Recipe: Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken

Recipe: Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken

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Kelli Foster
Apr 6, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I speak from experience when I tell you that once you make a batch of saucy BBQ shredded chicken in your slow cooker, you'll never make it another way again. If you're already doing this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's a weeknight win that delivers juicy shredded meat infused with a smoky-sweet sauce. You get all that by tossing some chicken and BBQ sauce in the slow cooker.

Eat it paired with your favorite sides, layered on a pillowy roll, or stuffed in a taco, then freezer the leftovers for another night.

Barbecue Shredded Chicken: Watch the Video

Shredded Chicken Just the Way You Like It

This recipe gives you the option to use chicken breasts, thighs, or a combination of the two. All three options work incredibly well, use the same cook time, and produce a delicious and saucy (although slightly varied) result. Here's what to expect from each cut of chicken.

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast: As you'd expect from the slow cooker, the chicken is juicy and super tender, and falls apart with the slightest touch into thick shreds. Because this cut is so lean, it also has the most mild-mannered flavor of the three versions.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs: If you're after a batch of shredded chicken that's ultra rich and flavorful, using boneless, skinless thighs just might be the best option for you. Like chicken breast, the meat is super tender and falls apart easily, although the pieces are considerably thinner.
  • Combination of chicken breast and thighs: This is my favorite version of the three! The meat falls apart easily, with a nice balance of thin and thick shreds, and a balanced, super-flavorful taste.
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Use a Mixer for Easier Shredding

For the fastest, easiest way to shred three pounds of chicken, get out your stand mixer or large bowl and an electric hand mixer. I recommend this as someone whose first instinct is to always just use a couple forks.

The slow cooker leaves the chicken so tender that it is transformed into thin shreds in well under a minute. The sauce stays in the slow cooker, so you don't have to worry about lots of splattering, but I still like to use the splash guard just in case. Yes, it will dirty a couple more dishes, but it's totally worth it to turn this big batch of chicken into perfect shreds.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken

Serves 6 to 8

  • 3 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a combination

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cups

    barbecue sauce (16 ounces), divided

  • Snipped scallions (optional)

Season the chicken all over with the salt and pepper. Place in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker, pour in 1 1/2 cups of the barbecue sauce, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 5 hours on the LOW setting or 3 hours on the HIGH setting.

Transfer the chicken out of the sauce to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Mix at medium speed until the chicken is shredded, about 15 seconds. Return the chicken to the slow cooker, add the remaining 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, and stir to combine.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.

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