Don't Make This Important Temperature Mistake When Shredding Chicken

Shredded chicken is used in recipes as diverse as chicken chili, curries, and enchiladas, and it's also a great extra protein to have on hand for adding to salads or grain bowls. Although there are many ways to shred chicken, you'll find it easiest to do when the chicken is still warm. As the muscle fibers and connective tissue in the meat chill, they tighten up and resist pulling apart.

The best time to shred chicken is while it's just warm enough for your hands to touch the meat comfortably. That's when the fibers pull apart easily, and you can feel the difference between the tender meat and harder pieces of tendon or bone. If you prefer to use your mixer or two forks to pull the chicken apart, warm is still the way to go — but keep an eye out for those inedible parts, they may be hard to spot since the color is similar.

How to prep your shredded chicken

If you'd like to make a batch of shredded chicken to have on hand, start by poaching the meat in seasoned water or broth for the best flavor. Chicken breast is easiest to shred because the fibers are all lined up in the same direction, making them easy to pull apart, but legs and thighs work too if you prefer dark meat. When the chicken is completely cooked, remove it to a plate to cool slightly. Save the broth for a soup to get extra value from the chicken. When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull the fibers apart, starting at the outer edges of each piece. Keep shredding until the chicken is the size and texture you prefer.

You can also shred store-bought rotisserie chicken, or roast a chicken in the oven if you prefer. And if you should happen to have cold chicken you'd like to shred, simply warm it slightly until the meat pulls apart more easily — short bursts in the microwave or a warm oven should do the trick. The shredded chicken should be stored in the refrigerator as soon as possible for food safety reasons.