Monday, June 8, 2015

Simple & Moist Shredded (or Chopped) Chicken

I try to always keep some shredded chicken on hand in the freezer. It makes for such quick and easy salads, casseroles, and soups. I also like to use it in my diet meals so that I don't have to worry about adding any extra oil or sauce to keep the meat from sticking to the pan. I find myself using it more and more in our recipes!

For years that meant buying a rotisserie chicken and shredding it. When I found out our local farmer's market had them for only $4 each I was in heaven... until I realized they only carry them around dinner time. I normally do my grocery shopping and errands early, and was getting tired of having to make an extra trip just to pick one up! Since they also carry cheap chicken breasts, I started thinking it would probably be a lot easier to just cook and shred those instead.

And then I found this post describing Ina Garten's simple technique for pre-cooking chicken by roasting bone-in chicken breasts. The skin is left on during cooking to trap in the moisture, and removing it reveals wonderfully moist breast meat! While the original technique has you coat the skin with oil, salt, and pepper, I found it unnecessary since you remove it in the end.

Roasted Chicken

For easy, moist shredded chicken...

1) Buy bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts - The skin keeps the chicken moist, so try to get breasts that have most of the skin intact. I was able to get a little over 6 cups of shredded chicken from 4 lbs. of breasts (about $5 at our store), so you'll get about 1.5 cups per pound.

2) Lay the breasts skin side up on a roasting sheet and stretch the skin to cover as much of the top as you can. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes.

3) Let the chicken rest for 15-30 minutes after baking so the juices can settle into the meat. And so you don't burn your hands trying to shred it!

4) Discard the bones and skin and shred or chop the breast meat. (I guess I do a combination of the two. I like to rip off a few strips and then use kitchen scissors to snip smaller pieces.) If you are not using it right away, you can freeze the meat in tupperwares or freezer bags.

Simple, Moist Shredded Chicken

Now that I've tried this method, I don't think I'll ever go back to shredding rotisseries! We often ended up with dry, overcooked meat that had spent too much time under the heating lamps. They were always so messy, leaving my hands covered in grease and seasonings, and lots of gelatinous goo if you shred them cold! Yuck. The bone-in breasts are much cleaner, have only one bone that is easy to remove, and you end up with all healthy white meat. Cooking the breasts this way requires very little effort, and ends up being so much better all around!

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