Making a meal is so much quicker and easier when you have chicken ready to be used! Chicken that is cooked, shredded, parceled up and frozen is great to have on hand for when your plans to thaw and cook chicken just didn’t quite work out (story of my life!), when you’re pressed for time, or when you’re just getting back from being out of town.
In the past month, I’ve used this chicken in enchiladas, sandwiches, stir frys, tacos, and quesadillas. I’ve thrown it on a salad, and used it to make an emergency batch of chicken noodle soup when we had a nasty cold outbreak. The options are endless, and dinner is so much easier to tackle when your chicken just needs to be heated!
As an added bonus, since I’ve had cooked, frozen chicken on hand regularly, we have saved SO much money not eating out! Even on the busiest of nights, making dinner is so manageable when you have chicken that can be heated and ready to eat in a matter of minutes.
I love using a whole chicken in this recipe. I realize this isn’t in everyone’s wheelhouse, but I highly recommend trying it. Here’s why:
- It’s economical! Pound per pound, whole chickens usually cost less than a third of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. One 5 pound chicken (which will usually cost less than $5) gives you about 5 cups of shredded chicken. While a whole chicken comes with parts that generally aren’t eaten (bones, neck, etc.), these are used in the byproduct of this recipe which is…
- BONE BROTH! This is a super rich broth made from cooking bones for a long time. The collagen in the bones breaks down and you’re left with an ultra concentrated, gelatinous broth that is solid at room temperature. I always save this to use in anything that requires chicken broth, using one part bone broth to two parts water. Using this ratio, one chicken will give you 12 cups of chicken broth (making this even more economical!). I love this because I know exactly what’s in my chicken broth, and a little bit goes a really long way — I hardly ever buy chicken broth anymore because this lasts me so long! Also, apparently drinking a cup of hot bone broth a day is a health fad now! My obsession hasn’t quite reached that level, but you do what you want with your bone broth.
- Using a whole chicken gives you a delicious combination of light and dark meat!
- There’s something that feels very right about utilizing a whole animal. Once I really started thinking about how each chicken breast in the 3-packs comes from a different bird, I got creeped out. Don’t get me wrong, I still use plain old chicken breasts, but I’ve come to appreciate using the entire chicken.
So, for about $5 for a 5 pound chicken, you get 5-6 cups of shredded chicken to package up and freeze to reheat whenever you need it, and 4 cups of bone broth (12 cups of regular chicken broth).
Here is my system for making this super easy, time-saving chicken:
Start with a large bowl half-filled with cool water and give your bird a little bath. Pluck any remaining feathers, and remove the giblets.
Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper. Add water, cover, and cook for 4-5 hours on high, or 7-8 hours on low. I always do it on high because I don’t like when meat cooks for a long time in the slow cooker and gets that weird mushy texture. But I have weird consistency problems, so you do what works best for you!
All done! Look at all that bone broth… YUM.
When the chicken is finished cooking, I find it easiest to remove it – piece by piece with tongs – to a bowl, leaving the broth in the slow cooker (don’t worry, we’ll get back to it in a bit!).
Shred up your chicken, discarding the skin, bones, and any tendons.
Next is the packaging. Divvy up the chicken into plastic freezer bags, filling each with about 1 to 11/2 cups chicken. Label and place in the freezer to use later.
For the broth, strain the contents of the slow cooker and save the liquid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or parcel up and store in the freezer. Ice cube trays work great for freezing this!
Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
Make dinner super easy on busy nights by cooking a whole chicken to shred up, freeze, and reheat whenever you need it!
Yields: 5-6 cups shredded chicken, 4 cups bone broth
- 1 (5 pound) whole chicken
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup water
- Place the chicken in a large bowl of cool water. Remove any feathers, the neck, and giblets. Remove the chicken from water, gently shaking off excess water, and place in slow cooker.
- Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of water to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours.
- When cooked, remove the chicken to a cutting board or bowl, leaving the liquid in the slow cooker. Remove any skin from the chicken and discard. Shred the meat from the bone. Divide shredded chicken between plastic freezer bags, using 1 to 11/2 cups chicken per bag. Label and freeze. When ready to use, simply reheat.
- For the broth, strain the liquid and store in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
The broth from this chicken is super rich – at least triple concentrate. For easy usage, freeze in ice cube trays. When ready to use, use one part bone broth to one or two parts water.