Shredded Chicken Is the Easiest Meal Prep Hack

A container of shredded chicken means you are just minutes away from tacos, pasta, salads, soup, and more.

Shredded or pulled chicken is one of those cooking shortcuts that makes meal prep a no-brainer. Shredded chicken can be used in all kinds of recipes. A container of shredded chicken is a shortcut to tacos, burritos, or enchiladas — just toss the meat in salsa or simmer it in a sauce, then tuck it into tortillas along with your toppings. Use shredded chicken to make Chicken and Cabbage Tacos with Cilantro Cream, Chicken Quesadillas, or Chicken Flautas. You can also turn shredded chicken into the base for this Crunchy Vietnamese Salad or these Five-Spice Chicken Banh Mi Sandwiches. Or simmer it in a North Carolina-style vinegar barbecue sauce for these quick and tasty Pulled Chicken Barbecue Sandwiches

If you’ve come across a recipe that calls for shredded chicken but are not sure how to make it, first, know you have options. You can shred chicken that has been cooked by any method. If you have a leftover roast chicken or a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, that’s an easy shortcut. Even leftover fried chicken can be pulled — and as a bonus, you’ll get lots of crispy edges. 

Shredded Chicken

Matt Taylor-Gross

The best way to cook a chicken with a plan to shred or pull it is by poaching it. Poached chicken pulls easily, and stays moist after it is cooked. Place boneless chicken breasts and thighs in a pot and fill it with enough water or broth to cover the chicken. Add a big pinch of kosher salt, plus any aromatics, spices or herbs you like (a halved onion, a few garlic cloves, peppercorns, cumin seeds, and a sprig or rosemary or thyme work nicely). Place the pot over medium heat and simmer the chicken uncovered until it is cooked through, and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of chicken registers 155°F, 25 to 30 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate and let it rest until it is just cool enough to handle; chicken shreds better when it is still warm. You can then pull it using two forks or your hands. (Save that poaching liquid and use it to make soup!)

If you want to pull chicken quickly, break it apart into large pieces and place them in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add a splash or two of the poaching liquid to the bowl before you mix, and turn the mixer on low for 30 seconds. Keep an eye on the chicken if using a mixer; you don’t want it to turn it into mush. 

If you are shredding chicken for meal prep purposes, add another splash of the poaching liquid to the container to keep the chicken from drying out in the fridge. Then, pull it out when you want to make chicken salad, add it to gnocchi or another pasta for an easy but impressive dinner, use it as the basis for a rich soup, or any meal ideas that come to mind. The cooking possibilities are almost endless.

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