide it into 12 pieces so that we’re somewhere close to even servings.

Almost.

You see, another problem with these chicken breasts is that they’re not uniform in size so if you cook them as is you run the very real chance of not cooking the center of the thick portion all the way before the thinner end is dried out into jerky. And chicken is NOT something you want to serve medium-rare. Shudder.

The way we fix this in our house is, first, to buy the 5 lb+ packs of chicken. Not only do these chickens tend to be slightly less gargantuan that their single-pound counterparts, you’re price per pound is generally lower, making money sense as well as serving sense. Depending on the size of the breasts, there’s usually 9-11 in there. That’s where the second fix comes in: we split each breast in half, laterally (like you’re going to butterfly it, only not stopping part-way through). Not only does this give us 2 correct portions per breast and stretches the grocery budget but it also makes for a more uniform piece of meat that cooks evenly and looks better on the plate than a bunch of pieces!

Incidentally, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to splitting the chicken breasts. If you do botch one or two, set them aside and put these oops along with any other smaller portions in a freezer bag marked pieces and use that the next time you make a stir-fry or chicken salad. We usually keep 4 portions per bag because we cook enough to bring for lunch the next day (both for saving money on unnecessary lunch purchases and the health-benefits of a home-cooked lunch) but, obviously, use what works best for your household.

*Remember fractions? Back when you had to add 1/3 and 1/4, in order to do so you had to find the LCD (lowest common denominator–not liquid crystal display!) so you could add apples to apples. The LCD of 3 breasts and 4 servings is 12 pieces, but only if the breasts are of similar size.

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

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