How To Make Shredded Chicken

For tacos, salads, casseroles, and more.

shredded chicken

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Shredded chicken is used in recipes of all sorts, from enchiladas to pulled chicken sandwiches chicken salad to chicken noodle soup. Its versatility comes from its easy-to-eat nature and the thorough way that it absorbs seasonings and sauces.

If you’ve never shredded chicken before, you may wonder how to go about this task without compromising the chicken's texture and overall moisture level. We’re answering that question right here with clear, step-by-step guides to several different chicken-shredding methods, all provided by professional chefs and food-prep experts.

How To Shred Chicken With Your Hands

The simplest way to shred cooked chicken is to just dig in with your hands. Cookbook author and recipe developer Jim Mumford of Jim Cooks Food Good says that shredding by hand works best for fattier cuts like thighs and drumsticks. “Simply pull [the thigh or drumstick meat] with clean hands and let the chicken fall apart, due to the rendering of fat and collagen,” Mumford says.

How To Shred Chicken With Forks 

If you’re trying to shred poached, boiled, or roasted chicken breasts, grabbing a couple of forks from your silverware drawer is a smart strategy.

"Using two forks, pull apart the meat until the chicken is shredded to the desired thickness," says head chef and recipe developer Jessica Randhawa of The Forked Spoon.

shredding chicken with forks

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How To Shred Chicken With a Hand Mixer

A hand mixer (whether electric or manual) can also be used to break cooked pieces of boneless chicken (breasts or thighs) into shreds.

“I’ve always used a hand mixer, as that was the way my grandma taught me to do it.  Place the chicken in a high-sided or deep bowl, then use a hand mixer to slowly shred the chicken until the meat is completely and fully shredded,” recommends content director and recipe developer Christina Russo of The Kitchen Community.

shredding chicken with hand mixer

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How To Shred Chicken With a Stand Mixer 

If you’re lucky enough to have a KitchenAid or other powerful stand mixer in your kitchen, then you’ll be able to shred boneless cooked chicken with remarkable ease.

“My favorite way to shred chicken in seconds is to use a stand mixer! First, boil or cook the chicken to your liking. Then, add chicken to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the hook attachment until it's broken down into small shreds or your desired size,” says registered dietician and recipe creator Mackenzie Burgess of Cheerful Choices.

shredded chicken in a stand mixer bowl

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How To Shred Chicken With a Food Processor 

Food processors are reliable pieces of equipment for chopping and crushing, so it stands to reason that they’re also useful for shredding cooked chicken.

“Cut the chicken into small pieces that will fit easily into your food processor. If you’re using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you can cut them into halves or thirds.Place the chicken pieces into the bowl of your food processor, and pulse for about 30 seconds, or until the chicken is fully shredded,” instructs founder and recipe writer Jessica Clark of Gluten Free Supper.

shredded chicken in food processor

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How To Take Apart Whole Chicken for Shredding

If you’re roasting or boiling an entire chicken, it’s still possible to break the bird apart and shred the cooked meat.

Executive chef Nikhil Abuvala of Roux 30a in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. explains exactly how: “Place the chicken backside-down on a cutting board. Then, take a small utility knife and cut straight down through the crevice/joint of the breast and leg. Use your hands to flip the chicken over and pop the leg joint out. Set the joint aside, then use your hands to break off the wings,"

He continues, "Use the utility knife to cut out the ‘oysters’ of the chicken, which are the two small bits of meat at the middle back of the chicken (don’t throw these out, as they’re the best parts of the chicken!). To remove the breasts, flip the chicken back over and cut the knife through one side of the breast plate, slicing down until the knife hits the bone. Then, slide the blade to release chicken breast from body and repeat the whole process on the other side.”

taking apart whole chicken

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Once the breasts are separated, you can use your hands to pull the meat from the thighs and shred both that meat and the “oyster” meat with your fingers while using forks to shred the breast meat. Or, you can “place large chunks [of meat from the breasts and thighs] into a mixer with a paddle attachment and on low speed let the paddle to the rest of the work,” says Abuvala.

Tips for Shredding Chicken

If you're going to the trouble of making your own shredded chicken, make sure you know these good tips.

Give the chicken enough time to fully cook.

According to corporate executive chef Chris Moyer of Perdue, “The biggest mistake that people make [when shredding chicken] is not cooking the chicken long enough, which allows the muscle fibers to break down better for shredding.”

To ensure that your chicken is ready to shred, get a meat thermometer and check the internal temperature. “Boneless chicken is commonly cooked until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. However, I would suggest cooking it to 185 degrees to make it easier to shred,” says Moyer.

Stay away from shared surfaces.

If you’re shredding chicken with your hands or with forks, you may need to set it down on a cutting board to pull it apart. Just be sure to use a clean cutting board that hasn’t touched raw chicken.

“Before you even poach or cook the chicken, make sure you have kept the raw poultry separate from all other food and surfaces. If you are using a cutting board for raw chicken, the same board should not be used for vegetables or other ingredients that could be contaminated, unless it is thoroughly disinfected. Don’t put cooked meat on the same plate raw meat had been on,” advises chef, cookbook author, and recipe developer Brian Theis of The Infinite Feast.

Don’t fully chill the chicken before shredding.

“One of the biggest mistakes that people make when shredding chicken is refrigerating it before shredding. Cold chicken is more difficult to shred,” says Kimberly Baker, Ph.D, the director of the Clemson University Extension Food Systems and Safety Program Team. Let it cool at room temperature until it’s easy to handle, then get on with the shredding process.

How To Store Shredded Chicken 

Cooked and shredded chicken "can be stored in the fridge for three to four days” in an airtight container, according to cookbook author Anna Vocino of Eat Happy Kitchen. If you’d like to freeze it for future use, “you can freeze shredded chicken if you store it in an airtight container. Remember: Moisture is your enemy when freezing any kind of meat. So be sure your storage container is airtight. Always handwash your lids to avoid the heat from the dishwasher warping its airtight seal. Once that's gone, the container is useless,” says Vocino.

When it’s in a truly airtight container, “it can be kept frozen for up to 60 days," Vocino adds.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland; Food Styling: Melissa Gray

How To Use Shredded Chicken

Shredded chicken is an easy protein to weave into dishes, including the following flavorful recipes:

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