Bulk Cooking or Assembly Cooking
Table of Content
- 1 Bulk Cooking or Assembly Cooking
- 2 Categories of Batch Cooking
- 3 Shortcuts and Strategies for Bulk Cooking
- 4 Easy Bulk Dishes
- 5 Tips for Bulk Eating
- 6 Letting the Air Out
Categories of Batch Cooking
Batch cooking essentially involves cooking a lot of food in advance. There are a few methods of batch cooking. You can cook enough food to warrant freezing and stockpiling. Bulking cooking saves money and time. While many people focus on the freezer variety of batch cooking, there are several other categories that can be put to use.
In addition, the bulk cooking system is designed chiefly for main dishes, the most time-consuming part of a meal. Of course, they should be combined with fresh fruit and salad.
The four main areas of batch cooking are as follows:
- Dry mixes and spice blends: Whether you go with make ahead bread mixes, do-ityourself (DIY) spice blends for meat rubs and baking or like to make your own giant batches of dry ingredient mixes for baking mix, dry soup base, pizza crust and more, many options are out there. If you would like a freezer, this is an excellent OAMC category to start out with.
- Canning: Whether you choose recipes suited for the water bath technique, do your own oven sealing for homemade glazed and roasted nuts or experiment with more technically advanced pressure canning recipes, canning saves lots of money. It is also another way people without a freezer can participate with advance meal preparatory. Canning spaghetti sauce instead of freezing is a good example.
- Dry ingredient kits: Whether you like the do ahead kits for Asian cole slaw, small bags ofTVP and taco seasoning, brown bag grab and take lunch snacks, or making your own hamburger and tuna helper kits, dry ingredient make aheads are a great way to go and can be stored in containers in a cupboard.
- Freezer cooking. Casseroles, appetizers, certain desserts, fun restaurant knock-offs, and dinner entrees galore can all be prepared ahead of time for the freezer. Spend some time recipe researching. You will be surprised at the phenomenal ideas out there.
Shortcuts and Strategies for Bulk Cooking
Without a few tricks up your sleeve, once a month cooking can be far too daunting. Here are a few ideas.
A mix and match approach to storage
Different containers work better for different things and while it would better if you could pull this system off with nothing but re-used bread bags, it is just not realistic. Use a consistent yet varied selection of storage options to utilize the fruits of bulk cooking system.
Batch size flexibility
While many people approach this from a perspective of family sized meal storage, smaller portions are helpful for singles or families where scheduling may inhibit sit down meals from time to time. Having a variety of stored batch sizes provides maximum flexibility.
Precision purchases of small appliances
While the right tools (or the lack of them) can make or break your OAMC experience, you should choice the right appliances to keep within budgets. Plan the cooking style as well as what items you will be making regularly. You will be able to make a much more informed choice that way.
Assembly line production
This is great for the actual packaging of your selected OAMC menus. However, it can also work for the actual creation of the mixtures. Quiches and restaurant knock-off dips come to mind, as do several dry ingredient kit ideas (see Figure 3.2)
The time factor
Take 2-3 days a month to get bulk cooking done in an approach of your choice. You can keep this routine month after month. Make a larger batch of something on the night you serve it. Another approach would be to whip up one casserole for every night you serve a protein, veggie and starch combo meal. Take extra individual for faster meal preparations later on. Develop a system that works for you in order to be consistent.
If you are using the freezer bags for the bulk of your perishable freezer meals, fill each about three quarters fall, seal the bags and then stack them flat. Once they are frozen, you can either keep them there and pull from the stack, or stack them vertically and grab individual bags like you would folders from a medical shelf.
Mix it up
As with bulk buying, it helps to target yourself up for success; include some gourmet entrees the first month, do some fan mozzarella stick appetizers or try some DIYpull apart cookie dough. Some of my other favorites are eggplant parmesan, DIY Hard Rock Cafe dip and Planet Hollywood chicken crunch.
The container principle
This strategy helps in implementing assembly cooking into your repertoire of money saving techniques. In the case of snack sized bagged items or dry ingredient kits, putting all of the bags into a larger container or gallon sized zipper bag is helpful. A similar concept could be applied to make ahead bread mixes.
Themed preparatory sessions
This is basically where you do massive meal propping based on an abundance of a particular item.
This is particularly important for individual items you want to serve in a batch, but do not want sticking together in the freezer container. You will need to set aside a free shelf at least temporarily. Space out the items and freeze rock solid. Then transfer in family size or appetizer size amounts to the appropriate storage item. This comes in handy in homemade chicken drummies, breaded veal portions, mozzarella sticks and frozen breaded eggplant slices.
Start small and simplify
Breaking down large cans of cheese sauce andjalapenos into small containers of simple nacho dip and doing bagged, flat frozen large batch leftovers can go further than you think. One giant batch of spaghetti sauce can easily result in at least a dozen gallon sized flat frozen freezer bags.
Easy Bulk Dishes
Some dishes are easier to cook in bulk than others. Granola and chilli recipes are good to cook in bulk, because they do not take much longer to prepare whether you cook for two or twenty; they are ideal for bulk cooking. Assemble enough freezer proof containers before you start so that you can store each meal in separate single servings.
Also, be sure the containers are microwavable, as well as ovenproof. Other dishes ideal for cooking in bulk include:
Another way to cook in bulk is to make oversized batches of a variety of meals; for example, take pizza. You can prepare the standard dough and then add variety, using different toppings, such as cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, anchovies, etc.
Tips for Bulk Eating
Let your meals defrost in the refrigerator. Rather than popping them straight in the microwave from the freezer, it is better to let your frozen meals defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
For packaging you can use generic freezer bags. (You can also use Ziploc freezer bags as well as Saran Wrap and freezer paper). Experiment and discover what works best for you. Just be sure to wrap your meals securely enough to avoid any freezer bum. You can also use Tupperware containers and/ or casserole dishes.
Use permanent markers (such as Sharpie pens) to make sure the labels do not wipe off. Besides the name of the meal, also record the date it was frozen.
Letting the Air Out
It is agreed that in planning and cooking bulk meals, you need to use top-quality materials to store them. Taylor-Hough, an author on bulk cooking, recommends using heavy-duty freezer bags, not generics, but the best quality you can get. Zipper bags are not preferable because they tend to leave a place where air can get in, and air inside the package leads to freezer bum, leaving the food dried out and tasteless.
Some manufacturers make materials that are especially suited for bulk storage, for instance, Stand and Zip bags, which have extra-thick plastic and a wide-pleated bottom, so they stand upright by themselves while you fril them. The Tilia Food Saver system uses extra-thick bags plus a home-based vacuum device to withdraw all air from the package and then heat seal it.
Taylor-Hough recommends pressing as much air out of the package as you can, almost sealing it and then sticking a straw inside to suck out the last bit of air. Groveman recommends heavy-duty containers with tight frtting lids, if you have lots of freezer space. If space is limited, she suggests heavy-duty freezer bags, but double them to make sure no air gets in.
Other tips for safe freezing:
- Cool the food before you place it in the freezer.
- The freezer temperature should be 0 degrees F or lower.
- Do not stuff the freezer to the brim; leave room for air to circulate.
- Label containers or packages with the contents and date frozen.
Stews and casseroles generally keep for up to three months, while sauces keep even longer. If you store frozen foods longer than recommended they are generally still safe to eat, but taste and texture may deteriorate.