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My dietician ordered that I eat chicken. I found that to eat the portion I'm supposed to eat (10oz), it's easier to shred the chicken and take 10oz of shredded chicken, rather than try to find 10oz breasts. I am trying to meal prep this chicken over the week.

The way I currently cook my shredded chicken is I take raw chicken breasts, throw them in a steamer basket, put the steamer basket in the instant pot (pressure cooker), throw in about a cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, and then pressure cook for 15 minutes with a 5 minute natural pressure release. I then pull out the breasts and shred the chicken breasts. I then store the shredded chicken in the fridge.

The problem is that the shredded chicken is terribly dry. Whenever I reheat the chicken it tastes like I am eating chalk (in terms of texture). This makes it impossible to stick to my diet.

Can someone give me advice on how to cook shredded chicken and maintain moisture for several days (at least 3)? I am not a good cook and I don't know if the problem lies in the cooking, the storage, or the reheating.

Thanks

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    How are you reheating the chicken? I tend to start my week by roasting a whole chicken and then cutting it up and shredding and using my chicken in recipes throughout the week. The breasts I usually have cold and the shredded dark meat I always heat in a sause of some kind which stops it drying out. – Bee Jul 2 at 16:45
  • I'm using a microwave. I drop a few drops of water in the tupperware then pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes. – user76333 Jul 2 at 18:52
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    Pineapple juice breaks down proteins in meat aggressively, could this be adding to your woes? Have you tried cooking it without? – ElectronicToothpick Jul 3 at 5:29
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    Can you share the details or other restrictions on your diet? Are you really restricted to boneless, skinless chicken breast? What about sauces or condiments? Do you really just want shredded chicken, or other preparations? Many of the answers give good advice, but much of that advice is about changing the premise of what you're doing versus helping you do that exact thing, better. I'm wondering if some of that advice may not align well with your diet. – dwizum Jul 3 at 17:37
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    @dwizum You're right, although the info on dark meat is interesting I still have to eat specifically white meat chicken breast. The diet restriction is in terms of macros and calories and chicken breast fits really well in it. I definitely would like to learn that given a plain raw chicken breast, what is the best way to cook it, cut it, and store it to retain the most moisture. – user76333 Jul 3 at 18:40
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The first issue I see is that you are over cooking your chicken breast. 20 minutes in a pressure cooker is really over doing it. Even a little over cooking dries chicken breast. Chicken breast needs to be cooked more precisely. A pressure cooker is not the correct tool for the job. So you first need to correct your initial cooking. You should get a good thermometer, ensure it is calibrated, and cook your chicken breast to an internal temperature of 160F (71C). You can remove the chicken breast from the cooking surface when it is a couple of degrees below that. Let it rest 10 to 15 minutes, and the heat will carry over and you will reach the final target temperature. This will allow you to begin with moist chicken.

  • What tools would you suggest best achieve that internal temperature? Oven? Or should I cook it on the stovetop. Also let's say I successfully achieve that internal temperature. Once I store it in the fridge and reheat it the following days will the moisture be retained? – user76333 Jul 2 at 18:49
  • I would brown/sear in pan on stove top, 2 min per side. Insert temp probe. Move to 400F (204 C) oven in pan. Remove from oven when temp reaches 156 F (69C). Rest 10 minutes. Shred. – moscafj Jul 3 at 0:49
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    You can always sous-vide if you want the moistest chicken, you can get a more precise temperature control with one such device. – Luciano Jul 3 at 8:08
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    I think a pressure cooker can be a pretty good tool for the job, but using the right cooking time! You can also sear the chicken in an instant pot before pressure cooking. – Scott Seidman Jul 3 at 12:54
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    And with sous-vide, you can get different textures by cooking the chicken breast at lower temperatures for longer times, just as safely: seriouseats.com/2015/07/… – mskfisher Jul 3 at 13:01
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Chicken breast is not suitable for making shredded meat. For that, you need collagen-rich dark meat, for example chicken thighs.

If you cook your chicken breast less, as moscafj suggested, you can certainly get tasty chicken breast. For easy portioning, you can precut it into strips and keep a supply of pan-fried strips, for example. But you will never get it to the point where it shreds properly.

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    There are various commercial products that are just shredded chicken breast (i.e. shredded chicken breast in a package), so just a flat statement that chicken breast is not suitable to make shredded meat is veritably false. It may be harder, require specific processing, or require storing it with some liquid, but it's definitely doable. – Makyen Jul 3 at 16:03
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First, I would recommend changing how you cook the breasts -- I usually poach breasts, starting it in boiling liquid then putting on a lid, turning the heat down to low and letting it sit for an hour.

Second, I'd put the breasts back into the liquid after you shred it. Usually, when you introduce so much surface area to hot meat, it lets off steam, which is the moisture escaping. By immediately putting it back into the cooking liquid, you prevent this from happening. You then let the shreded chicken cool down in the liquid.

(although in your case, you might need to separate it at this point ... it can be more difficult to portion out if sufficiuent gelatin leached into the water to make it a giant blob until you reheat it)

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    what do you think of this recipe? thekitchn.com/… . Seems like they are doing something similar without extra liquid for poaching. – user76333 Jul 2 at 19:15
  • @user76333 : that sounds good, but I'd chill it before cutting it up. Maybe slices (across the grain) or cubes. You don't have any liquid, so if you shred it you don't have liquid to put it in. – Joe Jul 2 at 19:21
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    This is a great suggestion, and exactly how I've always done it. Poach the breasts in a pot with just enough liquid to cover them, shred them, then add some of the broth from the pot back to the shredded chicken for both flavor and moisture. – William Mariager Jul 3 at 7:17
  • Will give this a shot tonight then, with liquid. Could I use chicken broth instead of water? – user76333 Jul 3 at 18:41
  • @user76333 : yes, but I realized I was ambiguous on one point -- you want the liquid boiling when the breasts go in (to kill anything on the surface), not bring it up from cold to boiling with the chicken in it. See cooking.stackexchange.com/a/4723/67 – Joe Jul 3 at 18:49
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buy the whole breast with bone, bake them 350° for 50 min keep the skin while baking remove it later if you want, i will say make it cubes not shreds and add some chicken stock to the storage container, that should keep them moist.

  • That's interesting. Does cooking them as cubes change how much moisture is retained? – user76333 Jul 2 at 18:49
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    I think he means to cut it into cubes after cooking, not cooking it as cubes. And yes, there's less surface area, so less moisture loss vs. shreded chicken – Joe Jul 2 at 19:07
  • That's good to know, thanks. Makes sense that larger surface area means more moisture dissipation. – user76333 Jul 2 at 19:15

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