What is the Best Way to Reheat Fried Chicken?
If someone had told me that one day I would have to reheat chicken, I wouldn't believe him. Chicken (especially fried) is one of my family's all-time favorite dishes, and never in my lifetime had I had leftovers when I prepared it.
However, a couple of days ago, when I made this dish, it happened that my boys had lunch outside, and my husband and I were not hungry enough to eat four portions. What should I do? Throw the remaining chicken into my kitchen trash can? Use it in a salad or some other recipe?
The first option was out of the question, the second acceptable. Still, I didn’t want to give up as easy, since the chicken was more delicious than ever; moist and tender enough, and just a tad crisp. Perfect, isn’t it?
After a couple of days, I wanted to return the dish to its previous glory, but I wasn’t quite sure what is the best way to reheat fried chicken, while it still retaining its juiciness and flavor? I've tried a couple of different ways so that you don't have to.
Here is everything you ever wanted to know about reheating fried chicken.
Fry It Well the First Time
The reason why I managed to warm my fried chicken without it becoming too dry and tasteless was that it was tender and moist to begin with. The problem with frying chicken is that it, more than often, is getting dry and rubbery, but all that can be avoided by following some clever cooking tips:
- Don't fry fridge-cold meat (leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes).
- Fry in heavy-bottomed cast iron skillet (it retains heat better, and stays on the wanted temperature).
- Use neutral-taste oil with a high smoke point (peanut, canola or vegetable oil).
- Fry the chicken in a covered pan (see the large pan from Copper Chef here).
- Drain the chicken on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, instead of putting it on a paper towel to soak up the excess fat.
Freezing the Chicken
Also, to be able to reheat the chicken properly, you will have to freeze it after it is cooled down (never freeze warm chicken). Use a freezer wrap to wrap the chicken and make sure every piece is fully covered to avoid freezer burns.
I love to put an additional layer of wrapping and one of aluminum foil before I put the chicken into an air-tight container and the freezer. You can also use zip bags.
The chicken should be stored in the very back of the freezer because it is the coldest part. Chicken frozen in this way can remain unspoiled for about four months.
As for the thawing, you can do it in three ways: in the refrigerator (inside a bowl), in the microwave and under cold running water. Don’t try to thaw it at a room temperature, because it can encourage the growth of bacteria.
Reheating the Chicken in the Oven
So, there I was, standing in front of the fridge, with my fried chicken all thawed, and wondering how will I achieve that perfect crispy taste it had when I first fried it. If the years of my kitchen experience have thought me anything, that is that there is no reheating-related task (at least when it comes to non-liquid dishes) that can't be solved in a convection or a toaster oven, depending which one do you prefer, still remember when I show you how to reheat tamales in the oven?.
Here is my guide for perfectly reheated chicken in the oven:
- After thawing, leave the chicken at a room temperature for about half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (by using an oven thermometer).
- Place the chicken on a non-stick baking sheet, or line the baking sheet with tinfoil.
- Put chicken on the oven’s center rack.
- Set a timer for ten minutes.
- If you prefer soft rather than crispy chicken, you can spritz the pieces with a small amount of water, to prevent them from drying out in the oven.
- Check the chicken frequently; it will need between ten minutes and half an hour to be fully reheated.
- After you remove the chicken from the oven, move it to the wire rack to cool for about ten minutes.
When I've removed the chicken from the oven, I remember it being even better than the first one. So if you ever find yourself in a situation when you need a quick meal and you have chicken leftovers, don't hesitate about putting them into the oven. If you want to choose a best countertop convection oven, read my reviews here.
Re-frying the Chicken in a Pan
I was a skeptic when it comes to this way of reheating the chicken, but one of my neighbors said she does that quite often, so I've decided to give it a try, what can go wrong, right? With this approach, I've followed every step of her recipe:
- Let the chicken cool at a room temperature (never drop cold chicken into hot oil).
- Pour the same high-smoke oil you used for frying in a pan (using the Red Copper Pan) or a deep fryer if you have one.
- Carefully add the meat to hot oil.
- Fry the pieces for about two or three minutes, turning them regularly.
- When the chicken is done, place it on a wire rack and allow to drain (it should take up to five minutes).
My impressions? It wasn’t as bad as I’ve imagined it, but it was way too greasy for my taste. However, this way can suit you, if you prefer very crispy and oily chicken. I, on the other side, had to leave the chicken for five more minutes to cool, and alas, in the end, I ended up with cold lunch again.
Reheating Fried Chicken No-No’s
In talks with some friends, neighbors, and cousins, I've noticed that many of them are making some crucial errors when reheating chicken. Although all of us have our culinary sins (and some might be unforgivable, such as overcooking the vegetables), this one is such a waste, since it ruins perfectly good chicken. I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
- Using the microwave: I understand, the microwave is the quickest possible way to reheat food, and I myself use it often, but, when it comes to chicken, it should definitely be avoided. Heating in the microwave leaves the meat too soft and soggy.
- Searing the chicken in the skillet: You can’t avoid oil when reheating the chicken in an electric skillet.
- Cooling on a paper towel: I’ve mentioned this in “fry it well the first time” section.
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There are two acceptable ways of reheating fried chicken: in the oven and the skillet/pan. However, there is only one that is the best way to reheat fried chicken: in the oven.
Refrying may make the skin even crispier, and that is great if you love those sorts of things, but as a mother of two, I tend to avoid frying meat in deep oil whenever I can. Ok, I’ve already done that once, but I definitely shouldn’t do it once more with the same meat.
Reheating in the oven, on the other side, doesn't require additional oil (although you can drizzle the meat with it if you want), and it doesn't make chicken any less healthy than it already was.
If you’ve tried both solutions, tell me which one you’ve liked more and why? Perhaps you know some other way of reheating the chicken successfully. Tell me about it! I always like to hear different opinions!