How to Shred Meat

Shredded meat—whether beef, chicken, or pork—makes a luscious base for many memorable recipes, including tacos, enchiladas, pulled meat sandwiches, soups, salads, and more. Here's everything you need to know to cook meat for shredding, plus our super-easy way to shred chicken, pork, or beef.

Shredded Meat

Make a big enough batch of shredded pork, beef, or chicken. Enjoy some tonight in a soup, sandwich, salad, or tortilla-based dish, and have some leftovers to keep on hand in the fridge or freezer for another meal. Here are recipes for shredded meat, along with serving suggestions. Once you get the hang of the basics, try our other recipes for making and serving these tender, moist meats.

Tip: Pulled meat and shredded meat are the same thing. Generally, "pulled meat" refers to meat pulled off the bone; however, you can use shredded meat in recipes calling for pulled meat, and vice-versa. Read on for easy-to-follow instructions on how to shred pork, how to shred beef, and how to shred chicken.

Get the Shredded Pork Roast Sandwich recipe pictured.

 

What Cuts to Use for Shredded Meat Recipes

Shredded Beef and Pork: Many recipes for shredded meat call for beef chuck pot roast (pictured) or 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 shards. Beef brisket, from the foreshank/brisket part of the animal, is also sometimes used for shredded meat. 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 for 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

Two ingredients are all you need to make four cups of shredded meat—enough meat for a total of 8 servings. Serve some tonight, and refrigerate or freeze the rest.

1. Slow-Cook the Pork Until Tender

Follow these steps for perfect shredded meat every time:

  • Trim the fat from a 2-1/2- to 3-pound boneless pork shoulder roast. If needed, cut the pork to fit into a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker.
  • Add 1 cup chicken broth to the slow cooker. This allows the meat to braise and not dry out as it cooks.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook on the low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on the high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.
  • Remove the meat from the cooker and place it on a cutting surface. Cool slightly.

2. How to Shred Pork

For the shredded 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 pork into shards as you pull. Discard any bits of gristle remaining in the shredded meat. Repeat this process until all the pork is shredded.

 

How to Make Shredded Beef

This recipe yields 6 cups of shredded meat, which is enough for 12 servings. Onions, garlic, and beef broth add flavor to the beef as it slow-cooks to tender perfection.

1. Slow-Cook the Beef Until Tender

Follow these instructions for perfect shredded meat every time:

  • Trim the fat from a 3- to 3-1/2- pound boneless beef chuck pot roast; if necessary, trim the meat to fit into a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker. Cut 2 large onions into wedges and mince 2 cloves of garlic. Place the onions and garlic into the slow cooker and top with the beef.
  • Pour one 14-ounce can beef broth into the slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on the low-heat setting for 11 to 12 hours or on the high-heat setting for 5-1/2 to 6 hours.
  • Remove the beef from the cooker and place it on a cutting surface. Cool slightly.

2. How to Shred Beef

Shredding beef is just like shredding other meats: 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 remaining in the shredded meat. Repeat this process until all the meat is shredded.

Get the Shredded Beef and Chile Enchiladas recipe pictured.

How to Cook Chicken to Shred

P.S.: 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. See our instructions, below.  

1. How to Cook Chicken to Shred in the Slow Cooker

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.

  • Skin 4 1/2 - 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 1/2 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 1 32-ounce box chicken broth over chicken in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3-1/2 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. Strain and reserve cooking juices to use for chicken stock. Shred as directed, below.

2. How to Boil Chicken to Shred

Boiling chicken breast to shred is a quicker way to go. Simply place two whole chicken breasts in a large skillet and add enough water to cover. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and poach for about 10 to 12 minutes or until no longer pink (170F degrees internal temperature). Then remove and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, shred as directed below.

TIP: Another easy way to shred chicken starts with picking up a deli-roasted bird. Pull the meat off the bird, discarding the skin and bones. Shred pieces using the two-fork method.

Get the Shredded Chicken Filling recipe pictured.

3. How to Shred Chicken Breast or Thigh

Shred chicken breast or the boned chicken thigh meat by placing 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 remaining in the shredded meat. Repeat this process until all the meat is shredded.

How to Store Shredded Meat

Add enough of the cooking juices to the leftover shredded meat to moisten. Place the shredded meat in 2-cup portions in shallow refrigerator or freezer containers. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Or, seal, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave.

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.

Tip: To soften tortillas, place between paper towels. Microwave on 100 percent power (high) for 20 to 40 seconds.

  • 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 (rinsed and drained) until the mixture is heated through. Spoon over shredded leaf or iceberg lettuce and top with chopped tomatoes, chopped green sweet pepper, sliced green onions, chopped avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, additional bottled salsa, and, if desired, sour cream.

Get our shredded Chicken Tacos recipe pictured above.

 

Great Recipes Using Shredded Meat

1 Comment

  1. I have recently made barbecue pulled pork for sandwiches in my Crock Pot. I forwent broth, instead just dousing the pork shoulder roast with bbq sauce after seasoning the meat and placing it atop two thick onion slices.

    I intend to do the same with a beef shoulder roast in a couple of hours. It will be my lunch for the week.


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