Crock-Pot classics: Shredded chicken
Crock-Pots were made for foods like shredded chicken, and shredded chicken is perfect for dishes like burritos, barbecue, tacos, pizza, chili, fajitas, carnitas, pot pies, casseroles – if you can dream it, shredded chicken can be it. For the ultimate in poultry perfection, use chicken thighs or a mixture of thighs and breasts. Chicken breasts don't come close to the luscious mouthfeel and rich taste of thighs, despite having comparable nutrition profiles: 3 ounces of skinless chicken thighs have just 28 more calories than 3 ounces of breast meat. And best of all, you only need two ingredients – a cooking liquid and the chicken.
Total Time: 2 hours | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 4 to 6
- Kosher salt (optional)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional)
- 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, breasts or a combination of both
- 2 cups of chicken stock or water, seasoned to taste
- Season the chicken with kosher salt if desired. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat on the stove, and sear the chicken until golden brown. You can skip this step, but it creates a richer, more complex flavor.
- Bring the stock to a simmer on the stove. Transfer the chicken to the Crock-Pot, and pour the stock over it. If you want to add spices, do so now.
- Cover the Crock-Pot, and set it to high if you want the chicken ready in 2 hours; set it to low if you want it ready in 4 hours. The chicken is finished when it has an internal temperature of 165F.
- Transfer the chicken to a carving board. Shred the chicken with two forks. Store leftovers up to 4 days in the refrigerator and up to a year in the freezer.
You don't have to sear the chicken before adding it to the Crock-Pot, but caramelization, which doesn't occur in a slow cooker, adds a dimension of flavor you'd be remiss to skip.
Consider using nonconventional cooking liquids that fit the flavor profile of the dish you'll make with the chicken. For example, if you're using the chicken in a Southwestern-style dish, use 2 cups of your favorite salsa; for barbecued chicken, use barbecue sauce; for a creamy chicken casserole, go with a creamy mushroom soup.
To add a smoky, grill-like flavor to the chicken, add liquid smoke to the cooking liquid. The flavor intensity of liquid smoke varies among brands, so check the package directions for best usage.