How to Cook Shredded Chicken
Cooked shredded chicken (and cooked diced chicken) are used in many recipes, but have you ever had a recipe that called for them, without any direction for how to go about cooking the chicken in the first place? This step-by-step tutorial for how to cook shredded chicken is your answer! I’ll go over the easiest way to make shedded chicken breasts.
Whether you need cooked chicken to prepare chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, or chicken dip, or just to munch straight from your refrigerator when you’re hungry and in total desperation mode, this is the post for you!
My method is by far the fastest and easiest way to cook chicken that comes out perfectly moist and juicy every single time.
While there are a variety of different methods to cook chicken, poaching (gently cooking the chicken in water) is the one I’ve found to be the quickest and easiest, with the smallest amount of clean up. (If you’ve got an Instant Pot, check out this post for how to cook Instant Pot chicken!)
In today’s post, I’ll be reviewing how to cook shredded chicken via the poaching process, as well as giving you a few suggestions for yummy ways to use it.
You scroll down to see step-by-step photos, check out the video with a how-to after the photos, and finally you’ll find a recap for the steps at the very end of the post.
How to Make Shredded Chicken:
1) Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a large pot, then season them generously with salt and pepper.
If you are cooking a larger number of chicken breasts, you can overlap them slightly.
If you have a lot of overlap, I’d suggest upgrading to a larger pot or using two separate pots.
2) Cover the chicken with 1 inch of water.
3) Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a gentle boil.
Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and let simmer for 8 to 16 minutes, depending upon the size and number of chicken breasts that you are poaching.
The chicken is done when the center reaches 165 degrees F (use an instant-read meat thermometer for guaranteed safety and accuracy—I love this one and use it regularly).
From here, you can use the poached chicken however you please.
Shredded chicken is perfect to keep on hand in the refrigerator during the week to cut down on meal-prep time too.
I’ll often store my leftover shredded chicken to mix into leftover pasta, or add it to an omelet for a fast, healthy lunch.
I also use this method for making shredded chicken any time a recipe calls for shredded rotisserie chicken.
Instead of the store-bought rotisserie chicken, I swap in an equal amount of shredded chicken breasts that I poach myself.
Shredded chicken that you make at home is almost guaranteed to be lower in sodium and fat than store-bought rotisserie chicken, and I like that I can choose all-white meat as well.
This cooking method also works for making shredded chicken thighs. The meat may cook more quickly depending upon their size, so I recommend checking a few minutes early to ensure that you have moist, juicy diced or shredded chicken.
Tools to Make Shredded Chicken or Diced Chicken:
- Instant-read meat thermometer
- Easy-to-store plastic containers, for leftovers (these are the only ones that actually stay organized in my cabinet and refrigerator)
How to Cook Shredded Chicken
- 1 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts — 8 to 12 ounces each
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a large pot, then season them lightly with salt and pepper. The amounts in the recipe are just a suggestion, so don't feel pressured to measure. Give each breast a nice sprinkle. If you are cooking a lot of chicken breasts, you can overlap them slightly. If you have a lot of overlap, use a larger pot.
Cover the chicken with 1 inch of water.
Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and let simmer until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer or is no longer pink in the center, about 8 to 16 minutes, depending upon the size and number of chicken breasts that you are poaching. A 10-ounce chicken breast will need to simmer for about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the chicken from water and let rest until cool enough to handle. Dice, slice, or shred as desired.
- This method for how to poach chicken is intended for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I think that it would work well for boneless, skinless chicken thighs or bone-in chicken breasts too, though you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If dicing the chicken, I prefer to cut the chicken just before serving. If shredding, I find that the chicken is the easiest to shred apart while it is still slightly warm, before I place it in the refrigerator. You can shred by hand or use a hand mixer on low speed.
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (8 ounce) chicken breast) — Calories: 367, Fat: 4g, Protein: 34g
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