Some call it magic, some call it art, but there’s little disagreement a skillfully prepared fried chicken is a classic that has stood the test of time. Unless you leave it out at room temperature too long, in which case the only test of time that matters is getting it into the refrigerator or freezer before it enters the food-danger zone – the temperature range between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 F where bacteria thrive. Freezing preserves chicken for about 3 months, but heating it up poses a different problem: how to get the prized skin back to its heavenly, crunchy state without overcooking the meat. The answer: dry heat, a meat thermometer and a touch of oil.
Fill a 2-quart food storage container with ice and add enough cold water to reach to within 1 inch of the top. Stir the ice water with a spoon and let it stand for 1 minute.
Insert a meat thermometer in the ice water deep enough to cover the small dimple in the middle of the probe. The dimple in the middle of a meat thermometer probe registers the temperature.
Leave the thermometer in the ice water for 30 seconds or until the needle stops moving. Adjust the hex nut on the thermometer while it’s in the ice water using a thermometer-calibration tool or small wrench until the dial reads 32 F. If you have a digital meat thermometer, just press the reset button while it’s in the ice water. Remove the thermometer from the ice water and set it aside.
Position the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Remove any secondary racks or broiler pans from the oven.
Place a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet and set it aside. Heat the oven to 350 F and turn the convection fan on, if you have one.
Remove the frozen fried chicken from the oven as soon as the oven reaches 350 F. Separate the pieces if frozen together and place them on the wire rack on the sheet pan, spacing each piece at least 6 inches apart.
Place the chicken in the oven and heat it for 45 minutes if using a convection oven, or for 1 hour and 15 minutes if using a conventional oven. Insert the meat thermometer all the way in the thickest portion of a chicken breast and check the temperature. The dimple in the middle of the probe must reach the center of the meat to register an accurate temperature.
Remove the thermometer and check the temperature of a thigh. If the temperature is 165 F in the breast and thigh, use a basting brush to coat the fried chicken with vegetable oil until covered all over, but not dripping. If the temperature reads less than 165 F, continue cooking until it reaches 165 F, then coat it with oil.
Place the chicken back in the oven after you coat it with oil. Cook the chicken just enough to heat the oil and crisp the breading, about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the fried chicken from the oven and serve immediately.
Always reheat food to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Never refreeze chicken after reheating it.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Leftovers and Food safety
- Still Tasty: Do You Have to Thaw Frozen Chicken Before Cooking It?
- Foodsafety.gov: Meat and Poultry Roasting Chart
- National Food Service Management Institute: Calibrating Thermometers
- Real Simple: How Long Will Food Last In the Freezer?
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: “Danger Zone” (40 F - 140 F)