How to Shred Meat Using the Most Basic of Tools

Discover the best cuts for shredding beef, chicken, or pork, and learn how to shred meat using tools you probably already have.

Make a big batch of shredded pork, beef, or chicken and you have 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. After you cook 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.

Shredding pork with two forks
Blaine Moats

How to Shred Chicken, Pork, and Beef with Forks

Treat all shredded meat the same. Whether you need to know how to shred rotisserie chicken, make shredded beef, or 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 as you pull. Discard any bits of gristle or fat remaining in the shredded meat. Repeat until all the meat is shredded.

Test Kitchen Tip: Shredding meat too small may cause it to dry out faster. Thick shreds you can really sink your teeth into are the goal.

Gray Bear Paws Meat Shredder Claws on white surface
Courtesy of Walmart

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.

Shredded Roast Pork Sandwiches
Blaine Moats

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. Don't miss the chance to use slow cooker beef in Southwestern Shredded Beef Sandwiches or another 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 of 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 of garlic, and ½ teaspoon of 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 a slow cooker.
  • Pour one 32-ounce box of chicken broth over the chicken in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on a low-heat setting for 7 to 8 hours or on a high-heat setting for 3½ to 4 hours. Remove bouquet garni and discard.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a large bowl. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones (This is one of those instances where you're likely to see pulled meat instead of shredded meat). Strain and reserve the cooking juices to use for chicken stock. Shred the meat.

This recipe yields 6 cups of 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 for up to three days, or seal, label, and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Buy It: Rubbermaid Food Storage Container Set $47, Bed Bath & Beyond

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, or avocado. Try the idea with these shredded chicken tacos.
  • Stuff into an Enchilada: Check out this customizable 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 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.
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