Sunday, January 8, 2012

Suit Yourself Shredded Chicken

As yummy smells filled our kitchen on Sunday afternoon, the kids came in wondering what was for dinner.  When the 8 year old saw what I had cooking, she exclaimed, "I LOVE that dinner!  YES!"  Try to visualize the hand motion that accompanied her enthusiastic endorsement of another very easy to fix, budget friendly, family favorite meal - shredded chicken sandwiches.

Shredded chicken sandwich, corn casserole, tossed salad, and apple slices

This is one meal I have made for literally hundreds of people over the years.  I have fed the youth group kids at our church, the teen volunteers at VBS, several families who have welcomed new babies into their families or faced hardships and were in need of a meal, and football fans rooting for the Buckeyes.  Every time this meal is served, plates are cleaned.   The two big girls each asked for a second sandwich tonight.  It's just that good.

I put together today's batch of shredded chicken using a 10 pound bag of chicken quarters my parents brought me from their freezer in Michigan when they stopped by our house last week on their way to Florida for the winter.  My dad had found a "great deal" on the chicken and threw it into the freezer.  The only problem was that the leg quarters had all frozen together in a big chunk, so they would need to be thawed and cooked all at once.  Now that's not a problem if you're the Dugger Family, but two retirees who eat out as much as they eat in don't need to cook 10 pounds of chicken all at once.  Not wanting to waste the chicken and knowing that I often cook for large groups of people, my mom brought me the bag of chicken.  When I planned my meals for January, I planned meals with this bag of chicken in mind.  I like to do a quick fix meal on Sundays, so it was a good day to get it cooked.

There is a two part cooking process to get the shredded chicken.  First I cook the chicken in the crock pot on high for 4 hours.  Then I take the chicken off the bones and shred it.  It takes less than 15 minutes for the total prep of this meal (5 minutes to prep the chicken and put it in the crock pot, 10 minutes to pull it off the bones).  I like to use my crock pot that has the timer on it.  It automatically goes to the Warm setting after the cook time is completed.  The chicken is always done perfectly this way and I don't have to worry about turning the crock pot off after 4 hours of cook time.  See, I told you.  Easy.  That's me!

Today I used the chicken quarters, because that's what I had in my freezer.  Typically I use a whole chicken or any other chicken parts that I find on a good sale.  I always use chicken that has bones in it for this dish because it just tastes better than making it with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  This is a meal that requires you to actually touch the chicken, and I know for many of you that might gross you out.  But for those of you who don't mind touching the chicken parts, this is a great meal idea to add to your collection.

I started by thawing the huge bag of frozen chicken in my frig for 24+ hours.  It was still slightly frozen when I got ready to cook it, but with my easy method of cooking it in the crockpot, that's not a problem.

Next I took off the skin off of each leg quarter.  I don't like to cook with all that extra fat.  Yuck!  That went straight into the trash can.

Place the chicken in your crock pot.  I like to spray mine with non-stick spray because that makes the clean up much easier.

Sprinkle the pieces in the crock with some salt, pepper, and onion powder. 
(I don't measure this.  I just sprinkle.  I would guess I use about 1 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp of onion powder.)  Sometimes I throw on a little bit of poultry seasoning, but I didn't have any in my spice rack today, so we went without.  I didn't really notice any difference. 

Drizzle a little olive oil on the top of the chicken; not too much, maybe 1-2 tsp.  The olive oil gives it some nice color and a richer flavor. 

Put about 1/4 cup of water in the base of the crock pot.  This will give you some nice chicken stock to work with later on.  You don't want too much water or the chicken gets too much like soup.

Put the lid on the crock pot. 

Plug in the crock pot.  (One time when I was making this dish for 100+, I forgot to plug in one of my crockpots!  I had turned it on and went out the door and couldn't figure out why the house didn't smell heavenly when I came home 3 hours later!)

Turn the crock pot on HIGH and cook for 4 hours.

When the chicken is cooked, you need to remove it from the crock pot.  I like to use a pair of tongs.  Place the chicken on a large plate.

This is just 1/4 of the chicken I cooked today.  This is enough for 1 meal.

Let the chicken cool for about 5-10 minutes so you don't burn your fingers trying to pull it off the bones.  (Make sure the dog and the kids are far away from the chicken while you leave it on the counter!)

While your hands are messy, go ahead and shred the chicken with your fingers.  Some cooks like to use two forks, but I prefer to just use my hands because they are already messy and I find that the chicken is so tender, it practically falls apart anyways. 

Taste the meat and add additional salt, pepper, or onion powder to taste.

Here's the Queen's secret ingredient. . . . . . .

Pour a few tablespoons of the chicken broth that is left in the crock pot over the shredded meat.  You want the meat juicy enough that it melts in your mouth but not so juicy that it soaks through a bun. 

Take a little taste and see if it needs any more liquid or seasoning.  Add if necessary.

Place a heaping scoop of shredded chicken between your favorite type of bread/bun product.  We've used white hamburger buns, wheat buns, sandwich thins, sub rolls, kaiser rolls, etc.  We like whole wheat rolls the best, but anything will do.

Offer a variety of sauces to pour on the top of the sandwich.  My two big girls like Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, the little one likes ranch dressing, and John likes hot sauce.  I go back and forth depending on my mood, and sometimes I just like it plain! 

Serve with your favorite sides.  Tonight we had corn casserole, tossed salad, and apple slices. 

This is a great meal that can be made in a large batch and then frozen into smaller meals.  Today's 10 pounds worth of chicken quarters made enough for 4 meals worth of chicken.  I shredded two dinners worth for sandwiches and left two meals worth of chunks that we can use later for tacos, nachos, salads, wraps, etc. 

At dinnertime tonight, the family decided that this meal should be called "Suit Yourself Shredded Chicken" because it's a meal that can be easily altered to suit the tastes of every family member.  By simply adding a favorite sauce, the sandwich can go from plain to spicy to sweet and sassy.  The possibilities are endless.

What's your favorite way to enjoy shredded chicken?


  1. Jill--
    My mouth is watering...I am doing this tonight!

  2. I love cooking whole chickens in the crockpot, and then making chicken and dumplings. I have never done plain chicken sandwiches but it sounds simple and great.

  3. I love making chicken and dumplings, too. They are a bit more time consuming and the kids don't seem to eat up as much as they do with these simple sandwiches after I have spent the time making the dumplings. Remember my motto - budget friendly, easy to fix, family favorites!

  4. OK...made this last night. Was a hit with everyone! That is rare occurrence in my house. I am using the leftover chicken for quesadilla later in the week.

  5. Glad the dinner was a hit! You won't find recipes that are fancy or difficult to make on this site, but I promise you that you will find dishes that your kids will eat! In our house, when the kids eat a good dinner without complaining, our whole evening just goes more smoothly.

  6. Hi Jill! I'm making these tonight for an OSU b-ball party tonight. They were such a hit at the scrapbook party, I thought I'd give it a whirl! I'll let you know how it goes...

  7. I'm making this tonight for freezing! Thank you for the inspiration, Jill!