How to Shred Meat Using the Most Basic of Tools
Whether you choose beef, chicken, or pork, shredded meat is a hearty base for all kinds of recipes. Discover the best cuts for shredding and how to shred meat using a tool most definitely already in your kitchen.
Make a big batch of shredded pork, beef, or chicken and you've got a meal-starter for loads of ideas. Enjoy some tonight in a pulled chicken soup, sandwich, salad, or shredded pork tacos and still have leftovers to store in the fridge or freezer for another meal. Once you've cooked your chosen protein to juicy perfection, transforming it into shredded meat is simple and requires no fancy tools (though there are some out there if you love a good kitchen gadget). We'll walk you through the meat-shredding process and share some of our favorite recipes along the way.
Before we dive in, a quick note on terminology: Pulled meat and shredded meat are essentially the same. Generally, "pulled meat" refers to meat pulled off the bone. So this Shredded Pork Roast Sandwich could also be called a pulled pork sandwich. You can use shredded meat in recipes calling for pulled meat, and vice-versa.
How to Shred Chicken, Pork, and Beef with Forks
Treat all shredded meat the same. Whether you're needing to know how to shred rotisserie chicken, how to make shredded beef, or how to shred pork, you'll use the same process.
To shred meat, place two dinner forks, with their backs facing each other, adjacent to each other in a portion of the meat. Pull the forks in opposite directions, breaking up the meat into shards as you pull. Discard any bits of gristle or fat remaining in the shredded meat. Repeat until all your meat is shredded.
Test Kitchen Tip: Shredding your meat too small may cause it to dry out faster. Thick shreds you can really sink your teeth into are the goal.
How to Shred Meat with Meat-Shredding Claws
If you're the type to make shredded meat in bulk for many meals or make shredded meat frequently, you may want to consider meat shredder claws. The tool fits in your hand, acting like an extension of your arms, and you pull the meat into shreds using the same method as if you were using forks.
What Cuts to Use for Shredded Meat Recipes
Shredded Beef and Pork: When searching for the best beef for shredding you'll notice many recipes for shredded meat call for beef chuck pot roast. Shredded pork recipes usually call for pork shoulder roast. These cuts, from the shoulder of the animal, contain marbling and connective tissue, which soften during cooking. This makes it easy to pull the meat apart into moist, tender chunks. Beef brisket, from the foreshank/brisket part of the animal, is also sometimes used for shredded beef. These inexpensive cuts require long, slow cooking. While the cooking can be done on the stovetop, in the oven, or on the grill, we think the slow cooker does an excellent job cooking shredded meat. Better yet, it requires little attention.
Shredded Chicken: Chicken thighs are especially moist and richly flavored, making them good choices for shredded meat. However, you can also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, if you prefer white meat.
How to Make Shredded Pork
Low heat and longer cooking times are best for making shredded pork. Get the step-by-step details on cooking pulled pork. Then shred as directed above.
How to Make Shredded Beef
As with pork, shredded beef is at its best after it slow-cooks to tender perfection. Try our slow-cooker shredded beef recipe to add to Shredded Beef and Chile Enchiladas or your other favorite recipe.
How to Make Shredded Chicken
We find that slow-cooked chicken thighs make richly flavored shredded meat. However, if you need shredded meat in a hurry, you can also use your stovetop to boil chicken to shred. If you're really tight on time, another easy way to shred chicken starts with picking up a deli-roasted bird. Pull off the meat, discarding the skin and bones. Shred pieces using the two-fork method.
To cook chicken thighs in your slow cooker, follow these steps.
- Skin 4½-5 pounds chicken thighs. Place chicken thighs in a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker.
- Make a bouquet garni by placing 4 thyme sprigs, 4 parsley stems, 2 bay leaves, 2 halved cloves garlic, and ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns in the center of an 8-inch square of double thickness 100 percent cotton cheesecloth. Bring up corners of the cheesecloth and tie with 100 percent cotton kitchen string. Place in slow cooker.
- Pour one 32-ounce box chicken broth over chicken in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low-heat setting 7 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3½ to 4 hours. Remove bouquet garni and discard.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a large bowl. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones (This is one of those instances where you're likely to see pulled meat instead of shredded meat). Strain and reserve cooking juices to use for chicken stock. Shred meat as directed.
This recipe yields 6 cups shredded chicken, which is enough for 12 servings. We love the way the bouquet garni seasonings add extra flavor to the shredded meat.
How to Store Shredded Meat
Add enough of the cooking juices to the leftover shredded meat to moisten. Place the shredded meat in refrigerator or freezer containers. Refrigerate up to three days. Or, seal, label, and freeze up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Serving Suggestions for Shredded Meat
There are so many ways to use shredded meat. Here are some of our favorites.
- Tuck into a Taco: Cook and stir shredded meat with enchilada sauce or salsa until heated through. Place the mixture into the center of taco shells or warm tortillas. Top with your favorite toppings, such as lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, olives, and/or avocado. Try the idea with these shredded chicken tacos.
- Stuff into an Enchilada: Check out this completely customizable master plan for making enchiladas.
- Spoon into a Sandwich: Cook and stir shredded meat with your favorite barbecue sauce or sloppy joe sauce until heated through. Place the mixture into toasted sandwich rolls or buns. If you like, top with thinly sliced cheese or shredded cheese and/or coleslaw.
- Mix into a Chili: Use shredded meat in place of ground meat when making chili. Skip the step for browning the meat and simply add the cooked shredded meat when you add the canned beans.
- Add to a Salad: Cook and stir shredded meat with salsa, thawed frozen corn, and canned black beans until heated through. Spoon over leafy greens and top with chopped tomatoes, chopped green sweet pepper, sliced green onions, chopped avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, additional bottled salsa, and, sour cream.
With so many ways to use your favorite shredded meat, we're certain this is a cooking skill you'll be an expert in very quickly.