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How To Reheat Shredded Chicken [I Test 5 Methods]

Shredded chicken is such a versatile ingredient. It’s used in everything from meal-prep meals, pasta, salads, tacos, you name it!

So it’s no wonder that you may be planning on bulking-cooking your shredded chicken and reheating it later. But how do you rehat it without it drying out you might ask.

Well, you’re in luck. I have tested every reheating method imaginable to find out what delivers the juiciest, least dry, and most flavorful shredded chicken.

In a rush? Use these links to skip to the section you need:

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

What’s the best method of reheating shredded chicken? The best way to reheat shredded chicken is in the microwave. Place the shredded chicken in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle on a tablespoon of water. Cover the chicken with pierced plastic wrap and microwave on full power for 30-45 seconds, or until piping hot throughout. Serve immediately.

A note on my experiment

I poached a load of chicken breasts and then shredded them all up in a big bowl. I left the shredded chicken in the fridge overnight and then tested 5 different ways of reheating it.

The main problem with reheating chicken is that it can become dry, so my experiments focused on keeping it moist. 

I tested:

  • The microwave (best option)
  • The stove (a good option and can reheat chicken straight from frozen)
  • The steamer (a good option)
  • The oven (suitable for large batches, but a bit drying)

I tested adding either water or chicken broth in each experiment.

Reheating shredded chicken in the microwave

The microwave is super convenient and works well for shredded chicken because there’s no crispy skin to worry about. 

How to reheat shredded chicken in the microwave:

  1. Put the shredded chicken in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Add a tablespoon of liquid per portion of shredded chicken and cover the bowl with some plastic wrap.
  3. Pierce a few holes in the plastic wrap so the steam can escape.
  4. Heat the shredded chicken for 30 seconds on full power.
  5. Check the chicken. If it’s not done, stir the chicken and put it back in the microwave in 15-second increments until it is piping hot.

The liquid in the bowl creates steam which helps to re-moisturize the shredded chicken. I used chicken broth, but you could also use water, olive oil, or even a sauce. 

I’m pretty conservative with the times here because if you zap the chicken for too long, it can start to dry out. Thirty seconds should be long enough for one portion.

I also tested the following methods in the microwave:

  • Spreading the chicken out on a plate and covering it with a damp paper towel.
  • Putting the chicken in a bowl with no extra water and covering it with plastic wrap.

Both of these methods resulted in drier chicken.

Verdict

The chicken came out really moist when I added the extra liquid to the bowl, and it absorbed the broth’s flavor well. I definitely recommend this method. 

It’s quick and easy too.

Overall time: 1-2 minutes
Overall rating: 5/5

Reheating shredded chicken on the stove

To reheat shredded chicken on the stove, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to a skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the shredded chicken and cover it with a lid. Reheat the shredded chicken on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until piping hot. Frozen chicken will reheat in approximately 5-6 minutes.

This method is great if you want to use the chicken in a mixed dish like a stir fry or pasta. You can reheat the chicken and then carry on making your dish in the same pan.

You can also use this method to reheat your shredded chicken straight from frozen.

How to reheat shredded chicken on the stove:

  1. Set your stove to a medium heat.
  2. Add just enough butter/oil/water/stock to cover the bottom of your pan.
  3. Once the butter is melted, or the water is simmering, add the chicken and any sauce or seasonings you want into the pan.
  4. As soon as you add the chicken, put a lid on the pan to trap the steam.
  5. Remove the lid to stir the chicken every 30 seconds.
  6. Heat the chicken for 2-3 minutes or until piping hot (5-6 minutes for frozen chicken).

If you’re making a whole dish, feel free to add other ingredients to the pan before or after you add the chicken (whichever makes more sense for your dish). 

Try not to overcrowd the pan (especially if you have frozen chicken) because it can mean you need to heat the chicken for longer. The longer it’s heating for, the more chance there is of the chicken drying out. 

Also, don’t let the pan go dry with the chicken still in it because it’s at this point that the chicken will begin to lose moisture and go dry. Add more liquid in during the cooking process if you need to.

Verdict

This method was more hassle than the other method because you need to stand by the stove to stir the chicken. But the chicken came out pretty moist and was flavorsome.

It’s much more convenient if you’re cooking other stuff in the pan as well.

Overall time: 2-3 minutes
Overall rating: 4/5

Reheating shredded chicken in the steamer

The steamer is great for re-moisturizing dry chicken because it uses steam to heat the chicken. Steam = ‘wet heat’.

How to reheat shredded chicken in the steamer:

  1. Heat some water or stock in the bottom of your steamer and bring it to the boil.
  2. Spread the shredded chicken out in your steamer basket and put the lid on.
  3. Heat the chicken for 4-5 minutes or until piping hot.

If you want to add a bit of flavor to the chicken, you can use stock instead of water. I also like to put some lemon juice in the water to give the chicken a fresh taste.

If you don’t have a steamer, you can make one by putting some water in the bottom of a saucepan and then putting a sieve over it with a lid on. The sieve acts as the steamer basket.

If your steamer has more than one layer, you can also steam some vegetables at the same time to go with your chicken. 

Verdict

I didn’t initially think of this method when I first planned the experiment but was glad I included it because the chicken came out great. It was noticeably moist.

The only downside was that the chicken stock didn’t impart as much flavor as it did in the other methods, so it’s better if you just want plain chicken. You also can’t heat a sauce at the same time.

Overall time: 4-5 minutes
Overall rating: 4/5

Reheating shredded chicken in the oven

The oven can be quite a drying technique which is why it’s good for re-crisping fried foods, but this means you need to be careful not to dry your chicken out.

How to reheat shredded chicken in the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Arrange the chicken in a thin layer on a baking tray.
  3. Add a few tablespoons of broth/water/sauce/olive oil to the chicken. You want enough liquid to just cover the bottom of the baking tray.
  4. Cover the chicken with foil.
  5. Put the chicken in the oven for 5-6 minutes, then check on it.
  6. If it’s piping hot, you can remove it. If it still needs more time, check if there’s still some liquid left in the tray before putting it back in the oven for 1-2 more minutes.

The thin layer makes sure the chicken heats evenly and as quickly as possible. The less time it has to spend in the oven, the less chance there is that the chicken will turn out dry.

The liquid in the baking tray and the foil are also measures to keep the chicken nice and moist. The liquid creates steam which is trapped by the foil and re-moisturizes the chicken.

Don’t skimp on the liquid because it will quickly evaporate in the oven, and you don’t want it to disappear before the chicken has heated through. Once the liquid disappears, the chicken will start to dry out.

Verdict

The chicken from the oven was the driest chicken of all my experiments, so I don’t recommend this method if you have another one available to you. 

However, I can see it being an easy way to reheat a big batch of shredded chicken all in one go as long as you use enough liquid.

Overall time: oven preheating time + 6-7 minutes
Overall rating: 3/5

Tips for ensuring moist shredded chicken

Shredded chicken is the perfect ingredient for meal prepping or just having in constant supply because it’s so versatile. You can use it in virtually any dish.

It’s also incredibly easy to store and reheat.

The only problem is that sometimes the shredded chicken comes out dry and chalky. Luckily, there are a few ways to prevent this from happening.

The most important thing is to store and reheat the chicken correctly, but I cover these in other parts of the article. Here I concentrate on two things:

  • Not overcooking the chicken.
  • How to shred the chicken so you lose the least amount of moisture. 

Don’t overcook the chicken

Prevention is the best cure when it comes to dry chicken.

Most people tend to overcook chicken because it’s hard to tell when it’s done (and no one wants to get food poisoning), but this also results in dry chicken. 

Storing and reheating the chicken then dries it out even more, and the chicken becomes chalky. 

To prevent this, the first time you cook the chicken, you need to be careful to only cook it as much as it needs.

You need to cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) for it to be safe to eat. A meat thermometer is your best friend here. It allows you to monitor the temperature of the chicken so you can cook it to temperature and no more.

When I’m making shredded chicken, I monitor the chicken’s temperature and take it off the heat when it reaches 162°F/72°C. The chicken will continue to cook for a few minutes after you take it off the heat, so it will reach 165°F/74°C before it starts to cool down.

Put the chicken back into the cooking liquid to cool down

When you shred the chicken, you massively increase the surface area through which moisture can escape. You might notice as you’re shredding the chicken, lots of steam comes out. 

This is moisture leaving the chicken. 

To prevent this from happening, I always have a little bit of the cooking liquid in the bottom of the bowl I’m using for shredding (or I put some into my mixer if I’m using it). The liquid coats the chicken as I shred it, minimizing the amount of moisture that escapes.

Once I’ve completely shredded the chicken, I put it back into its cooking liquid and leave it to cool there before draining and storing it. Again, the liquid protects the chicken from losing all its moisture.

How to store shredded chicken

To store shredded chicken, wait for it to cool to room temperature before putting it in an airtight container and storing it in the fridge. The shredded chicken will last for up to 4 days in the fridge. You can keep it plain or store it in a sauce. For longer-term storage, you can freeze shredded chicken.

Cooling the chicken before you store it prevents too much condensation from building up in the container and dripping back down onto the chicken. 

However, don’t leave the chicken out for more than two hours (or one hour in hotter climates). After two hours, the risk of harmful bacteria contaminating the chicken is too high.

If you’ve cooked a big batch of chicken and need to cool it quickly, spread it out in a thin layer so the heat dissipates more quickly. Or fill your sink with ice-cold water and submerge the container of chicken in it.

How to freeze shredded chicken

The freeze shredded chicken, wait for it to cool to room temperature, and then put portion-sized servings in individual freezer bags. Squeeze as much air out of the freezer bag as you can before sealing it and freezing it. The shredded chicken will last up to four months in the freezer.

The chicken will be safe to eat after four months, but the quality will start to deteriorate. 

You want to portion the chicken out so you don’t end up defrosting more than you need. Defrosting and freezing the chicken again will leave you with overly dry chicken.

The main thing to focus on when you’re freezing shredded chicken is air. Too much air in your container and the chicken will develop freezer burn, which will negatively affect the texture and the flavor of the dish.

This is why I recommend using freezer bags over airtight containers because you can get most of the air out. A trick I use is to suck it out with a straw, but squeezing also works well. 

A heavy-duty freezer bag will provide the best protection because less air can penetrate it. If you only have regular sandwich bags, consider wrapping the chicken portion in plastic wrap to provide an extra layer of protection.

If you want to use a Tupperware container instead of a freezer bag, I recommend covering the chicken with a layer of plastic wrap to protect it from the air gap at the top of the container.

The longer you plan to store the chicken, the more critical these protection measures become.

If the chicken is only in the freezer for a week or two, it will be okay with minimal packaging. But for a few months, it needs more protection.

Only have big freezer bags? 

A cool trick you can use is to put several individual portions of chicken in one freezer bag leaving gaps between the portions. You can then fold the bag over to keep the portions separate and put it in the freezer.

The portions will freeze separately, and you can easily pull one out when you need to it without disturbing the others.

Vacuum sealing shredded chicken

An excellent way to protect your shredded chicken in the freezer is to vacuum seal it. Vacuum sealing gets rid of 100% of the air in the bag and significantly increases the shelf life of the chicken. There is zero risk of vacuum-sealed chicken developing freezer burn.

Will frozen shredded chicken be dry?

The freezing process will dry your chicken out a bit, but you can easily reintroduce the lost moisture while you’re reheating the chicken. Simply add a few spoonfuls of liquid to the pan or bowl while you heat the chicken.

If you don’t plan on reheating the chicken, then freezing it in a sauce or adding a few spoons of cooking juice into the storage container before you freeze it can help the chicken retain moisture.

How to thaw shredded chicken 

To thaw frozen shredded chicken, simply take it out of the freezer the night before you want to use it and let it thaw in the fridge. If you need to thaw it quickly, you can use the microwave, or put the frozen chicken in a watertight bag and submerge it in cold water for half an hour. 

An advantage of freezing shredded chicken over whole chicken is that it thaws very quickly. So quickly you don’t even need to thaw it if you’re using it in a cooked dish.

If you’re using the chicken in a dish like a stew, soup, stir fry, or pasta dish you can just throw it into the pan frozen and it will defrost in a few minutes.

The BEST Way To Reheat Shredded Chicken

Shredded chicken is such a versatile ingredient. It's used in everything from meal-prep meals, pasta, salads, tacos, you name it!
So it's no wonder that you may be planning on bulking-cooking your shredded chicken and reheating it later. But how do you rehat it without it drying out you might ask.
Well, you're in luck. I have tested every reheating method imaginable to fund out what delivers the juiciest, least dry, and most flavorful shredded chicken.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Ingredient
Cuisine American
Servings 1 person
Calories 175 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 1 portion shredded chicken
  • 1 tbsp water or chicken broth

Instructions
 

  • Put the shredded chicken in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Add a tablespoon of liquid per portion of shredded chicken and cover the bowl with some plastic wrap.
  • Pierce a few holes in the plastic wrap so the steam can escape.
  • Heat the shredded chicken for 30 seconds on full power.
  • Check the chicken. If it’s not done, stir the chicken and put it back in the microwave in 15-second increments until it is piping hot.

Nutrition

Serving: 100gCalories: 175kcal
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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