There are few things sadder in comfort food than leftover fried chicken. You remember its crispy comforting goodness, but you know you can’t get it back. The logical thing would be to reheat the chicken, except most attempts will give you soggy, dry chicken, and what can be sadder than that? So, we looked around and found the best way to reheat the fried chicken, one that will give you the closest results to the original version.
How to Reheat Fried Chicken?
The internet has a number of theories where people have used every avenue, from the stovetop to the barbeque grill. There were also different recommendations for the method. From wrapping up the chicken in paper packets to covering them with a foil. Most of these were less than satisfactory as the chicken steams under the cover and the covering batter turns soggy. The clear winner is the oven-heating method. Here’s a quick and simple guide on different ways to reheat fried chicken, from oven-baked to air-fryer and microwave:
We turned to the trusty Cook’s Illustrated for this method. We have a step-by-step guide on how to reheat the chicken in a conventional oven:
Step 1: Take out the chicken pieces and bring them to room temperature. This will ensure that all the pieces, irrespective of their size, are at an equal temperature. Half-an-hour should be enough. You may need longer if the chicken was frozen.
Step 2: Place a wire rack over a baking sheet. Some methods asked for the chicken pieces to be placed directly over the baking sheet. But the wire rack worked better because it allowed the hot air to circulate freely and crisp up the underside of the chicken, giving us the best result.
Step 3: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Step 4: Place the chicken pieces on the wire rack. Do not overcrowd the rack. Keep some distance between the chicken pieces.
Step 5: Bake the chicken for 20-25 minutes. The internal temperature should be 120 degrees F. Do not keep the chicken in the oven for too long. It will make it dry and tough.
Your fried chicken is now ready for its second inning!
The air-fryer will give you pretty similar results as an oven. However, you can only heat up a very limited quantity. Bring the chicken to room temperature. Preheat the air-fryer to 375 degrees F. Place the pieces in the basket and cook for 4-5 minutes, flipping it over once for even cooking. Place the chicken pieces in a single layer. Piling up the pieces will cause them to steam and spoil the fried texture. You will be able to work with only a few pieces at a time. On the other hand, the air-fryer is super quick. Plus, the results will be worth it.
This is a quick and efficient method to reheat fried chicken. But it’s not our first choice. Although one of the best means of reheating chicken, a microwave is not that great when it comes to fried food. This is because it steams the food which makes it slightly soggy. To minimize this, put a kitchen towel over a microwave-safe plate and place the chicken pieces over it. The paper will absorb some of the moisture. Microwave the chicken at 30-second intervals, turning it once in a while.
Is it Safe to Reheat Fried Chicken?
Yes, it is safe to reheat fried chicken, provided it was refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking. The USDA recommends that cooked food must be stored at temperatures lower than 40 degrees F. Lastly, while you must bring the chicken to room temperature before reheating, we do not recommend keeping it on the counter for more than 30-40 minutes. If the food was frozen, thaw it in the fridge and not on the counter.
Word of Caution
We have gone with an internal temperature of 120 degrees F, which is based on the Cook’s Illustrated recommendation. We also found that this gave the most succulent results. However, the FDA guidelines recommend that poultry be reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. We found that this made the chicken a little dry. Do take your own call regarding food safety. Keep in mind that refrigerated cooked chicken should be used within 3-4 days.