Simple Shredded Chicken

Keeping cooked, shredded chicken on hand is crucial to making dinner night a pleasure and not a pain. There are tons and tons of recipes out there that call for cooked chicken and I’m going to share with you my latest favorite method for getting tender, delicious cooked chicken without a) buying a rotisserie chicken and b) having to plan ahead.

Frequently, if I have happened to plan ahead, I’ll throw chicken breasts in the slow cooker with low-sodium chicken broth and some simple seasonings and let it cook on low for 4-5 hours until the chicken breasts are just cooked through (too long in the crockpot and they’ll be dry). After the chicken has been shredded and cooled, I will freeze the chicken to use for later. However, I don’t always think to plan ahead and so when I came across this latest method from America’s Test Kitchen, I knew it would be a lifechanger. And it has been. I’ve used this method at least 5-6 times in the last two weeks and I love the result. The chicken is moist and flavorful and I can have cooked, shredded chicken for a recipe in less than 15-20 minutes (plus, you can increase the proportions and freeze to use later). To be perfectly honest, I like the finished product of this chicken much more than the crockpot method. It has more flavor and is juicy and delicious. It’s my new go-to.

I’ve included the how-to below. Also, for your viewing pleasure (and because I love these darn collages so much), I’ve put together a quick view of my top 16 favorite recipes that use cooked, shredded chicken. Armed with this list of recipes and an easy way to get that cooked, shredded chicken, you should be good to go!

Simple Shredded Chicken: A Quick How-To

Yield: Makes 3-4 cups cooked, shredded chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (about 2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup water or low-sodium chicken broth

Directions

  1. In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot and rippling. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the chicken top-side down in the hot skillet and let the chicken cook for 5 minutes until golden brown on top. Flip the chicken, add the water or chicken broth, cover the skillet and let the chicken simmer gently over medium heat for 7-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (it will register 160 degrees on a thermometer). Don't overcook or it might be dry. While the chicken is simmering, add additional water 1/4 cup at a time if the liquid evaporates too quickly. Remove the chicken from the skillet. Let it cool slightly before shredding. The cooked chicken will keep well-covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or can be frozen for up to 2 months.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/how-to-simple-shredded-chicken-and-another-recipe-collage/

Recipe Source: inspired by a method from America’s Test Kitchen

78 Responses to Simple Shredded Chicken: A Quick How-To

  1. Kim in MD says:

    I love this, Mel! I always need cooked chicken, and I often buy rotisserie chickens just for the white meat. This is so easy and fast! I love your collages!

    • Mary says:

      This is the fastest, tastiest recipe I have encountered for chicken. I wish I had found it sooner. I love the freezing idea and the tip about freezing the fresh ginger that always goes bad was a wonderful tip as well! Mary B

  2. Fantastic post! I’m always looking for quick dinners to make during the week.

  3. Nathalie says:

    I was using your crockpot method for shredding chicken, but I’m def. going to give this one a try, thanks!

  4. Nan says:

    Anything from America’s Test Kitchen is great! Now my slow cooker will be free for something else on my cook ahead days. Thanks for finding and sharing this method.

  5. Chrissy says:

    Have you heard of the KitchenAid trick to shred your cooked chicken? It is AMAZING. Just turn the mixer on low with the paddle attachement on and it shreds chicken in like 10 seconds. I posted about it here: http://stickafork.net/2011/12/how-to-shred-chicken/

  6. Deanna says:

    I just tried that kitchenaid trick a few weeks ago.
    One word: LIFECHANGING!
    I didn’t think it would work and the breasts thunked around in the beginning. I thought it was a bad thing and then it shredded it so good! My jaw dropped. Good thing I did not bet on it cuz I would lost.

  7. Tara says:

    Yes. Definitely try the KitchenAid shredding method. 20 or less seconds and the chicken is shredded perfectly.

  8. Katie says:

    Wow, this is so helpful. I always end up boiling my chicken which gives me not so wonderful results. I will use this so often! Thanks!

  9. Natalie says:

    Life changing, indeed.

  10. Jess in ND says:

    You are the best. Been wondering about your crockpot method, but now have a new and improved version. My kitchen just gets more and more efficient. Thanks!

  11. Lynette says:

    Oh how I love you Mel!!! That might sound a bit over the top, but I was a HORRIBLE cook until my sister-in-law told me about your blog!! My husband thinks you are amazing as well. I actually now have a nice list of great recipes that have made me successful in the kitchen.
    Thanks for posting a recipe as simple as this because I always seem to overcook my crockpot chicken. I love that your blog makes everything simple and you don’t take for granted that people just know how to do certain things (like how to use yeast, grate ginger, or make plain ‘ol chicken to add to other recipes).

    You are AMAZING!

  12. Shannon says:

    We had a class at church for the women that included recipes to make with a rotisserie chicken, but when I put that thing in the cart and then into my car, I almost can’t stand the smell. (Does anyone else know what I’m talking about?!) I love these ideas of how to cook the chicken, then shred it, and then you even went so far as to plan out what to make with it. You are amazing and provide all I ever need to make good food in my home. Thanks!

  13. Thanks for the tip! I always boiled chicken and while sometimes it came out great, other times it came out too dry. Thanks again!

  14. Becky says:

    I have shredded chicken in my Bosch with the whisks and it has also changed my life. Just make sure your chicken is piping hot when you do it. It can break your machine if it isn’t. I love you blog Mel and refer to it often! Have you ever tried pressure cooking chicken? It is a great way to cook fast and keep in nutrients.

  15. Bethany says:

    Thanks! I have been looking for a great way to make shredded chicken to have on hand!

  16. Barbara says:

    This collage makes a lot of sense to me. I like to think and work in groupings, planning ahead. I appreciate you saving me a step of looking for all the recipes this could work for!

  17. Misty says:

    This might be a dumb question~ can you do this with frozen chicken? Or, does it have to be thawed before you put it in the hot pan with the hot oil?

  18. RuthAnn says:

    Mel, have you ever pressure canned chicken breasts? It’s super easy and even MORE life changing than this wonderful method because it’s already cooked and you put it on your shelf rather than in your freezer. I can do 10 minute meals for my family with my very own flavorful, ready to go chicken in a quart jar! Email me if you would like to discuss further. I have taught many friends to do this and several classes. It’s is the most meal changing thing I’ve ever learned to do. And, you can do beef, ground meats, pork, or fish–or venison if your hubby is a hunter type.

  19. Stacy P says:

    Yea recipe collages! My family and I have enjoyed meals exclusively from your site for the past week. Thanks for sharing! (And your chicken corn chowder is a HUGE hit with my entire family right down to my obnoxiously picky 6 yo son!)
    Many many hugs from rainy Georgia–

  20. Karen says:

    Mel, you are my inspiration! I hope Minnesota is treating you well, it is beautiful there.
    RuthAnn, I would love to know how you do your pressure canned chicken breasts.

  21. ruth says:

    Thanks for the great idea! I can’t wait to try it. I too am always realizing I need shredded chicken for a recipe and realize its too late to do the crock pot method.

  22. Mel says:

    Misty – this method works best with thawed chicken, not frozen. The frozen chicken can turn out dry because of the longer cooking time and it also adds a lot more liquid to the pan while cooking.

  23. Misty says:

    Thank You Mel~ I thought it would have to be thawed…..that just will require me to think about doing this a little earlier in the day! =) I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. I am a faithful Kitchen Cafe reader and use your recipies on a daily basis. Thank You for taking the time to run this great website!

  24. Shauntelle says:

    Mel, I just wanted to thank you for having this blog. I’ve never commented but wanted to let you know that I love coming to your blog to find recipes to make the upcoming week for my husband and me. Your pictures are lovely, the directions are easy to understand, and the recipes wonderful. Thanks for all the work you put in so I can have a trusted recipe blog to go to! :)

  25. Tracee says:

    I’ve been buying the two-pack of whole birds from Sams and roast them off in my huge LeCreuset. Lilly absolutely loves chicken that way. I always freeze the meat of one bird. It’s very handy, but we eat a lot of chicken and I seem to cook about 4 every ten days! I also refuse to buy chicken stock, so this way I always have some on hand too!

    I developed a yummy recipe for chicken and rice soup and David has me make 9 quarts at a time so he always has something for lunch. I also make your green chili enchiladas every few weeks!

    Lilly and David like dark meat so I’ll probably continue roasting the whole birds (who can beat 77 cents a pound?) I prefer the white meat so perhaps I’ll double up this weekend. Thanks for the new way to cook the chicken!

  26. Michelle R says:

    Hi Mel! Just wanted to tell you how much I love this blog. I found it a few months go through Pinterest and after browsing through it and pinning a dozen different recipes, I was hooked! Thanks so much for the blog!

  27. Kensi says:

    Thanks for this, I’m going to try it!! Here’s a tip I saw on Pinterest on how to shred cooked chicken easily, I tried it and it worked! Put the cooked chicken in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. This method shredded the chicken perfectly and was so much easier!

  28. Cammee says:

    Well this post and the comments are sure to be life changing for me. I am going to try this method today. And shred chicken in my Bosch? Are you serious? I don’t think I would dare with the whisks, but I am going to try it with the paddles. I just wonder if it shreds it to strings or if it leaves it a little chunkier.

  29. Kristin says:

    Brilliant!!! Thank you so much. I have been thinking about this a lot lately and I knew there had to be a better way than what I was doing. I tried this today and it was so quick, the chicken was moist and had a great flavor! This is definatley my new way!!!

  30. Kim in MD2 says:

    I tried this method today and it is as life changing as everyone claims. I especially loved the suggestions to use the KitchenAid for shredding the cooked chicken. Unbelievable! It worked perfectly. I used the shredded chicken to make the Chicken Corn Chowder that Mel posted in her collage. Yum!

  31. Sarah says:

    Used this method tonight and it worked great! Thanks so much for the great tip – the chicken was moist and shredded easily :) So thankful for your site! I’ve never made a bad recipe!

  32. Katie Chamblee says:

    I too keep cooked chicken breasts on hand to make many dishes. The method I prefer is to take bone in, skin on chicken breasts, drizzle olive oil, kosher salt and pepper on both sides and bake at 350 degrees for 45 -60 minutes. Internal temp should read 160. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. This type of chicken breast is cheaper and more favorable.

  33. Kathy says:

    Just did this for the first time today – it turned out great! The chicken is tender and flavorful. Much better than my usual method of baking it. It will be perfect in white chicken chili on this cold, rainy fall day. Thanks!

  34. Danielle H. says:

    This post was so timely for me! I needed to make a LARGE quantity of shredded chicken for a charity function. This turned out so flavorful and not-at-all dry. Now I’ve got to make some for myself. As always, you’re the best!

  35. Deb says:

    Just made this for use in your delicious tostada recipe and the chicken by itself is amazing, without all the other stuff added yet! This is such a quick and easy way to prepare shredded chicken, I will use it all the time. You are the best EVER!

  36. Jenny says:

    Yummy recipe for shredded chicken, thanks Mel. But really, the tip about shredding in a stand up mixer is BRILLIANCE. :)

  37. Renée says:

    Terrific! I used more liquid and added some white wine. My chicken breasts were larger than normal. Made chicken quesadillas and chicken tortilla soup.

  38. Tara says:

    Love this simple, handy prep recipe. I know I will always use this. Thank you!

  39. Mentor Mom says:

    Sweet hubby told me, “This is the way I want you to ALWAYS cook chicken from now on.”

    Goes to show . . . you can teach this “old mama of many children” new tricks.

    Laurel
    mama of 12

  40. […] cooking spray 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I used about 1 1/2 pounds chicken and cooked it with this method) 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups) 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro Salt and […]

  41. […] prepare filling: Dice or shred cooked chicken (roast chicken, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe method, or your favorite method for preparing chicken). Place in a large […]

  42. sandy says:

    A fast and simple way to shread the chicken is to place the cooked chicken into the bowl of a Kichen Aid mixer and use the regular beater then process on high for about a min or until the chicken is shreaded. I also use this method to shread pork which has been left over from a pork roast. Add BBQ sauce and you have a wonderful pulled pork sandwich.

  43. jason says:

    Thank you this was a huge time saver!

  44. Steve in UK says:

    Excellent! Beautiful shredded chicken and sooo quick.

  45. […] If you’re not up to the task of roasting and shredding a whole chicken you can also use chicken breasts. Here’s a quick how-to on making Simple Shredded Chicken from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. […]

  46. Rebecca says:

    I can’t seem to get the collage to work. When I hover over an individual picture I can’t just click on that picture. I worked for me a few weeks ago. Maybe something changed when you did the site redesign?

  47. Allison says:

    Thanks for this tip! I refuse to boil chicken for the purpose of shredding it, but aside from using a crock pot or without making a sauce with the chicken, I haven’t found a good way to do this (until now!).

  48. [email protected] says:

    But HOW do you shred the chicken properly?! I clicked on this recipe specifically for that reason, oh to find you completely skip that part.

  49. Niki says:

    I’d also love to know any tricks to shredding chicken that don’t involve a stand mixer (which I don’t have and won’t be able to afford any time soon). That said, I plan to use your recipe tonight.

  50. MerelyMarie says:

    Just tried this and the chicken is delicious! Thanks for sharing this awesome method! :)

  51. Kas says:

    This recipe cooks fast, and looks great on the photos, and the chicken does shred easily, but the meat texture turns out like rubber. I tossed this recipe in the circular file.

  52. Allison says:

    You saved me once again! This was delicious and worked with my partially thawed chicken (I was out of time). For questions about shredding it I chopped it into big chunks with a large knife and then once it cooled a little bit I hand shredded it. You rock Mel!

  53. Chara says:

    Thank you so much for this! I hate dragging out the crock pot for just chicken and the boiled-and-shredded chicken just doesn’t give me the flavor I crave! This is perfect and my husband loves it!

  54. Pamela says:

    Mel:

    I can’t ever print your recipes!! Help!!!

  55. Marianne says:

    I just made the best burrito using your instructions for shredded chicken and the idea of using my kitchen aid to shred the chicken. In all my years of cooking I never knew how to make shredded chicken. I can’t believe how easy that was. Thank you for posting this.

  56. Michelle says:

    Hi, I made this tonight, for maybe the 2nd or 3rd time. I like the technique, and I like how the chicken turns out, it just takes me waaaaay longer than 7-10 minutes on the 2nd side. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Mine aren’t 160º until at least 20 minutes, some even longer. Any thoughts?

    • Mel says:

      Michelle -it could be that your chicken pieces are much thicker than the ones I use although it does seem strange that it takes upwards of 20 minutes. Does your stove heat cooler do you think? You might try cranking up the heat a bit. Either way, as long as it is moist and cooked through, it should be ok. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  57. Joelle says:

    I feel like you and I are the same person! Almost all of your introductory paragraphs for recipes and especially this one, I 100% relate to! haha THANK YOU! Can’t wait to give this method a try and put to rest my crock pot method and my new favorite (which was buying rotisseries!)

  58. Liz Conley says:

    This recipe is great! I’m a ridiculously bad cook on a very small budget and a poorly stocked kitchen. I just tried this recipe and the chicken tasted really good for just having some salt and pepper for seasoning in addition to being easy enough not to be intimidating. I liked it enough I’ll probably save some of the unshredded chicken breasts in the future to serve with some rice and vegetables. Thanks so much for making cooking a lot less intimidating!

  59. Pam says:

    I tried this for a Buffalo Chicken Soup recipe (not mine – borrowed from http://blueberriesandblessings.com/2014/01/23/buffalo-chicken-soup-skinny-superbowl-snacks/ – I’m not affiliated with that site, but thought it would give context) and it worked perfectly! This is a great solution for when you forget to throw your chicken in a slow cooker.

  60. Pamela says:

    Wanted to make up some shredded BBQ chicken for DH to take to work tonight so I figured I try this method instead of my usual boiling to cook. It was very easy but like the other poster I found I had to cook about 20 minutes on the flip side to get it up to a safe eating temp. Not a big deal since the work is already done, just let it sit there doing it’s thing a little longer. Then I popped it in my kitchenaid and shredded it up. The taste is fantastic, more flavorful than boiled even though I didn’t add any salt or pepper, just used olive oil.

    The only downside is with boiling I can do my whole pack at once. I buy the boneless skinless breast packs from Sams and they usually have 8 large breast pieces in them. Only doing 4 at a time means I have do 2 batches to get them all cooked. I think I will keep this method for using in my chicken enchiladas and a few other recipes where one batch is enough or when I just want some yummy shredded chicken to munch on and then use boiling when I need big batches like with BBQ chicken. Best of both worlds.

  61. Gail says:

    Wow! This turned out great and was so easy! I will continue to do this weekly as we eat so many dishes for lunch or dinner that seem to use shredded chicken. I really feel good that I can make, use right away or freeze and know exactly what went into it…no funny unneeded preservatives etc. I also used my Kitchenaid to shred it and it worked perfectly. Thanks so very much, Mel, for sharing your expertise.

  62. Annalisa says:

    How have I never seen this post before now?? I made this chicken last night for our white chicken chili and it was phenomenal! So much better than just boiling it!

  63. Nancy says:

    Question about freezing: Do you put a bit of broth with the meat or freeze it dry?

  64. Abi says:

    Mel, I think you should point out in your kitchen tips that you can shred poultry/meat with kitchen mixer (paddle on Kitchen aid, and wire whisks on Bosch) in less than a minute. Such a time saver when making meat in bulk to freeze for later. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tInCwjWbmsk

    • Mel says:

      Hi Abi – thanks for the recommendation! I see that tip all over the place and think I must be the only one on the planet that would rather wash two forks/knives than my entire Bosch for just shredding chicken, although I suppose if you were making it in a huge batch to freezer or use for a large crowd that would be a different matter. Thanks for the tip!

  65. JJ says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve used this a few times since I found it in May and it has worked perfectly :)

  66. Kristen says:

    Perhaps a silly question but is there a best way to thaw the cooked chicken after you freeze it?
    Is freezing in a bag or Tupperware best?

    • Mel says:

      Kristen – I usually freeze in a bag because I can press out all the extra air and it lasts longer without getting freezer burned. I usually toss the frozen bag of chicken into the fridge and thaw overnight.

  67. Rachna says:

    I was looking for a “know-how” for making shredded chicken – looks like I just hit a jackpot! I have almost spent over an hour just drolling over the other lovely recipies on your blog – especially the yummy soups- and looks like you got another ardent fan today – thank you so much for your blog!!

  68. Deborah Miller says:

    Hi Mel, I found your website on YUMMLY. I just made your shredded chicken recipe. It was delicious. I also shredded the chicken in my kitchen aid. Marvelous! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

  69. jen says:

    This was a little more work than my usual oven method, but turned out some really great chicken! Mine took about 15 min on the 2nd side at a pretty good simmer. The juices left in the pan were heavenly, and I tossed the chicken in them after chopping. Juicy and delicious! Kids loved it.

  70. Cathy says:

    Best way to make shredded chicken EVER! Thanks, we will never make it any other way again. Used season salt instead of straight salt.

  71. Judi Harris says:

    Hi Mel,
    I came across your recipe website while looking for a decent recipe for Shredded Chicken. I tried your way of cooking it and it was the most wonderfully flavored chicken . While it was hot I shredded the chicken to make taquitos with. The taquitos turned out the best I have ever tasted.

    Thanks so much for sharing the recipe! Happy Thankgiving to you and yours!

    Judi Harris

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