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.
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.
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!
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.
The bonus with this method is that you can use the broth from simmering the chicken as chicken stock for soup. It’s delicious!
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.
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).
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.
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.
*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.*
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
You should always refrigerate cooked chicken right away. It can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container.
You can freeze cooked chicken for 2-3 months according to the FDA. Freeze in small amounts for casseroles, tacos and soups.
Here are a few of our favorite recipes using shredded chicken: