Prep Day: How to Make Easy Crock-Pot Shredded Chicken Using a Whole Chicken

How to make super easy crock-pot shredded chicken using a whole chicken! Save money and time every week with this simple prep day method. Plus, ideas for using shredded chicken for quick, healthy meals!

Welcome back to another prep day lesson!

Last week we started the hands-on food part of this series with a leafy green discussion. Did you prep any leafy greens last week using my simple storage method? I hope you found the method and act of prepping food in advance to be incredibly helpful.

Now it’s time to turn our focus from produce (we will revisit vegetables and fruit later on) and talk about chicken!

How to make super easy crock-pot shredded chicken using a whole chicken! Save money and time every week with this simple prep day method. Plus, ideas for using shredded chicken for quick, healthy meals!

One of my favorite foods to prep in advance is shredded chicken. Cooking a whole chicken and then shredding the meat in advance helps me save money and quickly prepare meals throughout the week. The act of cooking meat takes time (defrosting, cooking, cutting/shredding); a valuable commodity that’s often limited on busy weekdays. Thankfully, there are ways to prep meat advance without spending hours in the kitchen. Let’s talk about my favorite method for prepping shredded chicken in advance: the crock-pot!

Before I share my crock-pot method, let’s focus on the main reasons why you should think about making shredded chicken during your prep time. After all, if you’re going to include a task on your prep day printable or mental plan, it must help maximize your time throughout the week (AKA: it better be important!). 

How to make super easy crock-pot shredded chicken using a whole chicken! Save money and time every week with this simple prep day method. Plus, ideas for using shredded chicken for quick, healthy meals!

Why You Should Prep Easy Crock-Pot Shredded Chicken in Advance

1. Budget-Friendly Lunchmeat:

A whole chicken is always a money-saving investment. While a whole pastured chicken (from chickens able to roam the land and eat bugs) may appear to be more expensive than a couple of breasts, in the end a whole chicken will yield twice as much meat.

Shredded chicken is great to use for lunchmeat. Instead of purchasing sliced deli chicken at $9 per pound, cook a whole chicken in the crock-pot and shred the meat. The shredded meat may be used to make multiple sandwiches, dinners, salads and casseroles throughout the week for a fraction of the cost. I realize making your own lunchmeat sounds time consuming, but it’s not! Today I’ll show you exactly how to prepare lunchmeat (AKA: shredded chicken) in advance with very little hands-on time.

Note: I still purchase lunchmeat on occasion (particularly Applegate or Whole Foods’ house-made lunchmeat). I save this expense for special occasions. 

2. Quick and Easy Meals:

Chicken will last for 4-5 days in the fridge, which makes it the perfect meat to cook and shred in advance for quick and easy meals. My go-to meals using home-cooked shredded chicken include: Chicken and Rice, 30-Minute Chicken and Black Bean Nachos, Deli-Style Chicken Salad, Probiotic Chicken Caesar Salad (use the shredded chicken instead of the chicken thighs), tacos, quesadillas, Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole (I use the shredded chicken instead of cooking the breasts in the casserole), Mac, Chicken and Cheese Bites, and soups and easy salads.

3. No Hands-On Time:

While I love roasting a whole chicken, the roasting method requires extra prep and cooking time. So when it comes to prepping shredded chicken in advance, I take a super easy approach using the crock-pot. The crock-pot requires zero baby-sitting, unlike the oven, and produces moist chicken meat every single time.

No baby-sitting? Very little hands-on time? Super moist chicken?

OH YEAH! Sign me up.

4. It’s All About the Broth:

Once the chicken meat has been removed from the crock-pot, simply fill the base with water and a few vegetables. Water + vegetables + chicken bones = AMAZING HOMEMADE BROTH!  Turn the crock-pot on and walk away. That’s it!

By spending a few minutes of prep time cooking a whole chicken in the crock-pot, you can make shredded meat to use throughout the week and nearly a dozen cups of homemade chicken broth. Now that’s a prep time win!

How to make super easy crock-pot shredded chicken using a whole chicken! Save money and time every week with this simple prep day method. Plus, ideas for using shredded chicken for quick, healthy meals!

How to make super easy crock-pot shredded chicken using a whole chicken! Save money and time every week with this simple prep day method. Plus, ideas for using shredded chicken for quick, healthy meals!

How to make shredded chicken in the crock-pot using a whole chicken
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How to Make Easy Crock-Pot Shredded Chicken Using a Whole Chicken

Servings 3 cups chicken (depending on chicken)
Calories 924 kcal
Author Kristin Marr

Ingredients

  • 1 3-3 1/2 lb whole chicken giblets removed from the cavity
  • 1 yellow onion halved
  • 2 celery stalks halved
  • 6-8 TB butter cubed
  • salt and pepper
  • crock-pot
  • stand-mixer

Instructions

  1. In the base of a crock-pot, place the whole chicken. Place the butter cubes inside the chicken and between the chicken skin and meat near the breasts. The butter will keep the chicken moist and tender.
  2. Stuff the chicken cavity (the inside) with the onion and celery stalks. Note: Place the onion and celery stalks around the outside of the chicken if they don't fit inside the cavity.
  3. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the chicken on high for 4-5 hours in the crock-pot, until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone.

Recipe Notes

To Shred: Allow the chicken to cool so you can easily handle the meat. Once the chicken is cool, pull the meat away from the bones and place it a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand-mixer). The meat should easily pull away from the bones. Use two forks to shred the chicken into the desired size pieces. My favorite method for shredding chicken is to use the paddle attachment on my Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer. Turn the mixer on low for about 30 seconds until you reach the desired size pieces.a

More Practical Tips

1. Use Your Freezer: 

Freezing cooked meat is the perfect way to “cook once, eat twice.” Freeze half the shredded chicken for future homemade convenience meals. Frozen, cooked meat usually lasts about 3 months in the freezer. 

2. Create a Meal Plan: 

Dedicating 1-2 hours to food prep each week is incredibly valuable, but if you don’t have a plan for using the food you may find your prep work was a complete waste of time. Trust me, I’ve learned this lesson way too many times. Since meat is “fragile” it’s important to have a plan of action. Write down on your meal plan exactly how you plan to use the shredded chicken. For example:

Monday Lunch: Chicken Salad Sandwiches (shredded chicken) 

Wednesday Dinner: 30-Minute Chicken and Black Bean Nachos (shredded chicken) 

Friday Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup (shredded chicken)

How to make super easy crock-pot shredded chicken using a whole chicken! Save money and time every week with this simple prep day method. Plus, ideas for using shredded chicken for quick, healthy meals!

This week, your homework is to create a meal plan, go shopping for the food you’ll need to implement the meal plan, set aside a specific day/time for prep time, and then print and fill out thePrep Day Action Plan printable. Focus on five foods you can prep this week based on your meal plan and schedule: washing and storing greens, cooking and shredding chicken, making rice, baking muffins, etc.

Next week we’ll work on a new prep day activity. We’re going from chicken to baked goods.

More Real Food You May Like:

Prep Day 101: The why, what, and how to

Prep Day: Why, What, and How To of Preparing Real Food in Advance

How to wash and store leafy greens in advance

How to Wash & Store Lettuce, Kale, Spinach and Other Leafy Greens in Advance

Easy Deli-Style Chicken Salad

Easy Deli-Style Chicken Salad

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If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #LIVESIMPLYBLOG. I'd love to see what you make!



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16 Comments

    • Hey Grace, Awesome! I’m so glad you like it. No water is needed when you use a whole chicken and butter in the crockpot :). There should be a lot of juices at the bottom of the crock-pot by the time the chicken is done cooking. Sometimes I pour the juice over the shredded chicken for extra flavor.

      • I wanted to make this for chicken enchiladas, can I just add the enchilada sauce to the crock pot for the duration of the cook time?

    • Hey Susan, I freeze homemade broth in freezer-safe mason jars (they are wide-mouth and usually say “freezer safe” on the package), ziploc baggies, or ice cube trays (then dump the “ice cubes” in a bag). If I’m going to use the broth within a week, I keep it in the fridge.

  • So, I have a question. I just cooked my first whole chicken ever, and first time in the crock pot. I know you use the bones to make broth, but what do you do with the leftover juices from cooking the chicken? Any advice you can give would be great, I’m really new to cooking in general.

    • Hey Rachel, Congrats, that’s awesome! I generally just leave the juices in the crock-pot (or transfer them to the crock-pot) along with the bones for making broth. Sometimes, I’ll save the juice and add it to rice later in the week, or use it to saute veggies.

  • Hi Kristen,
    I am fixin to make the chicken tomorrow and it’s just before payday so funds are short. I don’t have any onions or celery but i have lots of spices, can I use onion powder or celery salt in place of the fresh onions and celery? I am new to cooking as well. Thank you for your time.

    • Hey Jennifer, Yep, you can use any spices. I suggest mixing them in a small bowl first and then rubbing them over the chicken. I’d probably go easy on the celery salt, or use it in place of regular salt. You can also skip the spices, and the chicken will still be delicious :).

  • This is excellent info – thanks Kristin! I plan to do this in the next week or two. I often make my own broth anyway, and this is a great way to accomplish two things at once.

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