The first time I ever dug into meal prepping, I was eight months pregnant with my youngest son. I really wanted to stock up on meals to keep in the freezer so that while I was juggling a newborn and a (not even) two-year-old, I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking.
I thought “No big deal. Can’t take more than three hours.” Do you know how long cooking five meals took? I started when I put Ryder, my oldest son, down for a nap around noon. I was still cooking at 7pm. My feet were in so much pain, I could barely walk. And I still got up in the morning to finish the rest of the prep. It took nine hours to make five meals.
Let me say that again. Nine hours to make five meals. That’s not okay.
I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years about meal prepping. The biggest thing I learned is that it isn’t my thing. It doesn’t have to be your thing either. My thing is easy, delicious meals that can be made fast or with little actionable steps involved (i.e. slow cooker, blender or Instant Pot).
Sometimes you have busier weeks ahead of you and even 30-minute meals seem like a mountain you can’t climb. Sometimes there’s only fifteen minutes. The solution?
If you have a container of pre-cooked, shredded chicken in your refrigerator, ready to go, you are more likely to use it instead of ordering expensive or junky take out.
Why shredded chicken?
- It’s really easy to make (see below).
- It’s really versatile. A few things to make with shredded chicken (enter Bubba Gump voice):
- Salad toppings
- Chicken salad
- BBQ chicken
- Curried chicken
- Stir fry (my favorite when we already had tacos two days that week)
- Etc. You get the picture.
- It’s a giant bowl of meat, ready to go.
- It’s good.
So why use a whole chicken? What if you only like white meat?
A whole chicken is usually at least half the price per pound of chicken breast. At my Costco, I can buy a whole organic chicken for $1.99 per pound. I can get chicken breasts for $5.99 a pound. That’s 67% cheaper. I can turn a 4-5 pound chicken that costs about $10 into 3-5 meals for my family.
My three-year-old proudly declares, “I only like white chicken, Mom” every time I cook chicken in any form. The dad of the house generally says something along those lines as well. When you shred (or chop) a whole chicken, the dark meat is so little compared to the white meat, no one knows.
I actually serve this chicken to my kids plain and the “white chicken only” kid never notices the dark meat.
If you have never shredded a whole chicken before or you want some tips on doing it more efficiently, here’s how it’s done.Print
Perfect, flavorful shredded chicken that comes together fast and easy. Cook once and have chicken ready to go for lunches and dinners all week.
- 1 4-5 lbs whole chicken
- 4 cups filtered water
- 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence or oregano or favorite chicken seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Place raw chicken in Instant Pot and add 4 cups of water.
- Add seasonings to the top of chicken. I usually place the chicken with the breast side up so the areas with more meat get more direct seasoning, but either way works.
- Place lid on Instant Pot, turn to sealing. Using the Manual function, press the + until the Instant Pot reads 40 (minutes).
- After 40 minutes, use the Quick Release function to release the pressure.*
- Turn the Instant Pot off and let the chicken cool until you can safely dig into it. I usually pull it out of the water and onto a plate for a few minutes.
- Get your storage container and your cutting board ready next to your chicken. The small pieces you pull off will go directly into your container and the big ones will go right on to your cutting board.
- Remove the skin first. If you are making broth right away, put the skin back in the pot with the water (I use a soup sock from Amazon for this part-I put all the bones, skin and veggies in the sock so it’s easier to drain later). Otherwise discard the skin.
- Start with the legs and wings then move to the breasts and thighs. You can use a knife and fork or your fingers. Pull the meat from the bones, place the big pieces on the cutting board and chop into small pieces or shred.
- When you have all the meat removed from your chicken, add the bones back to the Instant Pot for broth or freeze them**.
- Chop or shred your meat on your cutting board and place in your storage container. You can freeze the meat for about 3 months or leave it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
*If you aren’t there to release pressure quickly, it’s just fine to leave it for a while until you are ready to shred.
**If you like the idea of making broth, but don’t have the time, place the bones in a freezer bag and label the bag (you may forget what it is later). Every time you have pieces (such as the ends or the shreds) of onion, celery or carrots, place those in the same bag. You will have a “Just add water” broth bag ready when you are.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Instant Pot
- Cuisine: Chicken
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 153
- Sugar: 0g
- Sodium: 353mg
- Fat: 3.3g
- Saturated Fat: 0.7g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 0g
- Fiber: 0g
- Protein: 28.7
- Cholesterol: 93.1mg
Keywords: shredded chicken, easy chicken, instant pot chicken