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How to boil chicken breast to shred

Boiled chicken breasts are easy to make and have on hand for one of the hundreds of recipes that require it. From casseroles to enchiladas and chicken salad, learn how to boil chicken breast that’s tender, juicy and just right for whatever you’re making.

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a pot of boiling water with a chicken breast being placed inside

How do you know when boiled chicken is done?

Your chicken is done when it’s firm, no pink remains in the center and (if you need it) a meat thermometer registers 165. It’s fine to pull it from the water and cut it open. If it’s still pink just put it back in to cook.

How do you keep from drying out boiled chicken?

As long as you cook it to 165 it won’t be dry. Water boils at 212, so if you leave it in the water too long you will eventually overcook it and dry it out but start checking it at the 12 to 15 minute mark and you should be just fine. Also I find that my chicken is less dry if I will let that chicken rest after cooking (just like you would with roasting or any other method). Don’t cut it open–just let the breasts sit and cool down. This helps the natural juices redistribute.

a meat thermometer in chicken breast

What’s the white stuff floating in the water?

It’s just the protein from the chicken being forced to the surface as the meat cooks and the fibers shrink. Fatty fish like salmon does this also. It’s nothing to worry about and normal. You can just scrape it away if any sticks to the outside.

How do I freeze boiled chicken?

To freeze, bring the meat to room temperature then cut, cube or shred your cooked chicken. Transfer to an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.

30-minute green chile chicken enchiladas can be made ahead if you're in a pinch and make a perfect weeknight dinner option.
Green chile chicken enchiladas use boiled shredded chicken as the main ingredient.

Can I boil frozen chicken breasts?

You betcha. It takes a little longer but I do this all the time. Follow the same process, but start checking your chicken for doneness at about 20 minutes and continue to cook until no pink remains and the internal temp is 165.

When you just need chicken but don’t have time, try this

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve just needed dinner done and I dread even starting. Shredded chicken is a staple that makes that dread a little bit easier to manage because it’s so flexible and fits in to so many recipes seamlessly.

But if you don’t have time to boil, just open a can of my favorite real chicken you’ll love.

No time to boil chicken? Open a can that’s ready to go with no cooking required.

Years ago I discovered freeze dried chicken, and there’s no boiling, roasting or frying to mess with.

Just pour out the amount you want to use, add warm water and wait.

In a few minutes you’ll have real chicken that’s perfectly seasoned and ready to use in any of your best recipes without fillers or fake food anywhere in sight.

Learn more about Thrive Life freeze dried chicken

Southern Chicken Salad

What recipes can I use boiled chicken in?

The sky is the limit! Try:

If you don’t want to boil, try roasting a big batch of chicken. Watch me show you how on YouTube:

a pot of boiling water with a chicken breast being placed inside

How to boil chicken breasts to shred

Boil chicken breast in just a few minutes and be ready for any recipe from casseroles to enchiladas in a flash.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Rachel Ballard


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • water to cover the chicken


  • Place the chicken breasts into a pot large enough to hold them and the water with at least an inch of space in the pot.
  • Add the salt.
  • Place the pot on the burner and bring to a low boil. If you'd like it to come to a boil faster, put the lid on otherwise it doesn't matter.
  • Boil until the chicken is cooked through and a meat thermometer registers 165. About 12 to 15 minutes dependign on the size of the chicken.
  • Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool slightly before shredding or dicing for recipes.

To Freeze

  • Allow the chicken to come to room temperature. Slice, shred or chop according to preference and transfer to an air tight container or freezer bag (squeeze out the air) and freeze up to 6 months.


Calories: 64kcalProtein: 12gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 647mgPotassium: 209mgVitamin A: 17IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 1mg
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  1. I’ve always wanted to be able to boil chicken for chicken pies but I boil it too much and it gets tough. I’m going to try this. It’s very to the point and I’m sure it will work like a charm. Thanks so much!

  2. They say a true genius is one who can explain things in simple terms.You are a GENIUS and are helping me to love cooking.Many blessings to the cook!

  3. 5 stars
    This was the most reassuring thing I’ve ever read. “If it’s still pink just put it back in” like that’s what I needed to hear. Thank u

  4. 5 stars
    Hands down the most amazing and straightforward recipe instructions I have ever seen.

    If you don’t already have a show on the food network, you should.

    Being thorough and brief at the same time is so rare when looking up any cooking recipe…props.

    I haven’t even tried the recommended technique yet, but you are a true badass ?

    1. Hahahaha! Chad that’s hilarious. And yes, thank you–I try SUPER hard to keep things tight and tidy around here. Just don’t go too far back in the archives…things get dicey there. I hope you give this a try soon. –Rachel

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.