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How to Make Shredded Chicken

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This step-by-step tutorial will show you all the ways to cook and shred chicken for the most flavorful results to use in all your favorite recipes!

Pile of shredded chicken on a cutting board

If you've ever gotten excited about a recipe, and then gotten to the part where one of the ingredients is listed as “shredded chicken breasts” or “pulled chicken” with no additional context, and immediately felt frustrated – I hear ya.

That's why I want to share:

  • all the different ways to cook chicken breasts to prepare them to be shredded
  • how I shred chicken breasts
  • some of my favorite ways to use shredded chicken

The best chicken to use for shredding

Your best bet is to use boneless skinless chicken breasts for shredding, but you can also use chicken thighs if you wanted to.

The real key to making this the easiest is just not to use something with a lot of skin or bones.

What is the difference between shredded and pulled chicken?

To me, there isn't one! But I think a lot of people associate shredded chicken with plain chicken (relatively unseasoned) and pulled chicken with a seasoned and sauced variety like you find in BBQ dishes.

The best meat thermometer

I highly recommend investing in a good meat thermometer that allows you to insert a probe into the thickest part of the chicken and is attached to the thermometer so you can monitor the temperature as it cooks. I use and love my ThermoWorks ChefAlarm (affiliate link), as you can see in the photo below.

It's super accurate, and allows me to find the right time to remove the chicken from the oven without having to keep opening the oven door to insert a thermometer and check – in turn losing the heat in the oven, and drawing the process out more.

Chicken breasts baked to 165 degrees

How to cook chicken breasts

My personal preference is to bake chicken in the oven, because it means I can meal prep as many chicken breasts as I need with a ton of space, and I can stick them in the oven and let them do their thing while I do my thing.

“My thing” might be prepping the rest of a meal, making myself a drink, or lying facedown on the kitchen floor, groaning and taking a break. Depends on the day.

Oven baked chicken

  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F (233°C), and pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel.
  2. Even it out. Use a meat tenderizer mallet to pound the chicken breasts so that they are relatively even in size. You don't want to pound them to be super thin, just enough to even out how thick it is so that it doesn't cook unevenly.
  3. Season. Salt and pepper them all over, seasoning to taste. If you want to add additional spices at this point for the particular recipe you're using, go for it!
  4. Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and let them roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the thickest part of the breast reaches 165°F (74°C).
  5. Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Boiled chicken

  1. Fill a pot with salted water (or chicken broth, or a combination of both). Add chicken breasts.
  2. Bring it to a boil, cover the pot and lower the heat slightly so it stays at a rapid simmer.
  3. It will depend on the size of your chicken breasts, but it should be around 10 minutes before they're ready. Carefully remove a breast and take the temperature – if it's 165°F, you're good to go.  Make sure not to overcook it, as the chicken will become rubbery.
  4. Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Poaching chicken

  1. Place chicken breasts in a single layer on the bottom of a high-sided saucepan or pot.
  2. Add enough water (and/or chicken broth) to cover by about 1″.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. You'll notice white foam collecting on the surface – that's normal, and you'll skim it off when you're done.
  4. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 10 minutes. Check the temperature of the chicken and if it's not yet 165°F, let cook another couple minutes and check again. Once they're to temperature, pull them from the pot. The chicken will be opaque.
  5. Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Slow cooker chicken (Crockpot chicken)

  1. Place chicken breasts in bottom of a slow cooker bowl.
  2. Cover with water and/or chicken broth by about 1″.
  3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours until internal temperature is 165°F.
  4. Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Instant Pot chicken

  1. Place the chicken breasts on the bottom of the Instant Pot bowl.
  2. Cover with water and/or chicken broth by about 1″.
  3. Place the lid on and move the valve to sealing. Press manual pressure and set the timer to 10 minutes high pressure.
  4. When it beeps to alert that it's completed the cooking cycle, carefully move the valve to pressure release
  5. Carefully open and remove the lid. Check that the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F. If it’s not, replace the lid, move the vent to seal again, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Stovetop chicken

  1. In a large saucepan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add chicken breasts and cook for 5 minutes to sear one side. Use tongs to flip the breasts over.
  3. Add 1 cup of water and/or chicken broth and cover the pan with a lid.
  4. Cook for 6-9 minutes then check that the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F.
  5. Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Do you let chicken cool before shredding?

Only for a few minutes to rest on the cutting board – you want to shred the chicken while it's still warm, as it gets more difficult as it cools.

How to shred chicken with meat claws

Keep the chicken breasts on the cutting board, and grab a pair of meat claws or two large forks.

Place one of the meat claws or forks in the center of the breast and use the other to pull and tear the chicken in the opposite direction (away from the center).

If you're comfortable doing so, you can even pull both claws/forks away from each other at the same time. Repeat this process until you've shredded the entire breast.

Repeat that process for as many chicken breasts that you have, voila! You've got shredded chicken that's ready to be used, or stored in an air-tight container in the fridge.

How to shred chicken using a stand mixer

This method might sound odd, but it totally works.

  1. Place your cooked chicken breasts in the bowl of stand mixer.
  2. Add the paddle attachment and turn the mixer on low speed for 15-20 seconds.
  3. Boom – the chicken is now shredded!

Ways to use shredded chicken

You can use shredded chicken in countless ways, but here are some of my favorites:

Shredded chicken for pets

And if you don't add the salt and pepper, it can also be given to your dog or cat friends if they've had an upset stomach and you're slowly reintroducing food into their system (and I hope they feel better soon <3)

FAQs

How long does chicken need to boil to shred?

If you're using the boiled chicken method, it takes about 10 minutes for it to cook through to the required internal temperature of 165°F.

How do I get my chicken to shred?

You can use meat claws (or forks), or a stand mixer to shred your chicken. See above in the body of the post or the recipe card for details about each method.

What is the difference between shredded and pulled chicken?

To me, there isn't one! But I think a lot of people associate shredded chicken with plain chicken (relatively unseasoned) and pulled chicken with a seasoned and sauced variety like you find in BBQ dishes.

Do you let chicken cool before shredding?

Only for a few minutes to rest on the cutting board – you want to shred the chicken while it's still warm, as it gets more difficult as it cools.

Can I give my dog or cat shredded chicken?

And if you don't add the salt and pepper, it can also be given to your dog or cat friends if they've had an upset stomach and you're slowly reintroducing food into their system (and I hope they feel better soon <3)

Leslie leaning on a counter

I hope this information helps!

Do you have any questions about this topic that I didn't answer? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Make Shredded Chicken

Print Pin
Shredded chicken on a cutting board
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Description

This step-by-step tutorial will show you all the ways to cook and shred chicken for the most flavorful results to use in all your favorite recipes!

Instructions

Oven baked chicken

  • Preheat oven to 450°F (233°C) and pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel.
  • Pound chicken breasts with a meat tenderizer mallet so that they are relatively even in size. Salt and pepper all over.
  • Place chicken breasts on a small baking sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the thickest part of the breast reaches 165°F (74°C).
  • Remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Boiled chicken

  • Fill a pot with salted water (or chicken broth, or a combination of both). Add chicken breasts.
  • Bring it to a boil, cover the pot and lower the heat slightly so it stays at a rapid simmer. It will depend on the size of your chicken breasts, but it should be around 10 minutes before they're ready.
  • Carefully remove a breast and take the temperature – if it's 165°F, you're good to go.  Make sure not to overcook it, as the chicken will become rubbery.
  • Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Poaching chicken

  • Place chicken breasts in a single layer on the bottom of a high-sided saucepan or pot.
  • Add enough water (and/or chicken broth) to cover by about 1".
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. You'll notice white foam collecting on the surface – that's normal, and you'll skim it off when you're done.
  • Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 10 minutes. Check the temperature of the chicken and if it's not yet 165°F, let cook another couple minutes and check again. Once they're to temperature, pull them from the pot. The chicken will be opaque.
  • Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Slow cooker chicken

  • Place chicken breasts in bottom of a slow cooker bowl.
  • Cover with water and/or chicken broth by about 1".
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours until internal temperature is 165°F.
  • Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Instant Pot chicken

  • Place the chicken breasts on the bottom of the Instant Pot bowl.
  • Cover with water and/or chicken broth by about 1". Place the lid on and move the valve to sealing. Press manual pressure and set the timer to 10 minutes high pressure.
  • When it beeps to alert that it's completed the cooking cycle, carefully move the valve to pressure release.
  • Carefully open and remove the lid. Check that the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F. If it’s not, replace the lid, move the vent to seal again, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

Stovetop chicken

  • In a large saucepan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add chicken breasts and cook for 5 minutes to sear one side. Use tongs to flip the breasts over.
  • Add 1 cup of water and/or chicken broth and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 6-9 minutes then check that the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F.
  • Once it's cooked through, remove from oven and transfer to cutting board to rest.

METHOD 1: Shred chicken using meat claws

  • Use meat claws or two large forks to shred the chicken. Place one of the meat claws or forks in the center of the breast and use the other to pull and tear the chicken in the opposite direction (away from the center). If you're comfortable doing so, you can even pull both claws/forks away from each other at the same time.
  • Repeat this process until you've shredded the entire breast.

METHOD 2: Shred chicken using stand mixer

  • Place your cooked chicken breasts in the bowl of stand mixer.
  • Add the paddle attachment and turn the mixer on low speed for 15-20 seconds until the chicken has been shredded.


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