You cooked, you ate, and there’s still chicken left! How to reheat fried chicken to preserve its safety and taste?
We have all been there: you were hungry before the party, miscalculated the amount of chicken needed and there ended up being just too much. You are not going to throw it out!
Instead, store it safely and learn the best ways to warm it up and keep it tasty.
The (short) life of fried chicken
We all love some good fried chicken. Wings, breast, drumsticks. Pan-fried, crisp with bread and warm. Is there anything more satisfying?
Unfortunately, chicken is way better at tasting good than at keeping good for a long time. In fact, if you leave your fried chicken on the counter, it will keep for just under two hours— and that is if it is 90 degrees out there! If it is hotter, you had better eat it or put it away before one hour goes by. Otherwise, it will be inedible.
If you store chicken in the fridge, it will last up to 2 or 3 days. If you do so in the freezer, it will keep good indefinitely, but a safe bet would be 2 months.
Dangers of poorly stored chicken
Chicken is great but, if you leave it on the counter for too long, store it poorly, or simply undercook it, it will have terrible effects on your body’s health.
Harmful germs love to multiply on raw chicken or fried chicken that is left out, but your body will not love it so much: you could get salmonella, gastroenteritis, a fever, dehydration, and other signs of food poisoning.
If you, your family or guests have eaten chicken and are suffering from any of these symptoms, call health services immediately! And, in order to prevent this, let’s learn how to store chicken properly before you reheat it!
How to store fried chicken for maximum safety
While raw chicken should always be stored securely and at the bottom of the fridge, things change a little when talking about cooked chicken. If you have extra fried chicken that you want to store and warm back up later, there are some steps you have to follow:
- Make sure the fried chicken was not left out on the counter for longer than 2 hours (or 1 hour, if it is hot outside).
- Wash your hands before touching the chicken. Make sure nothing that is not perfectly clean touches it, as this could cause bacteria to grow uncontrollably.
- Never, ever, store cooked chicken with raw chicken— nor with any other uncooked food.
- Wrap the fried chicken bits in aluminum foil or food-grade plastic wrap, pushing all the air out.
- Then put the wrapped pieces in a clean airtight container (can be a reusable sealable bag or a hermetically lidded plastic box).
- Using a plastic label and a marker, write the date when you are storing the chicken and stick the tag on the resealable container.
- If you want to store the chicken in the refrigerator to eat in the next few days, place it on the top of the fridge. This way, it will be far from the bacteria present in other foods and the cold will slow down the growth of the germs that are present in the chicken itself.
If you want to store your fried chicken in the freezer— so it will keep longer—, the key is to push all the air out of the storage containers.
Once you take your chicken out of storage
If you remembered to put a tag on the fried chicken’s container, you are all clear! Just stay within the recommended time frame: 2 to 3 days for refrigerator-stored chicken and up to 2 months for chicken stored in the freezer.
If you are taking the chicken out of the freezer, never thaw it on the counter! Instead, put it in the refrigerator the night before and let it thaw in there.
If you are taking the chicken out of the refrigerator, you can let it air out on the counter for up to 5 minutes before you have to reheat it. Again, before reheating fried chicken, make sure nothing unwashed touches it.
How to reheat fried chicken in the oven
The best way to reheat fried chicken is, undoubtedly, in the oven. Not only will it keep it crunchy and tender inside, but it is also a lot healthier than other reheating methods! So, how to reheat fried chicken in the oven?
No matter what kind of oven you own, warming up chicken in the oven is— especially with modern technologies— a stroll in the park! What do you need? An oven tray, a meat thermometer, aluminum foil (optional), herbs and butter (optional), and a water spray bottle (optional).
Now that you have gathered everything you need, follow these simple steps:
- Before even taking the fried chicken out of storage, you need to get the oven up to speed. The temperature has to be around 350 degrees: you can check it on the temperature indicator in your oven!
- If you want to use aluminum foil (you may be concerned about the health risks), you can either:
- Cover the baking tray with it or
- Wrap each individual piece of fried chicken with it. This method will help them cook more evenly.
- If you are not wrapping each piece in aluminum foil, sprinkle the fried chicken with water using your spray bottle. This way, it will stay tender.
- You can also paint or sprinkle a light coat of butter on the fried chicken: this will help it retain its original crispy texture!
- If you want some more pizzazz, add a dusting of the herbs of your choice (my suggestions: oregano, dill, or paprika).
- Cook for about 30 minutes. You can turn the pieces around at the 15-minute mark.
- Use your meat thermometer to check the chicken’s temperature. When it is ready, it should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Serve and enjoy!
How to warm up fried chicken in the microwave
How to heat up fried chicken in the microwave. No, I am not out of my mind. This method is quick, easy and, if you take the right turns, can yield good results!
There are some steps you can follow if you want to make sure that your microwave-chicken is safe and tastes great:
- Cover a plate that is safe for microwaving with paper towels or, if your microwave allows it (check the user’s manual), aluminum foil.
- Place the fried chicken pieces around the edges of the plate. This will help you avoid that microwave phenomenon by which you end up with burned spots and cold areas.
- To make sure the fried chicken is all cooked evenly, make it look as flat as you can.
- If the plate is to the side instead of at the perfect center of the rotating disk, all the chicken will get equally warmed up. So avoid the center like the plague!
- To avoid the chicken getting all rubbery and bland, fill a small cup with tap water and put it on the opposite side of the microwave’s disk. The evaporation from the water will keep the chicken’s texture normal.
- If you want to get serious about keeping all the moisture trapped inside the fried chicken, cover it with a paper towel or two.
- As with the oven, you can sprinkle the fried chicken with water, butter, and herbs, according to your personal taste.
- How long to reheat fried chicken? Set the timer for two minutes, then check the chicken’s temperature. If it is already at 165 degrees, well done! Otherwise, reset the microwave for one more minute and continue until the goal temperature is reached.
Take the fried chicken out of the microwave, serve, and season! Not too shabby, huh?
If, for some reason, both the oven and the microwave are not accessible to you, do not despair! There are alternative methods you can use to get your fried chicken warmed up.
You can use any pan that is at least two inches deep. Just cover the surface with oil (olive or other, your pick), heat it up until it sizzles, then toss the fried chicken in.
Make sure to move it around as it warms up, so it will be cooked thoroughly. By doing this, you are essentially reproducing the first time you fried the chicken. You can use a thermometer to check the temperature.
As a last resource, you can grill it! Use trusty grilling tongs and set the heat on low: this will prevent you from burning the chicken.
Sit down and enjoy a safe and delicious meal
Now that you have gone through this article, you are safe to go! You have found out everything there is to know about heating up fried chicken food for delicious protein and will never be in a bind again.
Just grab a plate, your favorite beverage, and sit down to eat with your dear ones. No one will suspect you did not know how to reheat fried chicken!