How to Make Shredded Chicken

Meal prep for chicken! Learn how to make shredded chicken using FOUR METHODS for casseroles, tacos, sandwiches and more.

I’m going to be transparent for a moment. We publish many pictures of beautiful food to make your drool. At times we hear, “Man…I wish I lived at your house so I could have all that food.”

Let me tell you. We do not eat decadently regularly. Believe me on this. Amongst the creamy cheesecake and sugar cookies, I’m just a mom trying to get dinner on the table and make sure my kids have decent lunches to eat.

It’s a struggle and I get it. The recipe or “how to” I’m sharing today is easy. And it’s all about meal planning.

chicken in a bowl with two forks

One food that is always good to have on hand for quick dinners and lunches is shredded chicken. This article answers your questions for four methods of how to make shredded chicken.

What is the best chicken for shredding?

If you want easy shredded chicken, the most important thing to remember is to choose boneless skinless chicken. By choosing either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, you don’t have to worry about separating out any fat or bones which keeps meal prep quick and easy.

Chicken breasts are a classic option, but chicken thighs have a little higher fat content which can make them more flavorful. Either one will work!

Can I use chicken on the bone to make shredded chicken?

Yes! The key to using whole chicken or chicken on a bone to make chicken to shred is that you have to simmer it until the chicken becomes tender enough to fall off the bone.

  • Place the whole chicken (or pieces of chicken on the bone) in a pot of boiling water. Bring the pot back to a boil and allow the chicken to simmer for 70-90 minutes. The chicken should no longer be pink and should be falling off the bone.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Then tear the chicken off the bone, discarding any bones, skin or fat.

The bonus with this method is that you can use the broth from simmering the chicken as chicken stock for soup. It’s delicious!

How to Season Chicken

When we are making basic shredded chicken, we season the chicken with salt and pepper only. Cooking the chicken in chicken stock also helps add a touch of flavor. This basic seasoning makes it perfect to use in just about any recipe.

Other simple seasonings to add to chicken would be garlic powder or onion powder. You can always add Italian or Mexican seasonings if you are prepping for those type of recipes.

seasoned raw chicken breasts

How long does it take to cook chicken?

The exact timing it takes to cook chicken really depends on the size of the chicken breast. If you’ve noticed at the grocery store, chicken breasts can be quite large. The average size portion of a chicken breast is about 4 ounces, but when you bring home a store brand family pack of chicken, one breast can easily weigh over 10 ounces.

If the chicken breasts you buy are large (10 ounces or above), they will take slightly longer to cook than smaller 4-5 ounce chicken breasts. Plan for more time, or cut the large chicken breast in half (we prefer doing this lengthwise so that it is thin).

How to Make Shredded Chicken

There are 4 methods that we have used to make shredded chicken. One is not necessarily better than another. It really depends on the kitchen tools you have and the amount of time you have. We’ll list pros and cons for each below.

In the Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot is currently all the rage and is actually great for cooking chicken. The exact timing can depend on how big the chicken breasts are so tweak the time based on the chicken breasts that you like to buy.

  • Place chicken broth (or water) in electric pressure cooker. Add the chicken and seasonings to taste.
  • Seal the electric pressure cooker with the lid and turn the vent valve to sealing. Program the electric pressure cooker to cook on “manual” or “pressure cook” for 12 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes before quick release.
  • Remove the chicken and shred.

*A note about frozen chicken breasts…they will take about the same time to actually cook, but the pot will take longer to come to pressure because of the frozen chicken. So set the pot for the same amount of time, but plan ahead knowing the pot will take longer than usual to come to pressure.*

chicken uncooked in an instant pot

In the slow cooker.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I may be old fashioned, but I like my slow cooker better than my Instant Pot. There. I said it out loud. I’m a morning person so getting dinner going right after I wake up is the way it works best for me.

Thankfully, a slow cooker cooks chicken beautifully! Here’s how to do it:

  • Place the chicken breasts in a slow cooker.
  • Add at least ½ cup chicken broth for 4 chicken breasts, but with more chicken, I usually add up to 1 cup.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  • It should be perfectly shreddable at this point!

On the stovetop.

This is how I remember my mom cooking chicken. It’s an older method, but it has stood the test of time because it works.

  • Place the chicken in a large pot.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour water over chicken so that the water is 1″ above the chicken.
  • Bring the water to a boil over high heat. After the water is at a rolling boil, reduce the heat to medium low.
  • The exact time it will take to cook depends on how large the chicken breasts are. Plan for about 10 minutes. Larger breasts will take a little longer and smaller breasts may take a minute or two shorter.
  • Make sure the chicken has reached 165º Fahrenheit internal temperature.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot and shred.
closeup of cooked chicken breast

In the oven.

This is our least favorite way to make shredded chicken, but only because it can be easy to overcook the chicken and have it end up dry. If the oven is your only choice, this is how to do it.

  • Preheat the oven to 400º Fahrenheit.
  • Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet.
  • Brush with olive oil and season as desired. This helps protect the chicken from drying out.
  • Bake for around 20 minutes. The exact timing will depend on how large the chicken breasts are. Make sure the chicken has reached 165º Fahrenheit internal temperature.
  • Slice and shred.

Easy Ways to Shred Chicken

When chicken is cooked perfectly, it is really easy to shred. If it is cool, it should be tender enough just to shred with your hands!

Shred chicken with a mixer.

A few weeks ago my son was prepping the shredded chicken for the week. “Mom…is there an easier way to shred chicken?” He was thrilled when I gave him my kitchen power tool, the hand mixer, to easily shred chicken.

Set the mixer to low speed and don’t go overboard, but allow the beaters to easily shred chicken.

Shred chicken with forks.

I think I’m safe to say that everyone has two forks in the house. Take two forks and pull in opposite directions on a cooked chicken breast. Easy as that, you’ve got shredded chicken with no fancy tools.

Shred chicken with shredder claws.

If I’m working with extra large chicken breasts or large amounts of chicken, meat shredder claws can be a great option. Ours are plastic, but are sharp. They grab right into the meat and tear it apart easily. See the ones we have here. They work perfectly for shredded pork too!

How long does shredded chicken last?

You should always refrigerate cooked chicken right away. It can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

Can you freeze cooked chicken?

You can freeze cooked chicken for 2-3 months according to the FDA. Freeze in small amounts for casseroles, tacos and soups.

Shredded Chicken Recipes

Here are a few of our favorite recipes using shredded chicken:

Shredded Chicken
Shredded Chicken

How to Make Shredded Chicken

5 from 1 vote
Meal prep for chicken! Learn how to make shredded chicken using FOUR METHODS for casseroles, tacos, sandwiches and more.
Servings 12
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 4-5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (family pack)
  • salt and pepper (as desired)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or water)

Instructions
 

In the slow cooker.

  • Place the chicken breasts in a slow cooker. Sprinkle with seasoning.
  • Add at least ½ cup chicken broth for 4 chicken breasts, but with more chicken, I usually add up to 1 cup.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.It should be perfectly shreddable at this point!

In the Instant Pot.

  • Place chicken broth or water in electric pressure cooker. Add the chicken and seasonings to taste.
  • Seal the electric pressure cooker with the lid and turn the vent valve to sealing. Program the electric pressure cooker to cook on “manual” or “pressure cook” for 12 minutes.
  • Allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes before quick release.
  • Remove the lid and remove chicken to a large bowl or cutting board. Shred the chicken breasts.

On the stovetop.

  • Place the chicken in a large pot. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour water over chicken so that the water is 1" above the chicken. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  • After the water is at a rolling boil, reduce the heat to medium low. The exact time it will take to cook depends on how large the chicken breasts are. Plan for about 10 minutes. Larger breasts will take a little longer and smaller breasts may take a minute or two shorter.Make sure the chicken has reached 165º Fahrenheit internal temperature.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot and shred.

In the oven.

  • Preheat the oven to 400º Fahrenheit.
  • Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season as desired. This helps protect the chicken from drying out.
  • Bake for around 20 minutes. The exact timing will depend on how large the chicken breasts are. Make sure the chicken has reached 165º Fahrenheit internal temperature.
  • Slice and shred.

Notes

**Please note. The exact timing for all methods will depend on the size of the chicken breasts, which can vary greatly. Adjust accordingly based on the chicken breasts that you normally buy.**

Nutrition

Calories: 173kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 247mg | Potassium: 575mg | Vitamin A: 45IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 1mg
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 173
Keyword easy dinner recipe, meal prep
shredded chicken

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Charlotte Moore
2 years ago

I made your homemade taco seasoning on Saturday. I only made half of a recipe just in case. HA!! I was very pleased with the it. I will be making it again.