poor man’s pulled chicken

pulled meats are one of those things that almost everybody has had a hankering for some time or another.  granted, the field is dominated primarily by barbeque pulled pork and good old fashioned brisket, but we don’t all live in south carolina.  i don’t have magical access to an open pit smoker.  and let’s be honest, even if i did, there is no world in which i could legitimize the expenditures it would require to even fire up an open pit smoker to make a single person serving of pulled meat.

and so, in true poor man fashion, this recipe cuts out the smoker.  it cuts out the pork and beef.  it cuts out the effort and technique and equipment, too.  and more than anything, it cuts out the cost.  this recipe, like most of my recipes, is based solely upon your ability to balance a series of simple flavors.  you can do it, you just got to believe in yourself.

motivational speech: complete.

you’ll need:

  • 3 or 4 chicken breasts (no skin)
  • oregano
  • basil
  • parsley
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • hot sauce
  • chicken stock
  • flour
  • coriander
  • black pepper
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • one carrot
  • half to 3/4 of an onion
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic


  1. peel the onion and garlic, and mince them into oblivion.  you can keep them chunky if you like, but honestly, they are better as finely cut as you can get them.  you might as well peel and chop your carrot, too.  the style of cut is up to you, but i generally go with one inch strips that are about julienne thickness.  they cook faster that way and get really soft.  add all three to a heated pan with a little bit of olive oil, and sautée until the onions are transparent.  don’t burn the garlic or it’ll be bitter and gross.  i know you know, i’m just reminding you.
  2. wash the chicken breasts with cold water and dry them off.  you can chop them in half if they don’t fit in your pot very well, but otherwise try to keep them in big pieces.  add the sautéed onion-garlic-carrot mixture, add all the spices (oregano, basil, parsley, vinegar, hot sauce, black pepper, and coriander) in the quantities of your choice.  if you ask me, which you probably aren’t, basil and coriander are the most important.  both have strong flavors that can really make your broth into something special.  also, be careful with vinegar.  it is there primarily as an acidic agent to help soften the proteins of your chicken.  sour chicken broth is not in your best interest.  once sufficiently spiced, add enough chicken stock to cover, put on the lid, and crank the heat to max.
  3. this next step is important, so pay attention.  once your broth reaches a boil, turn the heat as low as you possibly can.  if you keep the heat high, or even medium, your meat will turn tough and dry.  “but it is boiling in soup!  how can it turn dry?” you might say.  “trust me, i’ve made a lot of terrible chicken in my life,” i might retort.  just turn the heat down, okay?  you’ll thank me in the end.
  4. cook covered for between 60 and 90 minutes.  check it on occasion and give it a stir to make sure your spices aren’t sitting on the bottom of the pot burning.  you have lots of time, so wash the shitake and cut off their stems.  slice the caps super thin.  when you have about 20 or 30 minutes left of cooking, add the mushrooms.
  5. when finished, take out the chicken and set it aside in a bowl.  pull it apart with two forks.  this should require about as much effort as walking does.  or maybe napping.  in other words, the meat should be so dang tender that as soon as you get the fork close, it practically shreds itself.  that being said, don’t be a barbarian.  use your forks to pull the chicken along its grain.  don’t just abuse it and call it pulled.  you won’t fool anybody, and it’ll look terrible.
  6. add the pulled meat back into the stock and give it five or ten minutes on super low heat.  if you like, you don’t actually have to have any heat at all.  you can let the meat just sit in the stock for twenty or thirty minutes with the stove off.  the goal is to allow all of your delicious stock to break down the proteins even further, and to seep into the newly exposed crevices in the meat.
  7. remove as much as the meat as you can and set it aside in a bowl (again).  remove a ladleful of sauce (try to avoid getting mushrooms and other chunks of delicious stuff) and put it in a bowl.  add some cold cream and sprinkle in flour.  stir vigorously to create a roux.  reintroduce this roux to the pot of stock, and repeat the exact same process until your whole pot of aromatic chicken soup becomes a whole pot of aromatic chicken gravy.  this shouldn’t require very much flour or cream, so use it sparingly, and low heat can ease along the thickening process as well.
  8. finally, add the chicken back into the pot and stir.
  9. serve open-face on a kaiser roll with spinach and shredded cheese.  also excellent on top of egg noodles.  keep in mind, this stuff is pretty good cold, too.  throw it on top of a salad and you won’t be disappointed.

serves 3 people a lot of food (about 2 sandwiches each)


goes excellent with:

caesar salad.  man, do i love the saltiness of caesar dressing.  and it is so dang creamy.  but it is almost completely lacking in savory, and a healthy portion of poor man’s pulled chicken can add a little something in a big way.  pulled chicken on toast with spinach and cheese paired with a nice big crisp caesar salad (maybe with grape tomatoes and croutons?) is a meal fit for kings.  your guests will be impressed.  impressed, and super uncomfortably full.  but mostly impressed.

rice.  yes, pulled chicken is a very western food.  yes, rice is a very eastern staple.  but hey, we can all be friends, can’t we?  why not put chicken soaked in delicious savory gravy over a bowl of piping hot rice?  i can’t think of any good reason.  try it, tell me i’m wrong.

fried eggs.  ever had an egg-in-a-basket?  i bet you have.  now close your eyes and imagine an egg-in-a-basket with pulled chicken and gravy on top.  open your eyes.  remember that image whenever you are having a bad day, and trust me, you’ll feel right as rain.

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