Shredded Chicken is a staple in so many dishes and perfect for a Sunday night meal prep. Think this is reserved for the slow cooker? Think again! Whip up 5 to 7 pounds of shredded chicken in the dutch oven with just four ingredients and an hour of your time, and you will have a delicious base to many of your favorite dishes.
The secret to easy Meal Prep
Whether you’re making meals for the week, putting together a meal for a large gathering, or preparing freezer meals – batch cooking chicken is the key to success. Any time you can take a large piece of meat, cook it all at once, and reuse it in multiple dishes, you’ll find your time in the kitchen cut down dramatically without sacrificing fresh flavor.
The benefits of using a dutch oven
While slow cookers are great for the “set it and forget it” kind of cooking, if you need to get chicken shredded quickly with all the slow cooker taste, the dutch oven is what you need. Not only does shredded chicken in the dutch oven cook in a fraction of the time, but the steam trapped in the dutch oven cooks the breasts that are not submerged in cooking stock, while continuously being basted thanks to the design of the cast iron lid.
Why do cast iron lids have spikes or bumps?
Ever look at the bottom of your cast iron dutch oven lid? Notice the bumps? These are the secret to locking in flavor and moisture while cooking with cast iron. The bumps act as a place for condensation to gather. As the contents of a dutch oven are boiled, simmered, or otherwise cooked, any steam that is released collects on the lid and drops as condensation where the bumps are. This effectively braises the contents within the dutch oven.
How to cook shredded chicken in a dutch oven
- Start by adding a cup of chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water to the dutch oven.
- Lay the chicken breasts in the dutch oven in such a way that there are air pockets between them. Laying the chicken breasts directly ontop of one another will cause uneven cooking.
- Season with your choice of herbs and spices. For this batch I did just salt and pepper since I had a variety of recipes this shredded chicken was going to be used in.
- Put the lid on and pop it into a 350F oven for about 1 hour, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F using a quick read thermometer.
- Remove from the oven shred.
How to shred chicken breasts
Okay so you’ve cooked your chicken and now have to shred all 5 to 7 pounds of it. The task can seem daunting but here are a few options:
- Remove the chicken from the dutch oven one breast at a time and use forks to shred. Stick one for into the chicken breast while using the other to scrap and pull in the same direction as the “grains” of meat are going. This will provide you with thicker strips of shredded chicken perfect for dishes like ceasar salads. Once shredded return the chicken to the dutch oven and stir for the chicken to absorb the warm stock keeping it moist and juicy.
- Keep the chicken breasts in the dutch oven and grab a hand mixer. While securely holding the dutch oven with a gloved hand, use the other hand to work the hand mixer on low speed. This will take a number of minutes, but the result is a finer shred of chicken breasts that is instantly reincorporated to the stock in the dutch oven.
- Add the chicken breasts to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and set to low speed. After the chicken has been shredded, add a ladle of stock from the dutch oven to the shredded chicken and stir until absorbed.
- Only once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, you can use your hands to pull apart to the desired size. This option is often better for controlling the size outcome of your shredded chicken.
Tips for making shredded chicken
- Use minimal seasoning so you can adjust it for later recipes.
- Shred the chicken while it is still warm.
- Add the chicken back to the dutch oven and stir so as to soak up all of the juices.
- Check the chicken minimally while it’s cooking so as not to loose the momentum of the steam, thus causing a dried chicken.
- Use a quick read thermometer on the middle-most chicken breast to gauge the rest of the chicken breasts doneness.
- Note that this recipe and method effectively poaches chicken as well. Simply remove the chicken and slice, cut, and dice to your liking.
How much chicken does this make?
Each pound of chicken breasts generally yields about 2-1/2 cups of shredded chicken. U.S. health standards suggest a serving size of chicken is between 3 to 4 ounces per person. This is roughly the size of a deck of cards.
How to Store Leftover Shredded Chicken
Cooked chicken, once fully cooled, can be stored in a Ziploc bag or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also freeze cooked chicken in the same manner, removing as much air as possible, for up to 4 months. To reheat the chicken from the freezer, place the frozen chicken in the refrigerator the night before, microwave on defrost setting if you’re in a hurry, or if using in a soup break off chunks and add directly to the hot liquid.
When freezing, I find it best to add 2-3 cups of shredded chicken to a gallon-sized freezer Ziploc bag (or vacuum-sealed), spread it out in an even layer, and remove as much air as possible, then freeze flat.
Best Recipes for using Shredded Chicken
- Red Enchiladas
- Mexican White Chicken Tortilla Lasagna
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches
How to Cook Shredded Chicken in a Dutch Oven
- 5 quart dutch oven
- liquid measuring cup
- measuring spoon
- Cutting board
- forks or hand mixer
- 5 pounds chicken breasts boneless, skinless
- 1 cup chicken stock, unsalted vegetable stock or water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper fine ground
- To a large 5 quart dutch oven, add the stock. Lay the chicken breasts in the dutch oven in such a placement to create air pockets for moisture, steam, and liquid to flow.
- Sprinkle the chicken with seasonings and cover with the lid.
- Add to a 350F oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the inner most chicken breast is 165F.
- Remove the dutch oven from the oven. Using a hand mixer on low speed, shred the chicken while still in the dutch oven. Stir within the leftover stock and serve or prep for later.