The Ingredient That Allows You To Make Perfect Pulled Chicken Fast

You can pull off plenty of easy one-pan meals and 30-minute dinner recipes in a time crunch. Pulled chicken, however, isn't one of them. Unlike shredded chicken, which simply entails breaking down the cooked protein into shreds with a hand mixer or a pair of forks, pulled chicken goes through a much more lengthy cooking process. According to MasterClass, the meat is first brined for about three hours, after which it's seasoned and transferred into a smoker, where it gets slow cooked over 230 degrees Fahrenheit indirect heat. It takes about three more hours for the meat to finish cooking, and after that, you can finally pull it apart.

While the final result is well worth it, there's no denying that pulled chicken requires a good amount of patience. Fortunately, if you don't have the time (or a smoker on hand), there's a faster way to go about it, and it's made possible by one ingredient, Cook's Illustrated reveals.

Powdered gelatin quickens the process of cooking pulled chicken

When chicken is slow-cooked, the collagen-rich skin, bones, and tendons gradually break down into a mixture of fat and gelatin. As America's Test Kitchen explains, this, in addition to the smoky flavor, is precisely what makes pulled chicken different from regular cooked ones in terms of both texture and taste. Getting that gelatin byproduct usually requires hours of cooking in a smoker; however, powdered gelatin can be used in a pinch.

Powdered gelatin is the ingredient that makes jello jiggly, and it's often used to firm up pie fillings, but it's also a derivative of animal collagen, Good Things Baking Co. shares. It's exactly what is produced when you make pulled chicken, which means if you instead simmer the protein in chicken broth, liquid smoke, and most importantly, powdered gelatin, you end up with meat that closely resembles the kind cooked in a smoker, Cook's Illustrated says. This takes only 35 minutes because of the added ingredient, and the flavor tenderness is nearly identical to traditional pulled chicken. Per America's Test Kitchen, just make sure to dissolve the gelatin in cold water before adding it to your chicken so it gets properly activated.