You've Been Reheating Fried Chicken Wrong This Whole Time

Fried chicken with a serious case of the GBDs (Golden Brown Deliciousness) is like sunshine on a cloudy day. Everyone can appreciate a perfectly fried breast or thigh with a thick and crunchy coating on the outside, which tastily encases tender, juicy meat on the inside. Whether you've made it yourself with your personal oh-so-secret ingredient or swung through the KFC drive-thru, fried chicken deserves all the love you have to give. After all, the whole brining, breading, frying thing is a process. Should you somehow have any fried chicken leftovers, please don't disrespect it with shoddy reheating techniques. 

Breading that was once submerged in hot oil and then allowed to cool presents a number of challenges. What should be dry and crispy is now saturated and soggy. Plus, you still need to keep an eye on that meat, which can get tough when reheated. Dry, stringy, reheated meat is a no-no in any situation. We admit, there's a lot going on here. But there is an ideal approach to reheating fried chicken and it's simpler than you might think.

There are many theories on the proper way to reheat fried chicken

Let's strike one method from the record right away: reheating fried chicken in the microwave. A microwave is guaranteed to get the job done, but the results will be... lackluster. We suppose that if you're in a pinch and need fried chicken this instant (we know the feeling), the microwave is an acceptable means to an end. Just don't expect the exterior of your fried chicken to offer that same crunchy satisfaction as it did on day one, warns Reader's Digest

Another approach to properly reheating fried chicken, per Spoon University, is to cover it with foil on a baking sheet and bake it in the oven. However, Food Network contests that while a foil cover can keep the chicken moist during reheating, it also traps the heat and creates steam, which leads to extra soggy fried chicken skin. Allrecipes puts their stovetop tactic at the top of the list for the best reheating method. They say refrying the chicken in a shallow pool of oil yields the best results. Okay, yes, refrying fried food seems like a rock-solid proposition, but it's a little too much effort for our liking. There's a better way.

The secret to reheating fried chicken is your oven, but without the foil

The best method for reheating fried chicken is to use the hot, dry heat of your oven — a 400-degree oven, to be exact. And as soon as you press the button to preheat, be sure to take the chicken out of the fridge. Southern Living says letting the chicken come to room temperature before reheating helps to retain moisture and allows the chicken to heat evenly all the way through. If you've got the time, Cook's Illustrated recommends giving the chicken as much as 30 minutes to an hour at room temp to ensure any oddly-shaped pieces reheat thoroughly. 

When your chicken is ready to go into the oven, set a wire rack inside a baking sheet, and arrange the chicken on the rack. Country Living explains the wire rack helps air and heat circulate around the chicken, preventing the bottom from becoming soggy. The amount of time your fried chicken needs to reheat depends on the size and number of pieces; 15-20 minutes is a good ballpark. When the chicken feels hot and all the scraggly bits of breading are crisp again, you'll know you've achieved reheated perfection.

Better yet, use your air fryer to reheat fried chicken

Ever since air fryers came on the scene, we've been reveling in low-cal, low-maintenance, fried food euphoria. But, the air fryer's biggest asset might just be its ability to return drab, soggy leftovers to their original crisp, golden glory in a short amount of time. Air fryers work by quickly circulating hot air around your food, similar to the function of a convection oven. According to The Spruce Eats, a minimum temperature of 320 degrees will easily render your food (even the leftovers) browned and crispy. This is precisely the outcome we're seeking for our reheated fried chicken. 

So, how to do it? The Cookful says to preheat your air fryer to 350 degrees and take your chicken out of the fridge to let the chill come off. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in the fryer basket and cook it for a satisfyingly brief four minutes. At this point, your leftover fried chicken will emerge warm, crispy, and utterly irresistible.