Why It's Better To Use Shredded Chicken For Chicken Salad

Chicken salad can be simple or dressed up, store-bought or homemade, sweet or savory. It's one of those dishes that is hard to be disappointed by, especially since it's so customizable, but all good versions are united by one thing: the right base made of properly-prepared chicken. 

For John Politte, the owner and the executive chef of the YouTube channel "It's Only Food with Chef John Politte", shredded chicken is the only way to go. If you're using chicken as a topping for a bed of greens, diced meat might work fine, but Politte tells Food Republic to "Never use diced chicken in a composed chicken salad sandwich," as it "doesn't mix or stay on the sandwich as well." Even if you're not piling your salad onto bread, there are food reasons to shred the chicken finely. 

When cut into little cubes, your chicken, veggies, and dressing create a chunky, more incongruous salad similar to a relish. Meanwhile, the increased surface area of shredded chicken helps it get evenly coated in dressing (Politte likes mayo and Dijon mustard). The strands readily meld with add-ins diced celery, grated carrots, and fresh herbs like parsley, chives, or tarragon – the herbaceous ingredient Ina Garten adds to chicken salad. Your salad will have evenly-distributed flavors, plus a uniform texture that clings to sandwich bread, does not fall out of a tortilla wrap, and is easy to scoop with crackers (or even apples).

Tips for easily shredding chicken

How you shred your chicken comes down to personal preference and what kind of meat you start with. If you're starting with a whole, cooked bird, you can debone your rotisserie chicken with a simple plastic bag hack and shred it from there. You can also start with raw chicken breasts and poach them for the tastiest salads. The breasts should wind up soft enough to shred easily, and don't present any fussy bones to tangle with.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, the simplest shredding method is to pull apart the meat with your fingers, tearing vertically along the grain of the muscle fibers. This is the best choice if you're separating the meat from a bone-in bird that has lots of tendons and skin. You can also use two forks to pull the chicken into shreds, if you're starting with boneless, skinless meat.

A third wild card option is to use an electric mixer to break up the meat. For a hand mixer, turn the machine to low speed, and gently press the metal beaters down into the boneless chicken. Mix until finely and evenly shredded. If you're using a stand mixer, affix the paddle attachment, and let it mix the meat at low speed for about 15 to 20 seconds. Do keep in mind that this vigorous method can get messy, but it does work fast.