Reheating fried food in the microwave leads to soggy, chewy leftovers that bear little resemblance to their original crispy, light deliciousness. Even so, you can save fried food for later so that it tastes almost as good as the first time you had it. The way you reheat fried food depends on the type of food it is, whether it’s breaded and what equipment you have on hand.
Microwaves efficiently reheat foods that are universally moist, such as stew, chili or roast. Fried foods are a bit more complex: crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. A microwave can’t handle this complexity. Thus you must seek out more conventional reheating means.
Fried breaded foods, such as chicken nuggets or breadcrumb-coated chicken patties, can be lightly pan-fried or heated in the oven. Unbreaded items, such as French fries, taste best when reheated under the broiler.
- Pan Fry: Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a fry pan. When the oil is glistening, but not smoking, lay the leftover fried item in the hot oil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until crispy and lightly brown. Avoid letting the outside get too dark or bitter-flavored compounds may form. Also use an oil suitable for frying, such as peanut or safflower oils. If the food comes out too greasy, drain it on a paper towel before serving. Avoid overcrowding the pan or the reheated food will steam, rather than re-fry, resulting in a soggy meal.
- Broiler-heating: Lay the item or items on a baking sheet — line with foil for easy cleaning. Place on the top rack of the oven, under a preheated broiler. Broil for 1 to 3 minutes per side, depending on the size and thickness. Oven-heating doesn’t require the addition of new oil to the food, but reinvigorates the crispy crust while the inside remains soft and moist.
Pat any moisture off the surface of the leftover before reheating. The moisture may inhibit the food from regaining its crispness.
With any reheating method, ensure the food reaches a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured by an instant-read thermometer. Only reheat the food once, rather than repeatedly. Improper handling increases the risk of developing a foodborne illness.