This Pulled Chicken comes together in minutes in your Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. It’s an easy way to enjoy the flavor of BBQ all year long!
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken
The call came in about 8:30 pm. At first I only heard static. Then my friend’s voice cut through the crackle. “I’m on the train. The connection is bad. Let me ask you, do I really need an Instant Pot? Amazon has them on sale right now.” (It was Cyber Monday.)
You can guess what I said. It went something like: “Yes! Yes! Oh my goodness, YES! Get one right now! You’ll loooooooooove it. LOVE IT.”
She ordered one.
The next day she texted me that her daughter requested BBQ Pulled Chicken as the inaugural Instant Pot recipe. This sounded good to me. It’s an excellent recipe for any pressure cooker devotee and it’s especially nice for beginners. You only need five ingredients and the recipe cooks in ten minutes under pressure.
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken: The Chicken
For this recipe, get a package— or two—of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They cook up tender and flavorful. But most importantly, they have a great texture for shredding.
You don’t want to use chicken breasts. To be honest, breasts are one of my least favorite meats to cook in the pressure cooker. They overcook easily and, due to their lack of fat, tend to get tough and mushy when used for shredding.
If you can’t find boneless thighs, you could get skin-on, bone-in thighs. To compensate for the weight of the skin and bones, you’ll need to buy more chicken–I’d get about 4.5 pounds. Before cooking, be sure to remove the skin or the sauce will come out too fatty.
By the time I remove the chicken skin from bone-in thighs, the recipe is no longer “Cook Fast.” So I’ll leave it up to you if you want to bother working with them or not.
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken: The Barbecue Sauce
This pulled chicken gets cooked right in the barbecue sauce. Use your favorite barbecue sauce. My personal preference is to avoid any brands that use corn syrup because I find them syrupy and sticky. This isn’t always easy. Most brands list corn syrup as the first ingredient. As of this writing, Heintz’s line of Barbecue sauces don’t contain corn syrup. So that’s what I used. (Not a sponsored post. I just like the sauce.)
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken: Maintaining Pressure
The thing about barbecue sauce, no matter which brand you use, is that it’s thick. This can cause trouble for a pressure cooker. To reach and maintain pressure, pressure cookers need steam. If the cooking liquid is too thick, sometimes it doesn’t generate enough steam and the pressure cooker doesn’t reach pressure.
This happened to me the first time I made pulled chicken in my Instant Pot. Steam poured out of the valve but there wasn’t quite enough to lift the valve into place. It was really frustrating.
To solve this problem, add a tablespoon or two of water to the barbecue sauce. If your sauce seems really thick, use two tablespoons. The sauce gets thickened at the end of cooking. So don’t worry about adding too much water.
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken: Shredding the Chicken
The chicken thighs cook in ten minutes under pressure. When the cooking time completes, release the pressure with a”quick release.” If you do a natural release, the chicken can overcook, making it hard to shred.
Fun fact: meat that’s overcooked in a pressure cooker gets tough, not tender. It’s the opposite of meat in the slow cooker.
Remove the thighs from the pot with a pair of tongs and place them on a plate. Don’t shred the chicken right away. Allow the thighs to rest for about five minutes. This allows the muscle fibers to relax and makes them easier to shred.
Use two forks to shred the chicken. This takes a minute or two but is worth the work.
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken: Cooking the Sauce
When you first open the pressure cooker, you’ll notice the sauce is a little thin. No problem. While the chicken rests, turn the pressure cooker to saute. If your pressure cooker has a low temperature setting for saute, use it. Cook the sauce for a few minutes to thicken it. Be sure to stir the sauce frequently as it cooks or it might burn.
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken: Serving Suggestions
Place the pulled chicken on a hamburger bun. (Toast and butter the bun if you feel like it.) Serve with coleslaw and oven-baked French fries.
Cornbread and Greens
Serve with cornbread (Jiffy makes a great easy-to-use mix) and greens. Sometimes I make collard greens, other times I serve it with a big salad and call it a day.
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken
Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken is quick and easy way to enjoy the flavor of BBQ all year round. Serve on toasted hamburger buns or with a side of cornbread or French fries.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, mined or put through a garlic press
- 3-4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- 1 tablespoon water
Select the saute setting on your pressure cooker. Heat the oil until it shimmers but does not smoke. Add the onions and cook until soft, about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Turn the saute function off. Add the chicken thighs. Pour the barbecue sauce and water over the chicken thighs. Stir to coat the thighs with the sauce.
Lock the lid into place. Set the pressure valve to the "sealing" position. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
When the cooking time completes, quickly release the pressure by turning the pressure valve to "venting." Open the lid away from your face and remove the chicken thighs from the pot with a pair of tongs. Place the thighs on a plate and allow to rest for five minutes.
While the chicken thighs rest, turn the pressure cooker to the saute function. Set the saute function to low. (On an Instant Pot, hit "saute" then press "adjust" until the light over "less" is lit.) Cook the sauce until it thickens, about three minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the sauce from burning. Remove the pot from the pressure cooker and place on a trivet.
Using two forks, shred the chicken. Pour half the remaining barbecue over the shredded chicken. Adjust the amount of sauce as desired.
Barbecue sauce tends to be thick and can sometimes cause a pressure cooker not to reach the correct pressure. To solve this problem, add one tablespoon of water to the sauce before using. If your sauce seems especially thick, add two tablespoons of water. The sauce is thickened at the end of cooking. So don't worry about adding to much water.