Usually I will just cook it and then tear it to pieces using two forks, but this is still pretty time consuming. Are there any secret ways to easily do this?
Once it's cooled down some, I switch to using my hands ... expecially as it helps to find any bones, globs of fat, etc. I find it goes much faster, particularly if you're dealing with anything other than boneless breast meat.
... but it shreds easiest while it's still warm, so if I'm doing a fair bit, I'll break a bit apart using forks, let that cool, break some more apart with a fork, then shread the first bit before it cools too much, repeat. (so basically, I have one set broken down somewhat to cool faster while I'm shreding an already-cooled off bit).
update as justkt mentioned, the cooking method matters -- roasting and other high heat methods are going to cook the outside faster than the inside. I typically poach my chicken if I'm going to be shreding it -- bring water to a boil, add chicken, bring back to a boil, turn to low, then leave for an hour or two ... the low temp gets it all nice and tender, while the boiling kills surface bacteria.
Boiling the chicken is the easiest cooking method to prep for shredding. Searing and baking make it a lot more difficult.
I too go with a combination of the two forks and hands (depending on what seems easier at the moment) method.
I just use my hand mixer while it's still hot takes me about 30 seconds!
One method is to use a stand mixer. Put the meat in with the paddle attachment and pulse for a few seconds at a time until shredded.
I recently picked up a pair of Bear Paw Meat Handlers and they actually work quite well for this if you can't wait for the meat to cool down. Hope this helps someone!
I ended up purchasing some insulated latex cooking gloves which allows me to use my hands even when it's right out of the oven. This is the best method I have found by far!
If I'm shredding it for soup (mmm, tortilla soup), I just use a stick blender.
Boil the chicken and then shred it with two forks.