Time Is Of The Essence When Shredding Slow-Cooker Chicken

Slow-cooker chicken is one of those big win-wins, both in convenience and in tender, juicy flavor. Even better is its versatility, especially when it comes to shredded chicken dishes like smokey BBQ chicken sliders and chicken-topped nachos. And while the cooking is easy, the shredding can be a bit of a pain, leaving you with dry, bland results if you don't keep in mind that time is of the essence.

The key to making the most of this succulent timesaver lies in the shredding — understanding not only the "how," but also the crucial "when" to achieve those coveted, thin strands instead of unwieldy chunks. If you want to keep all that chickeny goodness, while absorbing more seasonings and sauce than chunks could ever do, nothing beats shredding it. But if you're letting your chicken sit until it's cool enough to pick and shred by hand, chances are you're missing out on all the juicy and tasty that makes using shredded slow-cooker chicken a total flavor bomb.

So what's the secret to making the most of your slow-cooked chicken shredding? It all comes down to timing. If you want easily achieved shreds, doing it sooner rather than later is the way to go. That's because freshly cooked chicken is more pliable than its completely cooled counterpart, allowing the meat to separate effortlessly into delicate, flavorful fibers. Shredding cold slow-cooker chicken yields a much less desirable texture, with the meat firming as it cools, making it harder to separate.

Techniques to shred slow-cooker chicken

The only drawback to shredding chicken while it's still warm from the slow cooker is the potential "ouch" factor if your chicken is a little too warm. Handling hot meat can pose a bit of a challenge even if you're wearing latex gloves. Fortunately, the universal two-fork technique offers an excellent solution — especially when paired with chicken warm from the slow cooker. All you need is the requisite two forks and a flat surface, to begin easily pulling apart the chicken, quickly separating it into strands with your fork tines and averting any red, throbbing fingertips.

While minimal effort is required for shredding warm chicken, there are a couple of hacks that are even better than the two-fork method. All you really need (if your chicken isn't overcooked) is a good pair of tongs. It gets the job done faster than using forks. The other trick involves the use of a stand mixer. Simply place your slow-cooked chicken in the mixing bowl, with the paddle attached, and mix at a low speed for 30 to 60 seconds. Sure, you need specialized equipment, but it doesn't get any quicker than that!

No matter which technique you prefer, if you stick with the shred-while-warm rule, you'll be shredding like Eddie Van Halen in no time.