Shredding chicken is easy but when you want to shred a lot of chicken at once, you need the best method to get the job done!
This post shares an easy and fast shredded chicken recipe and 4 methods to pull the chicken meat apart, which you can use even if you buy a whole rotisserie chicken at the store.
Shredded chicken is a terrific ingredient to build family-friendly recipes because it’s lean and high in protein, super versatile, and the one ingredient everyone in my family can agree on so let’s get into how to get best the job done fast!
Best Ways to Shred Chicken
This one is up to you and depends on how much chicken to need to shred and whether you prefer a gadget-free method or finely shredded chicken for salads or enchiladas, for example.
For smaller quantities, say 1 or 2 pieces of breast or thighs, and recipes that don’t require an even size of pulled chicken using your hands or two forks is great and there’s no need for additional cleanup.
For larger quantities and for finer and even pulled chicken pieces or shreds, you’ll want to use a hand mixer or a food processor. Using an appliance will make the process quick!
Best Chicken to Use for Shredding
Chicken breasts and thighs are the most popular for shredding, but the real trick is to use boneless, skinless cuts! By using these, you don’t have to take the time to remove the bones from the chicken before or after you cook it.
Both chicken breasts and shredded chicken thighs are great for using in your favorite recipes so it all boils down to the type of meat you prefer to eat.
You can also buy a rotisserie chicken from the store, pull all the meat from the bones, and shred the mixed chicken meat too!
Tip: if you have frozen chicken you want to cook for shredding, follow one of these chicken defrosting instructions before you get started.
1. How to Shred Chicken by Hand
This one is a little self-explanatory; you’ll use both hands to shred the chicken meat into large or smaller pieces. This method is also great for whole rotisserie chickens since you’ll be using your hands to separate the meat.
Texture-wise, it’s the least consistent in size so if you want a finer consistency to your pulled chicken pieces, check out methods 3 and 4.
Note: make sure to work with room-temperature chicken. If it’s too hot, you’ll burn your hands, and if it’s too cold, the meat is tougher to shred.
2. Shredding Chicken with Two Forks
One of the simplest ways to shred chicken is using two forks. It’s my go-to method for shredding in smaller amounts and it can be done with hot or cooled chicken and you can keep your hands clean.
Here’s what to do:
- Use one fork to secure the chicken piece on the cutting board.
- Use the other fork to pull the meat away from the pain piece into shreds.
3. How to Shred Chicken with a Hand Mixer
Hand mixers aren’t exclusive to cake batter only, they also come in handy for making terrific finely shredded chicken!
To do this you’ll:
- Place the cooked chicken in a large bowl with high rims, about halfway full. Don’t fill it up all the way or chicken will go everywhere.
- Place the hand mixer with the mixing paddles attached into the bowl and power it to medium speed.
- Continue to process/mix around the bowl until the chicken is completely shredded to your liking.
- If working through a large amount of cooked chicken, shred it in batches.
Note: You can also use a stand mixer and use the paddle attachment for this job.
4. How to Shred Chicken in a Blender or Food Processor
Using a food processor or a blender is another way to do the job fast and get finely shredded chicken pieces. For this, you’ll need to:
- Cut the chicken into smaller, 1 to 2-inch pieces.
- Working in smaller batches, place the chicken in the bowl of the food processor or blender jar and pulse at the lowest speed. Do not turn it on at full speed and let it process, you want to pulse or turn the blender on and off.
- After a few pulses, remove the shredded chicken pieces from the blender or food processor and repeat if necessary. Some larger pieces might need to be pulsed again.
What is the Easiest Way to Shred Chicken?
It comes down to personal choice, but for me, the easiest way to shred chicken is manually; that is by hand or between 2 forks. Both methods can be done quickly and don’t involve any gadgets (less cleanup).
For larger quantities, my fingers start to hurt and it can take a while so the hand mixer is my next go-to for a speedy job.
Watch this video to see the chicken shredding magic in action!
Best Way to Cook Chicken for Shredding
Poaching is one of the best methods for cooking chicken breasts or thighs that you intend to shred because it retains most of their moisture and it only takes about 20 minutes. In the recipe card below, you’ll find step-by-step directions on how to poach chicken.
Pan-seared chicken breasts can also be shredded and they cook in as little as 15 minutes.
For the most hands-off approach, use the slow cooker to cook your chicken, like with this Salsa Verde Chicken recipe or this Buffalo Chicken recipe and shred it directly in the slow cooker once it’s done cooking and right before serving.
Can You Shred Rotisserie Chicken?
No time to cook? No problem. Buy a rotisserie chicken at the store and once you get it home, quickly separate the meat from the bone and shred it with your hands as you separate it.
Shredded rotisserie chicken meat is always juicy, full of flavor, and super easy to shred since it basically falls off the bone -then you can use the bones to make incredible homemade chicken broth.
How Much Shredded Chicken Do You Get per Pound?
Each pound of cooked chicken will yield approximately 2 ½ to 3 cups of shredded chicken meat. The chart below gives a good idea of how much chicken to expect based on the cut and amount you’re using.
|1 lb chicken breasts
|4 lb split chicken breasts
|2 lb chicken thighs
|2 lb chicken thighs
|5 lb whole chicken
|Rotisserie chicken (avg)
Tips for Moist Shredded Chicken
To get moist shredded chicken use the cooking method that retains the most moisture, such as poaching, and for darker meat. In addition, here are more tips:
Use room-temperature chicken
After you’ve cooked the chicken, it’s important to let it cool down to room temperature. This gives the meat time to lock in the juices and makes it easier to shred.
But don’t wait too long or refrigerate the meat; cold chicken can be tough to shred. Room temperature is the sweet spot!
Opt for dark meat
Thighs and leg quarters are considered the more flavorful and tender cuts of chicken. They are more forgiving to cook with since the meat tends to stay moist even when cooked at high temps. The same can’t always be said for chicken breasts.
When it comes to chicken you know will be tender, you can’t go wrong with poaching! Submerging the chicken in water retains the most moisture and as long as you generously salt the water, it will be tasty!
You can always count on a store-bought rotisserie chicken for the most flavorful and tender meat. It’s an easy solution to fall back on when you don’t have time to cook.
Best Tools for Shredded Chicken
We’ve already covered simple tools for shredded chicken such as forks, a blender, and a food processor, but there are other options like shredder claws that work well for large amounts, and entertaining, and they make a great gift!
How to Store Shredded Chicken
Place room-temperature shredded chicken in an airtight container or zip bag. Let the air out and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. After 3 days, you’ll want to transfer it to the freezer, where it can be stored for up to 1 year! Although for best texture and to prevent freezer-burned chicken, use it within 3 months.
Can You Freeze Shredded Chicken?
Freezing is a great option to have cooked chicken available year-round. . Place the shredded meat in a freezer-safe container labeled with the date (a heavy-duty zip bag is perfect) and store it in the freezer.
To safely defrost chicken, you can opt for a cold water bath, in the microwave, or thaw it out in the fridge overnight -the preferred method. It won’t take as long the defrost since it’s already cooked and separated.
If you intend to use the shredded chicken for a soup or stew, you can place the frozen chicken directly in the pot and add approximately 10 minutes to the cooking time for it to thaw and heat up.
How Long Does Shredded Chicken Last?
When stored properly, shredded chicken without sauce will last for 3-4 days in the fridge. If you mix it with sauces or make chicken salad, it brings the shelf-life down to 3 days max.
Recipes Using Shredded Chicken
How to Shred Chicken
- 1 pound chicken breasts, boneless skinless
- 3 to 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons peppercorns, optional
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
- herbs and spices of your choice
- Using the poaching method to cook the chicken breasts, place the chicken in a large soup pot, and add the water to cover the chicken by about 2 inches.
- Generously season the water with salt and your choice of spices and herbs. The measurements above suggest peppercorns and herbs, but don’t skip the salt.
- Bring the water to a boil, and flip the chicken breasts over using a pair of kitchen tongs.
- Place a lid over the pot and turn off the heat. Let the chicken sit in the water for 10 minutes or until cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165F. You can check by removing the chicken from the pot onto a board and using a meat thermometer.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the water and set them on a large cutting board. Allow them to rest for 5 minutes to seal in the juices.
- For salads, shred the breasts between two forks or use the hand mixer method to achieve a finely shredded chicken texture in under a minute.