Chicken is one of the most cost-efficient meal items out there and buying frozen makes it even more so. However, sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we end up with more than we know what to do with. Is it too late? It’s already been frozen once, but you certainly don’t want all that perfectly good meat to go to waste.
Good news! There are multiple ways for you to reheat frozen chicken, not only once but twice if necessary. Cooked frozen chicken can be reheated in the microwave, in a conventional oven, in an air fryer, or a toaster oven.
Depending on how your chicken was cooked in the first place, one of these options may be better than the other. Always cut the thickest part of the meat to make sure the chicken is heated all the way through!
Fresh Vs. Frozen Chicken
There are many myths about buying chicken already frozen from the store. Some say it is more processed or has less nutritional value than fresh chicken. This is simply not true! Commercially frozen chicken is often flash-frozen, also called blast chilled, to preserve as much of the freshness and texture as possible.
Freezing chicken is one of the most sustainable ways to prevent food waste. Let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty of throwing out a pound or two of chicken because we didn’t get to it before the recommended 3-4 days in the fridge.
By freezing raw chicken, you can “stop-time” so to speak for up to 9 months and pull some out for meals any time you wish. With cooked chicken, that time span is reduced to 2-6 months depending on the type of freezer you have, but it’s still significantly better than a couple of days.
Reheating Cooked Frozen Chicken
As previously stated, the best option for reheating your cooked chicken may vary depending on how it was cooked originally. Occasionally, your best bet may be to combine a couple of the methods. For instance, Fried chicken is best reheated using a microwave first and then baked in a conventional oven to maintain its moist inside and crispy outside.
When reheating grilled or shredded chicken pieces, it’s easy enough to throw them in the microwave. Meanwhile baked, roasted, or air-fried chicken is better reheated in the oven, toaster oven, or—you guessed it—air fryer. Keep in mind all of these will taste better if they are thoroughly thawed before reheating, but it is not required.
How to Reheat Frozen Fried Chicken
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 375° (be sure it is fully up to temperature before baking)
Step 2: Placing it on a paper towel to absorb moisture, warm your frozen fried chicken in the microwave to an internal temperature of 165°. Cooking time may vary based on how much you are warming at one time.
Step 3: Transfer your now warm frozen fried chicken onto a baking dish lined with foil.
Step 4: Cook the chicken at 375° for approximately 10 minutes. Again, the time may vary if you are reheating a large amount of chicken at once.
How to Reheat Frozen Baked Chicken
Step 1: If possible, cut the chicken into smaller pieces to minimize the cooking time.
Step 2: Place chicken in a single layer on a glass plate or baking dish. Never use plastic dishes when reheating in the microwave, as they may melt into your food!
Step 3: Cover your chicken. Microwave covers work best, but if you do not have one, you can use a damp towel in its place (DO NOT use plastic or tin foil). You may also add 1tsp of water or chicken broth to the dish, to keep the chicken moist.
Step 4: Depending on the amount of chicken you have; you may reheat anywhere from 2-7 minutes. Flip your chicken halfway through, to ensure even cooking. Test the temperature of the largest piece of chicken to determine if it is ready or not. If it is not hot enough, continue warming at intervals of 30 seconds until it reaches the desired temperature.
Step 5: Remove chicken from the microwave and allow it to rest for 2 minutes. Remember to use an oven mitt or a towel to remove the dish, as it will be very hot. If using a microwave cover, keep your face and fingers away from the initial gust of hot steam.
How to Reheat Frozen Roasted or Grilled Chicken
To reheat Frozen Roasted or Grilled chicken in the microwave, follow the same steps as you would for baked chicken. To reheat Frozen Roasted or Grilled chicken in a conventional oven, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°. Ensure the oven is up to temperature before putting in the chicken.
Step 2: Just like heating in a microwave, cut the chicken into smaller pieces if possible.
Step 3: Place the chicken in a single layer on a baking sheet. If reheating large pieces or a whole chicken, use a deeper baking dish.
Step 4: Depending on the amount of moisture you wish to maintain; you may cover the baking sheet with tinfoil. If reheating large pieces or a whole chicken, add a bit of water or chicken broth to the dish and cover it.
Step 5: Reheat the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165°, remove and allow to sit for 2-5 minutes. Doing so allows the juices to redistribute so as not to have dry, tough chicken.
How to Reheat Frozen Cooked Chicken in an Air Fryer
Using the air fryer method to reheat chicken works best with Fried, Breaded or other Crusted chicken options that taste fine on the dryer side. It’s quick and easy—about half the time it takes to reheat using the oven.
Step 1: Preheat your air fryer to 375° for 5 mins.
Step 2: Place your chicken in the basket in a single layer. If reheating baked or other chicken that should stay moist, spray a bit of water or oil on them.
Step 3: Cook for 5-6 minutes and then remove with tongs. If the chicken was frozen, this may take 8-9 minutes. It is recommended to bring the chicken before placing it in the air fryer to avoid soggy chicken.
Can You Reheat Frozen Chicken Twice?
Much like other leftovers, the more often you reheat frozen chicken the worse it will taste. However, by using the methods above and maintaining a good amount of moisture in your chicken, you are safe to reheat it at least twice. Unfortunately, the FSA does caution against doing it any more than that. Additionally, it should not be re-frozen if it has been reheated already.
How to Thaw Cooked Frozen Chicken
Ideally, the chicken should thaw out in the refrigerator over the course of the day, usually at least 6-8 hours. However, sometimes we just don’t have that kind of time to wait around. That’s okay! Chicken can be thawed and reheated with the above methods; it just may take a bit longer. A good rule of thumb is to add about 50% more cooking time. As a friendly reminder, here is what not to do:
- Do not leave your chicken out on the counter to thaw. You run the risk of breeding bacteria. No meat should be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours max, frozen, or not.
- Do not thaw your chicken in a slow cooker/ crockpot. While it may seem like a good idea, most slow cookers are exactly that—slow. The chicken will not reach the appropriate temperature fast enough and during that interim between frozen and cooked, you risk breeding bacteria.
- Do not place chicken in a bowl of hot water. Unless the water is boiling, it will cool quickly once frozen items are put in. Anything warmer than 40° is considered dangerous, and bacteria can multiply quickly. Better to be safe and just put it in the fridge!
In the United States, we waste approximately 108 billion pounds of food every year. By freezing and reheating food so that it does not go to waste, we are doing our part in making our world a better place! Less food waste means more money saved, and fewer methane emissions from landfills.
By using your method of choice for reheating your frozen chicken, you can enjoy a delicious meal at home knowing you’re well on your way to becoming a food hero. Don’t get bored using the same method every time, either. Mix it up, test them out, and find out which method of reheating frozen cooked chicken works best for you!