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Need help with a cooking routine please

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hello! Well, I just posted in the welcome forums, and basically, i have no cooking knowledge, and I am tired of microwaving food, and buying fast food :confused:and as a student my time and skills is limited, but i would like to learn how to cook and enojy my own food!:lips:

I need to eat healthy, less fatty foods ;)

So here's my scenario I'd liek help with please:

I go to costco and buy a package of skinless legs and thighs. so what do i do from here?

1. I assume that next step, i rinse the chicken.

2. Next, i keep a couple of peices in the fridge to cook over the next 2-3 days, and package the rest in plastic bags and freeze.

3. since i dont have much pots and pans, i'd like to simmer the chicken in my pot (i tried boiling it to get the fat out, but it ends up tasting tuff :confused:)

and finally

4. when i take out the frozen chicken, its usually 2-3 peices in a sandwich bag that i put in a bowl of water to thaw it out for a couple of hours.

p.s. i know i need a meat thermometer after reading on this site, are they at target, walmart and safeway?

thanks everyone!!
post #2 of 19
I would suggest learning how to cook vegetables first. Vegetables cooked and seasoned properly can have tons of flavor. It would cut tons of fat out. Get some good olive oils, vinegar and learn how to make vinaigrettes. You can flavor the vegetables after they are cooked. A simple example is cooking (steaming) broccoli coating it with a vinaigrette. Each vegetable has its own cooking characteristic. That something you’ll need to learn. DON'T OVERCOOK.

I would suggest a digital therm. plenty of types available.

Hope that helps
post #3 of 19
Another idea: learn how to braise- that is, to cook the meat slowly in some well-flavored liquid (not covered up- that's stewing). If you have a crock pot that makes it very much easier for a beginner. Dark meat (legs and thighs of poultry) are tougher and need longer cooking at gentler temperatures.

There are zillions of crock pot recipes for chicken thighs and legs or for similarly "tough" pieces of beef, pork and turkey. If you don't have a crock pot you can braise in the oven or on top of the stove (like pot roast).

If you want to save money I can help you there! Cook/portion/freeze is the way to go. You're better off freezing fully cooked food rather than spending time waiting for frozen chicken to defrost and then cooking it. (NOTE: NEVER defrost food on the counter or sitting in the sink- even in water. A chicken will need 2 days to fully defrost in the fridge, which is the absolutely safest way to do it. There are safe shortcuts, but they're not for you until you know your way around food a bit more. :))

Here's a link to a very simple chicken recipe for the crockpot:

You can do a turkey breast in the crock pot very easily. Put the breast in the crock pot. Add some salt and pepper and any other seasonings you like (sage, garlic, etc.). Add 1 can of low sodium chicken broth. Cover the crock pot and cook on low 8-10 hours. The turkey will make more juice, which you can thicken to make gravy.

You can freeze the cooked meat in smaller bags. Season it to use in tacos, salads with greens, or turkey/chicken salad.
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post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 


Ok, well just to let you guys know i will be checking here often as I NEED to eat! (duh!) and since i am low on money, and still would like to incorporate meat (without having to buy fast food) i would like to get on the road to cooking chicken right away!!

Ok, first off, thanks for the tip on the vegetables, i have that covered (in my "basic" way :o) in order to save money and time, i buy pre-packaged brocolli, spinach, etc. frozen, then just follow the instructions on the package (bring 1/4 cup of water to boil, put in 1 cup of vegetable, cover, bring temp to med 6, cook for 5 minutes)

How does that sound?

as for the crock pot, thank you very much!! sounds easy, however i will have to wait a little bit in order to save up for one (again money is tight!) i do have a pot with a handle though :crazy: !! Are there any advice you can give me to boil my chicken?

Also, about safely handling and freezing the chicken, please elaborate!!
If i buy it from costco, could i just keep it in my fridge and cook it as long as i dont go over the "use or freeze by" date?

and how do i safely defrost the chicken? i just read elsewhere overnight is ok?! but 2 days is the way to go? so if take it out of the freezer tonight at 10pm and put it in the fridge, i shouldnt cook it until sunday morning?

are thermometers more for whole chickens? or should i use it with peices?

...confused.... please help!!
post #5 of 19
The absolute first thing I would suggest is that you buy, rent, beg, borrow, or steal a cookbook. Something on the order of those similar to one by Betty Crocker or Home & Garden as they are beginner friendly. Most cookbooks have a section in the front on cooking, defrosting, and preserving foods. Lots of different (if basic) recipes and general nutrition info. Stay away (for now) from the cookbooks that cater to high end meal prep as they assume general cooking knowledge that you don't appear to have. The internet is your friend for recipes too.

Cooking chicken isn't that difficult. For basic chicken you can easily pan fry it in a little oil. You can bake it in a small oven safe pan or casserole dish. You can grill it on a small hibachi with charcoal. You can make soup too.

The tips about cooking and then freezing are good because you can cook your food fresh, divide into meals and then freeze it. When you're hungry just thaw the meal and eat. Better and faster than buying, freezing, thawing, cooking, refreezing and rethawing.

Another tip would be to vary your grocery shopping. Buy fish, hamburger, sausage and other meats before you run out of your current meats. That way you don't eat chicken every night for the next month (which gets boring and tedious and makes you want to go out to eat just for something different). Don't buy the "prepared" meals as you're paying more to have some annonomous person at the food factory cater your meals for you. Buy foods YOU cook into meals. Cheaper and better tasting. And you don't have to buy "chicken tenders' as they are generally more expensive than whole breasts. Breasts are higher priced than legs and thighs which can be cooked tender by braising and other slow(er) cooking methods.

Quick meals are also made on the cheap with homemade spaghetti sauce (even with just marinara sauce) that you've cooked and portioned before freezing and then served over various pastas. In addition to spaghetti you can buy different types of dried pasta like ravioli and tortellini and make a decent and filling meal in less than 10 minutes. Other generic meals use things like rice-a-roni and polish sausage/keilbasa. Make the rice per the package and drop in sausage chunks while the rice simmers. When the rice is done the dish is done. You don't even have to thaw the sausage, cut it & drop it in frozen and it'll cook completely in the 20 mins the rice takes to simmer until done.

Even pro chefs have shopping lists depending on the menu they're going to cook & serve. In order to make that list they have to know what each meal is going to be for the week. Same deal at home. If you know what you're going to fix for meals you look in your pantry and find out what you need to buy in order to cook those meals. Watch for coupons and specials and don't assume that costco is cheaper than the grocery store (on some things maybe, but not on everything so buy some things here, some there). Stay away from premade stuff like Prego as you can make the same stuff for a ton less $.

As for pots & pans you can sometimes find useable cookware at the thrift store for pennies (well quarters anyway) that will serve until your finances inprove and you can afford better. Cookie sheets, corningware, etc are all there. Just inspect very well before buying.

Don't forget to come back here with any more questions you may have.
post #6 of 19
I agree with much of the information already presented...
Get a cookbook...
the one I always suggest to my students is the joy of cooking...
those recipes are basic, simple, and they work...

Please dont leave your chicken in a bowl of cold water for 2 hours to thaw...
Best thing to do is pre-plan and remove the chicken a day or two ahead of time, leave it in your fridge to thaw gradually...
we'll leave the salmonella lecture for sanitation class...

Low fat recipes with lots of flavor...hmmm
Grilling, sauteing, roasting, low fat braising and stewing are great methods for reducing the fat but keeping the flavor...
i have made large portions of products, cooled them, packaged and froze them, to make dinner easy...
Pull them out, reheat in the micro or small pan and boom...dinner...
Lean cuts of smoked and cured meats are a great way to lower fat...
London broil, tenderloin, eye of the round all lower fat cuts of beef...
Use the white meat when needing poultry...and fresh pork from the loin may be trimmed to remove much of the fat also...
dont forget to eat your fish!!! shellfish are loaded with good omega fatty acids...
Vegetable purees, and sauces made from broths are great at keeping flavor and lowering fat...
Hope this spurns some interest...
Best of luck...
Andrew Nutter C.C.C., C.C.E., F.M.P.
Chef Instructor
IUP Academy of Culinary Arts
Punxsutawney, PA 15767
Andrew Nutter C.C.C., C.C.E., F.M.P.
Chef Instructor
IUP Academy of Culinary Arts
Punxsutawney, PA 15767
post #7 of 19
First, congratulations on wanting to learn to cook. You'll get to enjoy your food twice. Once when you make it and once when you eat it!

I have a handfull of my favorite on my website at, and they're all very detailed (if I didn't write down all the details, I'd screw it up next time I made it. 8-))

The Lemon-Garlic Hummus recipe is an excellent place to start, since it's healthy, cheap and easy to make (assuming you have a blender or food processor)

The Turkey Burgers are also healthy and very easy to make and only require a bowl and a pan.

I'd suggest not buying frozen chicken if you live near a store. It's faster to just buy it fresh when you want it, and will probably taste better.

You can broil it, throw some spagetti sauce over it and bake it, grill it, pretty much anything you want. Boiling it is generally only useful if you want to make soup.

Also, you don't need to go to extremes. If you've been eating McDonalds three times a day, you can cook pretty much anything you can think of and it will still be better for you than what you've been eating.



PS. Go read cooks Illustrated at the library ($24/year is probably a bit extravagant for a student). It's unbelieveably helpful when you want to learn a technique or get a recipe that works.
post #8 of 19
Try eBay for a slow cooker, or Goodwill or other second-hand stores or garage (tag) sales.

You keep saying "boil the chicken". NEVER boil it, or you'll get stringy white meat before the dark meat is done. Braising is the way to go, and you don't need a crock pot to do that. For that you simmer it, covered, over low heat. You want a pot something like this:
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post #9 of 19
what I would suggest is going to culinary school!:chef: :lol: J/K. Seriously I would suggest to learn the different methods of cooking, there are not to many so don't be frightened.
5.Deep fat fry
Once you learn these, the possibilities are endless
post #10 of 19
Mezzaluna had a great idea, thrift stores, goodwill, salvation army are good places to start looking for a can find them usually for $5-10, of course, they may be Avacado Green in color but they as long as they work, lol. Another idea,,,,either go to the Betty Crocker website or buy a used Betty Crocker cookbook. I started cooking for the family at age 8 (only because it was necessary) and started with good old Betty. Her recipes are simple, easy to follow, then move onto the Joy of Cooking, another good cookbook to have in your files. Lucky for you, there are plenty of websites out there now that have step by step recipes. Another website (I can't remember the name but I think it is Men Recipes, or something like that...sorry guys but not all men are chefs, lol). Good luck and look forward to using some of your recipes a year from now, lol.
post #11 of 19
I am in a similar situation to you, but a year down the line and I highly recommend the slow cooker! You prepare all your ingredients the night before, put em in the slow cooker the next morning, turn it on, and come home to a fresh cooked meal!

I strongly recommend the whole idea of making large batches of food, portioning and freezing. Aside from basically making your own microwave dinners that are better tasting and more healthy, they free up time for other stuff, whether that be cooking more labor intensive stuff (like me!) or whatever you enjoy doing besides cooking. When you see meat on sale at the grocery store, but LOTS of it! Freeze it and next time you need it you have it ready to go and you got it at a steal!

Happy cooking! :lips:
I'm a MAN, man!
I'm a MAN, man!
post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

thanks everyone!!

im definitely going to get a cookbook, i am going to check and see what borders may have!! i am getting more and more excited about learning how to cook! :D

also, can someone please help me answer my question though, in terms of dethawing 2-3 peices of chicken, (since i already have a bunch inmy freezer) do i still have to leave them in the fridge for 2 nights? (48 hours?)

and whats the right way to boil chicken?

thanks again!!
post #13 of 19
No, a day (24 hours) should do it. If they're individually frozen rather than stuck together in a bag, you can set them apart from each other on a large plate (or two small ones) and get by with 12 hours possibly. If it's still a bit icy you can let them sit in COLD water on your counter for a half hour or so. Then pat them dry with paper towels if you want to dry-cook (broil, panfry, grill or roast).

Why do you want to BOIL chicken? Boiling means the cooking liquid (water or broth) is bubbling pretty rapidly. The chicken will get stringy and lose flavor. I guess if you like it that way.... chaque à son goût- each to his own taste, as they say in France.

You probably want to SIMMER it gently- don't let the liquid do more than ripple a bit around the chicken. Keep the pot covered or mostly covered so the liquid doesn't evaporate at this point. Add carrots, celery, onion and whatever you like to flavor the cooking liquid so the chicken doesn't lose all its flavor to the liquid. Make sure the pot isn't too large and you don't add water to cover the meat or it'll lose more flavor to the broth. If you simmer it, the chicken will be tender and you can put a sauce on it or cut the meat up (or shred it) and use it for chicken salad, etc.

That well-flavored broth in the pot can be used to make a sauce! Take out the veggies. Taste the broth to make sure it's not too salty. Put a medium heat under the pot and let part of the liquid evaporate (this is called "reducing") so the flavor is more concentrated. You can use this reduced broth for a sauce or...well, the rest is for another lesson. It's good stuff to keep in the freezer!
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post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thank you!! SIMMERING sounds just right!! Question though, how do I tell when the chicken is done? Should I use a thermometer?
post #15 of 19
Yes, you can insert an instant-read thermometer into the densest part of the meat, avoiding the bone. You can also cut into joints- say, where the leg meets the thigh or the wing meets the breast. Don't do this right away! Read the paragraph below so you know why I say not to do this right after taking it out of the oven, pot, etc.

Here's a link to proper temperatures.

BUT- remember that your food will continue to cook after you remove it from the pot, oven, etc.. It's especially a good idea to do this with poultry, as you never want to eat any pink or redness. Just remove the meat or poultry to a platter or plate and drape some foil over it- don't completely seal it, but you want it to stay warm. Believe it or not, the temperature will continue to rise another five degrees or so! So you want to take things out of the oven, etc. when they're five degrees short of the advised temperature. This is called "resting". You do this with steaks, roasts, pork chops, whole or cut up poultry, even hamburgers. The meat also relaxes a bit, the juices stop bubbling inside the piece of meat, preventing the juice from running out on the plate. The meat willl also be more tender. This is especially true for pork, as today's pork (at least in the U.S.) is very lean and can dry out and be tough if you don't follow these simple rules.

It would help a lot if you told me what chicken parts you're cooking and whether you plan to eat them immediately or use the cooked meat for something else.
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post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
Sure! Its basically the thighs and legs that come prepackaged at grocery stores (i get the boneless from costco!) and will be eating them after I cook them rather then using them for another dish!! Thanks again!!
post #17 of 19
I'm no ace chef, but I was a starving student for YEARS and prided myself on almost never eating out. I was also very fat conscious. A few ideas for easy meals that are home made or semi home made:

Braise chicken as others have suggested, and until you have a feeling for making your own sauces to braise in, buy a couple of prepared marinades. Trader Joes often has more interesting things than conventional grocery stores.

If you have a rice cooker, rice is one of the EASIEST things to cook, and a big plate of brown rice with steamed veggies (or braised chicken) on top is a super fast meal. If you dont have a steamer, you can put veggies with a few drops of water covered in the microwave and cook for a few minutes. It takes a little practice to figure out how big/small to cut up different veggies so that they all cook in the same amount of time. One serving may only take one minute. Then season when done. Again, season on your own as you learn how to, or for veggies over rice, try starting out with a prepared teriaki or soy based type sauce.

I make potatoes, cut in wedges, lightly coated with olive oil and seasoned with a bit of rosemary and salt, baked in the oven.

I'm a big fan of the 10 minute semi home made meal: perfect for avoiding fast food, but takes so little time, and is much healthier. I like to saute a variety of veggies: peppers, mushrooms, whatever I have, then add store bought pasta sauce (marinara) and put it over whatever pasta I have. The things that takes the longest is cutting up veggies and boiling the pasta! I also buy a lot of couscous, sometimes plain, but often the packages, seasoned stuff. It takes 2 minutes to cook, and anyone can do it. Then putting sauteed veggies or chicken over that is tasty.

Someone suggested hummus, and it is SOOO easy to make if you have a food processor. It is then great with bread, crackers or tortillas (I like to roll it up with finely diced carrots and cucumbers with a tiny bit of lemon juice)

You'll make some hideous mistakes along the way, but you just have to get in the kitchen, be safe, and try lots of different things.
post #18 of 19
So true! But you may also make a delectible discovery.
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post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 

cool thanks

ok, so all i have to do is simmer the chicken, check to see when it reaches 160 degrees, then rest it with the foil and wait until it reaches 165! great! so about how long do i wait before checking it again and eating it!!

And yes thanks for the rice and veggies advice, thats what i am doing as well! I just wanted to add a little meat into the mix hehe
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