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How to make shredded chicken


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I love to make Mexican dishes but am stumped on making the chicken like one gets in burritos. How do they get such tender, moist, finely shredded chicken? I'm hoping someone here can help me. If you have a recipe for cooking and shredding the chicken, I would be so appreciative. Thank you in advance.

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I'm not sure what you mean by "chicken like one gets in burritos," but you can get a decent poached chicken if you bring it and enough basic stock to cover to the boil in a covered pot (toss in more garlic, cilantro stems, and a few whole chile pods as you see fit) and then turn it off or waaay down low to sit for an hour. Then just shred the chicken roughly with a fork or two and moisten it with the stock.

Chris Amirault

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My molè chicken is what I think you're referring to. Its the same idea as Chris' except I cook low and slow in my molè sauce. The stuff you're getting in burritos is typically (in my area anyway) cooked in a broth with tomatoes. But either way, its just a low and slow.

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I just bring the meat to a simmer in hot water or broth, then turn the pot off, cover it, and let it sit for about 45 minutes before shredding it with two forks or my fingertips. The secret is to poach the meat very gently, not fry or bake it, and to pull the meat fibers apart lengthwise.

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The only luck I've ever had with shredded chicken breast is to poach it very lightly until just done (these days I am more likely to cook sous vide to 60.5C), then chill in an ice bath, shred, and then fold the shredded breast meat into whatever hot or cold condiment you want to have with the meat.

So, for example, if I were going to do this hot with a mole sauce, I'd heat the mole, fold in the cold shredded chicken breast meat, get it barely up to temperature and serve immediately. If I were going to do something that spend time in the oven, I'd probably just combine the ingredients at room temperature and finish in the oven.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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I usually don't even let it simmer. Following Barbara Tropp, I bring the poaching liquid to a boil with the bird in breast up and then just turn off the heat, cover it, and shred later. If I'm really trying, I'll pull the breast meat off as a chunk and shred it first while the thighs and legs finish cooking.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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My molè chicken is what I think you're referring to.  Its the same idea as Chris' except I cook low and slow in my molè sauce.  The stuff you're getting in burritos is typically (in my area anyway) cooked in a broth with tomatoes.  But either way, its just a low and slow.

Thank you for the response, gfron. To clarify, are you doing the initial cooking of the chicken in the mole sauce or is it put into the sauce after poaching? I'm not sure when you are using the low and slow method. Are you using chicken breasts or the whole chicken in your low and slow method? If you have a recipe or a book to recommend, I would love it. Last week I followed a recipe in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen using chicken breasts. He called for chicken thighs and said to nestle the thighs into the sauce, cover, and set over med-low heat until the meat was tender. Then shred. We like white meat and whenever we go out to eat burritos, the chicken is in slender shreds, moist and tender. Thank you again so much!

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I usually don't even let it simmer. Following Barbara Tropp, I bring the poaching liquid to a boil with the bird in breast up and then just turn off the heat, cover it, and shred later. If I'm really trying, I'll pull the breast meat off as a chunk and shred it first while the thighs and legs finish cooking.

I would love to know more. Is Barbara Tropp the author of a book that I could get to help me? Maybe I should go this route. Do you like poaching a whole chicken better than perhaps roasting a whole chicken to get chicken for recipes using chicken?

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I usually don't even let it simmer. Following Barbara Tropp, I bring the poaching liquid to a boil with the bird in breast up and then just turn off the heat, cover it, and shred later. If I'm really trying, I'll pull the breast meat off as a chunk and shred it first while the thighs and legs finish cooking.

I would love to know more. Is Barbara Tropp the author of a book that I could get to help me? Maybe I should go this route. Do you like poaching a whole chicken better than perhaps roasting a whole chicken to get chicken for recipes using chicken?

Barbara Tropp was an incredible cookbook writer, chef, teacher, and restaurant owner. She describes the method in both her books: "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking"- page 129, and in "The China Moon Cookbook" - detailing "no-poach chicken" in the margins of pages 116 & 117.

I usually am cooking smaller quantities and favor barely simmering chicken parts on the bone in a well flavored broth with tomato, chile, garlic, onion, and sometimes cumin for Mexican influenced dishes. I concur on the shredding with the grain and incorporating some of the cooking liquid. If cooking ahead I will store the shredded chicken in a container amply bathed in the liquid, draining before use. For future use, storing it in the liquid in the freezer yields a moist result for me upon thawing.

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Thank you for such great information, heidi!  I am going to try to find one or both books at the book store.  I appreciate sharing how you make it.

I don't want to side-track this topic, but Barbara Tropp's method for poaching chicken is wonderful, and if you can only buy one cookbook in the next few weeks, it really does need to be "Mastering the Art..." by the wise and wonderful Barbara. It is a book that can reside, with pride, next to Julia's "Mastering the Art..."

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Thank you for the response, gfron.  To clarify, are you doing the initial cooking of the chicken in the mole sauce or is it put into the sauce after poaching? I'm not sure when you are using the low and slow method.  Are you using chicken breasts or the whole chicken in your low and slow method?  If you have a recipe or a book to recommend, I would love it.  Last week I followed a recipe in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen using chicken breasts.  He called for chicken thighs and said to nestle the thighs into the sauce, cover, and set over med-low heat until the meat was tender.  Then shred.  We like white meat and whenever we go out to eat burritos, the chicken is in slender shreds, moist and tender.  Thank you again so much!

Sorry, been kinda busy. I do cook in the sauce and I cook it for about 45 minutes (or until I remember). Using thighs, I don't have any of the problems mentioned above. Realize, my kitchen has become pretty nuts, so I've adapted most of my stuff to be idiot proof (meaning me). Thighs can hold their own in my opinion. One other caveat is that my molè has a bit (really not too much) of lard, which assists in the texture. If you're interested in the recipe I'll pass it along after this weekend.

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Thank you for such great information, heidi!  I am going to try to find one or both books at the book store.  I appreciate sharing how you make it.

I don't want to side-track this topic, but Barbara Tropp's method for poaching chicken is wonderful, and if you can only buy one cookbook in the next few weeks, it really does need to be "Mastering the Art..." by the wise and wonderful Barbara. It is a book that can reside, with pride, next to Julia's "Mastering the Art..."

Thank you for the added recommendation, snowangel...to the bookstore I go this weekend.

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I generally roast, but more out of shear laziness than anything else. That and I love the smell of roasting chicken.

Well, I did read your response and went to the store and bought two 4 pound chickens. Lazy? Heck no! I put on a marinade of lemon zest, kosher salt, pepper, and rosemary and let it set in refrig. for 3 hours. It was so yummy and moist. I forget about simply making a roasted chicken. I'm wondering about pros and cons of roasted chicken vs poached chicken to use in recipes for Mexican dishes and soup, etc. And the house smelled divine, as you said. Thank you!

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Thank you for the response, gfron.  To clarify, are you doing the initial cooking of the chicken in the mole sauce or is it put into the sauce after poaching? I'm not sure when you are using the low and slow method.  Are you using chicken breasts or the whole chicken in your low and slow method?  If you have a recipe or a book to recommend, I would love it.  Last week I followed a recipe in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen using chicken breasts.  He called for chicken thighs and said to nestle the thighs into the sauce, cover, and set over med-low heat until the meat was tender.  Then shred.  We like white meat and whenever we go out to eat burritos, the chicken is in slender shreds, moist and tender.  Thank you again so much!

Sorry, been kinda busy. I do cook in the sauce and I cook it for about 45 minutes (or until I remember). Using thighs, I don't have any of the problems mentioned above. Realize, my kitchen has become pretty nuts, so I've adapted most of my stuff to be idiot proof (meaning me). Thighs can hold their own in my opinion. One other caveat is that my molè has a bit (really not too much) of lard, which assists in the texture. If you're interested in the recipe I'll pass it along after this weekend.

It would be so kind of you to share your recipe. Mole means there is chocolate added? Do you think one tastes the chocolate? Whenever I have seen mole I have always passed over it, but I am definitely game to try something if you say it is wonderful. Thank you and whenever you can get to it would be awesome.

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I usually don't even let it simmer. Following Barbara Tropp, I bring the poaching liquid to a boil with the bird in breast up and then just turn off the heat, cover it, and shred later. If I'm really trying, I'll pull the breast meat off as a chunk and shred it first while the thighs and legs finish cooking.

I would love to know more. Is Barbara Tropp the author of a book that I could get to help me? Maybe I should go this route. Do you like poaching a whole chicken better than perhaps roasting a whole chicken to get chicken for recipes using chicken?

Barbara Tropp was an incredible cookbook writer, chef, teacher, and restaurant owner. She describes the method in both her books: "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking"- page 129, and in "The China Moon Cookbook" - detailing "no-poach chicken" in the margins of pages 116 & 117.

I usually am cooking smaller quantities and favor barely simmering chicken parts on the bone in a well flavored broth with tomato, chile, garlic, onion, and sometimes cumin for Mexican influenced dishes. I concur on the shredding with the grain and incorporating some of the cooking liquid. If cooking ahead I will store the shredded chicken in a container amply bathed in the liquid, draining before use. For future use, storing it in the liquid in the freezer yields a moist result for me upon thawing.

I just returned from the bookstore and had no luck finding either book. I did buy chicken today so tomorrow I will try cooking it. Are you actually simmering it for about 20 mins. (if it is say, 4-6 chicken breast halves) or are you bringing the broth to a simmer or boil, covering the pan, and after turning off the burner letting it set on the burner for about 45 mins.? Sorry to be so detailed. I'm hoping for a very successful dish. Thank you again.

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To throw another method on the pile - often when I am making chicken to go into a salad like Vietnamese chicken cabbage salad or chicken with sesame and cucumber, I'll put a chicken thigh with a little salt and pepper into a bowl, pierce it a couple of times with a fork, cover with saran wrap, then microwave on high for four or so minutes, and let it stand covered for a few more. Then I shred. You can season the chicken with a bit of fresh ginger, green onion, sesame oil, etc. as you like, too, although that probably wouldn't be appropriate for burritos. :biggrin: It's quite common to use your microwave for actual cooking in Japan. This method has the advantage of not using a ton of power or heating up the kitchen in the summer. And it makes a small pool of really incredibly flavoured broth at the bottom of the bowl that I use to kick up whatever else I'm cooking.

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I tried something like this yesterday. Onions, celery, a bit of carrot, serrano and jalepeno, garlic in a stock pot, sweat for a bit, add a chipotle in adobo, add canned tomatos. Dropped a whole chicken in and poached till done and covered with water. It was ok, the chicken didn't absorb as much flavor as I would have liked but the broth was great. It was under seasoned as well, which was part of the problem. I think next time, I'd do a marinade to season the chicken first.

Added the broth to some dried beans I cooked up. That was pretty good. I'm hoping that having the chicken in the juice over night will improve it.

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It would be so kind of you to share your recipe.  Mole means there is chocolate added?  Do you think one tastes the chocolate?  Whenever I have seen mole I have always passed over it, but I am definitely game to try something if you say it is wonderful.  Thank you and whenever you can get to it would be awesome.

Sorry, I'm getting caught up and I'll get the recipe up shortly. There are many, many types of molè and while mine has cocoa and Abuelita in it, it is definitely not a pastey chocolately molè.

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