Freshly cooked chicken is moist and delicious — but after reheating, that crispy, succulent bird often becomes tough, dry and flavorless. Whether you're reheating a rotisserie or home-cooked chicken, warming up poultry properly retains its flavor and texture.
What's the Best Way to Reheat Chicken?
Here's your go-to guide for reheating leftover chicken without it getting chewy and bland.
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And of course, the most important thing is to reheat it safely: Use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating, per the USDA.
Does the Type of Chicken Matter?
The best way to reheat chicken depends on what type you're cooking. If you're reheating restaurant chicken wings, go with an air fryer for a crispy bite. Smaller pieces of chicken like sliced chicken breast and rotisserie off the bone do well on the stovetop. Breaded chicken leftovers (like chicken parmesan) or bone-in chicken reheat well in the oven, while fried chicken is perfect for the toaster oven.
And of course, if you're in a rush, nothing beats the microwave — especially if you have a sauce to keep your chicken moist!
Reheating Chicken in the Oven
1. Preheat and Prep
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a large piece of aluminum foil. The foil should be large enough to extend beyond the sides of the baking sheet.
2. Brush Chicken With Olive Oil and Wrap It
Place the chicken in the center of the baking sheet. To help keep your reheated chicken skin crispy, brush your chicken lightly with olive oil. Pull the sides of the aluminum foil up and wrap the chicken tightly with the foil.
3. Reheat Your Chicken
Place your baking sheet in the oven and reheat the chicken until the internal temperature of the meat registers at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer.
How Long Are Chicken Leftovers Safe to Eat?
Refrigerate cooked foods within two hours to prevent the growth of bacteria, as advised by the USDA. If stored properly, cooked chicken is safe to eat and maintains its quality for 3 to 4 days. Cover the chicken securely with plastic or store it in an airtight package to prevent it from drying out.
Reheating Chicken in the Toaster Oven
1. Preheat the Toaster Oven
If you're reheating fried chicken in the toaster oven, start by preheating your toaster oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the toaster oven baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Microwave the Chicken
Place a handful of chicken on a plate and cover it with a paper towel to avoid sogginess. Microwave for about 1 minute to 1 minute and 45 seconds.
3. Finish Heating in the Toaster Oven
Transfer the chicken to the baking sheet and reheat in the toaster oven for 2 to 3 additional minutes. Let chicken stand until lukewarm to touch.
Reheating Chicken in the Microwave
1. Prepare Your Plate or Dish
Place the chicken on a microwave-safe plate or dish. If you are reheating pieces, place the largest, meatiest pieces toward the outside of the dish and the smaller pieces in the center. Food on the outer edge of the dish cooks faster.
Use only microwave-safe plates or containers when reheating food in the microwave. Avoid containers such as yogurt, margarine or cottage cheese containers, as the food may get hot enough to melt the container or start a fire.
2. Prepare Your Chicken
Cover the chicken with a sauce such as barbecue, teriyaki or cream of mushroom soup. Alternatively, coat the chicken pieces with a prepared coating mix. Liquid or coating mix isn't required but will ensure the reheated chicken stays moist.
3. Wrap Your Dish
Place a piece of microwave-safe plastic wrap over the dish. If you use regular plastic wrap, don't allow the plastic to touch the food. Plastic can melt and transfer chemicals to the chicken.
4. Reheat Your Chicken
Reheat the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn the pieces over and stir the sauce. Resume cooking for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until the center of the thickest piece of chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cooking time varies depending on the amount and size of the chicken pieces, and the power of your microwave oven.
To use a meat thermometer, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat — the innermost part of the thigh or and wing, or the thickest part of a chicken breast, per the USDA. Don't push the thermometer into a fatty area and be sure it isn't touching bone.
Reheating Chicken on the Stove
1. Divide the Chicken Into Small Pieces
Reheating chicken on the stove is best for when it's been removed from the bone — think boneless, skinless chicken breast or leftover rotisserie chicken. If you're reheating chicken breast, slice it into 1-inch thick strips first.
To reheat rotisserie chicken, simply pick the meat off the bone.
2. Warm Up the Skillet
Place a skillet over medium heat and add just enough chicken broth or water to cover the bottom.
3. Add the Chicken
Place the pieces of chicken in a single layer on the skillet. Lower the heat and stir until the chicken is hot. Serve in wraps or over a salad.
Reheating Chicken in an Air Fryer
1. Prep the Chicken
Reheating chicken in an air fryer is best for crispy wings. Start by letting the wings come to room temperature, then spritz them with a light coating of nonstick spray.
2. Preheat the Air Fryer
Set the air fryer to 360 degrees Fahrenheit and place the wings in the basket in a single layer. Bake for 4 minutes.
3. Turn Up the Heat
Bake the wings for another 5 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chicken Recipes to Try
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Chicken From Farm to Table"
- Reader's Digest: "The Best Ways to Reheat Fried Chicken"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Leftovers and Food Safety"
- Taste of Home: "How to Reheat Chicken for Best-Ever Leftovers"