How to Make Shredded Chicken for Juicy, Flavorful Results Every Time

Use your hands, two forks, or an unexpected kitchen appliance.

shredded chicken in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste
Photo: VeselovaElena / GETTY IMAGES

Shredded chicken is a blank culinary canvas. It's an ingredient that, when ready and waiting in your fridge, provides inspiration for quick salads, tacos, stir-fries, pot pies, sandwiches, and nibbles alike. But how do you get there? What chicken should you use, and what is the best way to cook it when you know you're going to shred it? We examine the techniques for shredding chicken, also known as pulled chicken—and share our favorite ways to use this ingredient in recipes.

The Best Chicken Cuts for Shredding

While you can shred any cooked chicken, the shredding process is easier (and yields juicier meat) if you cook with shredding in mind. You can shred any cut of chicken, but boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs are best.

Like anything you cook, beginning with quality ingredients is the key to delicious results. Humanely raised, free-range chickens will be more tender and flavorful when shredded.

The Right Way to Cook Chicken for Easy Shredding

Poaching is a simple, effective way to cook chicken for shredding. It ensures the meat is gently cooked all the way through, without creating a tough outer sear that's harder to cut through. Follow our Basic Poached Chicken recipe to learn how to make boneless, skinless chicken breasts using this technique.

A common misconception about poaching chicken? Many say that it's a foolproof way to keep chicken moist. While it certainly is a more forgiving technique, chicken can still dry out (yes, even while it cooks in a pot of water!). Follow these tips to ensure your chicken doesn't become too dry:

  • Season your poaching liquid thoroughly. Add flavor to your chicken with salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, cloves, dried chiles, ginger, or lemongrass. You can slo add wine. All of these elements will give the chicken more flavor.
  • Simmer the poaching liquid, with all of its seasonings, for a few minutes before adding the chicken breasts. This helps infuse the flavor into the poaching liquid.
  • Cook the chicken gently at a simmer until a meat thermometer entered in the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees.

How to Shred Chicken

Just like you would when searing a steak, let your chicken rest after poaching—this is an important step, since it provides time for the juices to redistribute back into the meat. But don't wait too long—you want to shred the chicken while it's still slightly warm, since the meat will be easier to pull apart (as opposed to when it's cold).

If you want larger shreds of chicken, your hands are the most reliable tool, but for a finer shred (or a large quantity of chicken), there are two common ways to shred quickly and efficiently.

Two Forks

This is the most straightforward method for shredding chicken. Conveniently it relies on something you already have in your cutlery drawer. Use one to steady the piece of chicken on a cutting board, and use the other to effortlessly pull apart the meat.

Electric Stand Mixer

Another common method makes unexpected use of a beloved kitchen appliance. Stand mixers are known for their ubiquity in dessert preparation, but fixed with the paddle attachment, they are surprisingly handy for shredding large quantities of chicken breasts. Start the mixer on its lowest speed and adjust the contents of the bowl if necessary. In a matter of seconds, you will be left with evenly shredded chicken that's ready for a tasty application.

How to Store Shredded Chicken

You can safely store shredded chicken in an airtight container in your refrigerator for three to four days. For longer storage, transfer to the freezer for up to two months. You may want to divide your shredded chicken into smaller portions when freezing for ease of use—and so it defrosts faster.

How to Use Shredded Chicken

The uses for shredded chicken are endless. Meal prep opportunities abound with this all-purpose ingredient, so keep shredded chicken in the refrigerator and incorporate it into any salad or sandwich for a protein-boosted lunch. Simply mix with mayonnaise and herbs and serve on a bed of greens—or pile it on crusty bread with vegetables and cheese. For dinner, shredded chicken can be added to soups and stews to lend extra heartiness. Use it in stir-fries, tacos, or for enchiladas or casseroles.

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