How to boil chicken for tender meat that’s easy to shred – Insider

December 15, 2021 by No Comments

  • You can make boiled chicken with whole chicken or boneless pieces like breasts and thighs. 
  • Lock in moisture by cooking the chicken at a full boil for a short time, then let it slowly simmer.
  • Boiled chicken is typically shredded, making it an easy ingredient to add to recipes.
  • Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

A ready supply of cooked chicken to add to salads, soups, sandwiches, and any number of other dishes is a useful item to have in your kitchen arsenal. One of the easiest ways to make tender and flavorful chicken that fits seamlessly into countless recipes involves boiling pieces of chicken (or a whole bird) and shredding the meat once it’s cooked. 

To find out how to boil your chicken to perfection without drying out the meat, follow the advice of Jessica Randhawa, the writer and recipe developer behind The Forked Spoon.  

Is there a difference between boiling and poaching chicken?

Because both cooking methods require you to cook the chicken in liquid, it’s easy to confuse boiled chicken for poached chicken.

The central difference between these styles lies in the temperature of the cooking liquid — poaching is a gentle process in which a food item cooks in liquid that’s between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas boiling liquid needs to be at a much higher boiling temperature (212 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Poaching works well for delicate foods like eggs, fruit, and fish, but it can also be used for chicken if you want to easily shred and slice the meat. Some chefs believe that the end result is moister and more flavorful than boiled chicken.

Which part of the chicken is best for boiling?

Boil a whole chicken if you have a pot that’s big enough, or pieces of chicken if pressed for time.


If you have a large stockpot, then boiling an entire chicken is “possible and straightforward,” according to Randhawa. However, if you’re pressed for time, she mentions that “smaller, bone-in pieces” like breasts and thighs cook quicker. If speed is truly of the essence, she recommends boiling “boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs.” 

While the texture of the boiled chicken will stay fairly consistent whether you use pieces or a whole bird, bone-in pieces and whole chickens will yield more flavorful meat, and will also result in chicken broth, which can be saved and used for many recipes in the future.  

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