Reheated fried chicken can be both crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Find out the different ways that leftover drumsticks, wings, breasts and thighs can be reheated. Plus, we share our three essential tips on how to keep that skin crispy.
fried chicken on a designed background
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Freshly served fried chicken can be a religious experience, but eating reheated leftovers? Not so much. We've all experienced biting into a crispy crust only to be met with totally dried-out meat. Or, in the opposite scenario, we've settled for a soggy exterior for fear of dehydrating the inside. Is reheated fried chicken always a compromise? We're here to tell you that it doesn't have to be! Read on to see how you can keep reheated fried chicken both crispy and tender.

Is It Safe to Reheat Fried Chicken?

It should be! Reheating fried chicken is safe as long as it is cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F when it was first made. Additionally, if it wasn't left out at room temperature or in the "danger zone" (40°F to 140°F) for more than two hours, it's perfectly OK to reheat. In fact, as long as the first two conditions have been met, fried chicken may be eaten cold.

Leftover fried chicken will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days, or in the freezer for about four months.

How to Keep Reheated Fried Chicken Crispy

There are many different ways that fried chicken can be reheated, but before we dive into them, here are three key points that will help your reheated leftovers stay crispy no matter what.

  • First, unless you're reheating from frozen, bring the chicken to room temperature, which will take about 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the pieces. This will ensure that everything cooks evenly, inside and out. It'll also help prevent pieces from drying out, as it reduces the amount of time the chicken will require to heat up.
  • Second, don't overcrowd your cooking vessel. Make sure to space pieces out evenly and avoid any overlapping. This will help each piece crisp up nicely.
  • Lastly, remember that different-size pieces will reheat at different speeds. To prevent any of the pieces from drying out or not warming up enough, cook smaller pieces for a shorter amount of time and bigger pieces for longer.

Make sure to follow these three points before tackling any of the methods outlined below, which we have cross-tested for effectiveness.

How to Reheat Fried Chicken in the Oven

To reheat fried chicken in the oven, the best method is to turn the oven on high and bake it fast.

Preheat the oven to 400°F, and place room-temperature leftovers on a wire rack set on a baking sheet. The wire rack helps hot air circulate to crisp up the underside of the chicken. If you don't have a rack, a foil-lined baking sheet will do. Bake until the inside is warm (around 120°F) and the outside is crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes. The exact bake time will depend on the size of each piece. Let the chicken cool for a few minutes before digging in.

How to Reheat Fried Chicken on the Stovetop

The best way to reheat fried chicken on the stovetop is to fry it again.

Fill a heavy-bottomed pan or skillet with about 2 inches of a neutral oil like canola. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 300°F. Carefully place a few pieces of room-temperature chicken into the oil. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan, as this will lower the temperature of the oil. Cook until crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Set the chicken on a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before eating.

How to Reheat Fried Chicken in an Air Fryer

An air fryer is also a great option for reheating fried chicken. Unlike the stovetop method, an air fryer doesn't require any extra oil.

Preheat the air fryer to 375°F. Place a single layer of room-temperature fried chicken in the basket. Work in batches and avoid piling pieces on top of each other, as this will prevent the skin from becoming crispy. Air-fry the chicken for 2 minutes on each side.

How to Reheat Fried Chicken in a Toaster Oven

If you only have a couple of pieces of fried chicken, and it feels like a lot to turn on the oven, a toaster oven will work well too.

Preheat the toaster oven to 400°F. Line the toaster oven's tray with foil. Cook room-temperature leftovers for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through to make sure all sides get crisp.

How to Reheat Fried Chicken in the Microwave

We recommend avoiding the microwave if possible. Microwaves reheat food unevenly and bring moisture to the surface. In the case of fried chicken, this makes it almost impossible to bring the crisp factor back. However, we totally get it if a microwave is the only or best option available to you.

To get the best results, place a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate and set the fried chicken on top. Microwave in 30-second intervals, flipping each time, until the chicken has warmed up. The paper towel will help absorb some of the moisture that rises to the surface.

How to Reheat Fried Chicken from Frozen

To find out the best way to reheat fried chicken from frozen, we reached out to chefs Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp of Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago for their expert opinion. They said, "The No. 1 rule about frozen chicken: don't defrost it before heating. The chicken will release moisture as it thaws and thus degrade the breading." Instead, they recommend two different methods.

The first is to microwave the chicken on a paper-towel-lined plate until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, about 3 to 6 minutes. This allows the chicken to reheat and defrost as quickly and safely as possible. Then bake the chicken in a preheated 400°F oven until the outside is crisp, about 7 to 10 minutes.

The second method skips the microwave and uses just an oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the leftovers on a foil-lined baking sheet and cover with more foil. This will help the chicken defrost evenly and prevent any skin from burning. Bake until each piece has reheated completely, about 35 minutes to an hour—smaller pieces like a wing will take less time, while larger pieces like a bone-in breast can take up to an hour. When ready, remove the foil covering and place the chicken back in the oven for a few more minutes until the desired level of crispiness is achieved.  

Bottom Line

Although nothing beats eating freshly cooked fried chicken, you can still enjoy leftovers that are both crispy and moist. Just make sure to bring the chicken pieces to room temperature before reheating (unless you're reheating directly from frozen), avoid overcrowding the chicken, and tailor the cooking time according to the size of each piece.

Now that you know how to reheat fried chicken, it's time to find the perfect recipe. Here's our take on spicy Nashville Hot Chicken. Or try this summer friendly recipe for Fried Chicken Salad with Buttermilk Dressing. If you're looking for the best "fried" alternative, these Air-Fryer "Fried" Chicken Thighs are delicious.