Truly great fried chicken is one of life’s joys, but it can be hard to find. After all, how often do you find yourself on a side streets in Bangkok, buying chicken by the piece from the fried chicken lady, or getting invited to a Southern granny’s house for a summer dinner? Luckily, KFC’s always got a bucket of fried chicken waiting for you. However, the trouble with a bucket is that it might be too much to polish off in a single night, so what’s the secret if you want to reheat fried chicken in the oven?
The Less-Than-Ideal Methods
Reheating in a frying pan isn't a good idea; you’ll burn or overcook it before it gets hot again. You can cross that approach off your list right now. Other people may tell you the microwave is the way to go, but you’ll never have crispy skin that way, and isn’t that the whole point of fried chicken?
Then there are folks who think that toaster ovens are the greatest thing ever, saying that it creates the best roasted potatoes and the crispiest pizza crusts. But, alas, they’re not the go-to savior for your leftover fried chicken; the heating elements are too close to the food, and the interior may take too long to warm up, causing the skin to darken or burn before it’s warm.
But here’s the thing; there’s a hybrid approach that uses both the microwave and toaster oven that can provide decent reheated fried chicken in under 10 minutes. So, preheat your toaster oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, grab a plate and line it with some paper towels; then top it with a few pieces of fried chicken. Pop the chicken into the microwave for up to about 2 minutes, and then transfer it to the toaster oven on a baking tray (ideally with a wire rack insert) for 3 or 3 minutes, until it's crispy and warm.
Reheat Fried Chicken in Oven
The pros, though, know that the best way to get your chicken both crispy and hot is to use an oven. The foodies over at Cooking Illustrated tackled this important question for the ages and came up with a variety of approaches, and in the end, they decided the winning method requires letting the chicken come to room temperature (around 68 degrees Fahrenheit) and then reheating it.
Letting the chicken come to room temperature takes about 30 to 60 minutes, and then, it’s all about getting the varying shapes and sizes to heat at a similar time. You’ll need a wire rack that’ll fit inside the baking tray, so the bottom of the chicken doesn’t come into contact with the sheet, which means it would: a) possibly stick to the sheet; or b) steam and get soggy. If you’ve got a meat thermometer (and you should, because they’re amazingly useful), then you’re good to go.
Pop the chicken on the wire rack-inset tray and put it in the 400-degree oven for 14 to 18 minutes, until you get a reading of 120 degrees inside. This is the perfect temperature, the perfect crispness, and the best way you can reheat fried Publix or KFC chicken. If you’re looking to reheat chicken wings, this method will work for those, too, but the cooking time will likely be reduced. Luckily, you’ve got a meat thermometer for finding that perfect temperature; right?
A Bonus Tip
When buying your fried chicken at KFC, don’t forget a tub of their mac and cheese. Food idol Anthony Bourdain used to swear KFC’s mac and cheese was his guilty pleasure – and the bane of his existence if a fan spotted him leaving the shop!
Steffani Cameron is a versatile writer and photographer who has just finished four years of travelling the world and working remotely in 25 countries. She writes about food, travel, marketing and home decor. Steffani has bylines in Washington Post, Culture, Yahoo! and more. These days, she's excited to have her own home with kitchen gadgets so she can tinker with recipes learned abroad and write a cookbook.