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Food Hygiene & Safety

Can You Reheat Chicken? Storage, Defrosting and Reheating Techniques


Lead Academy

12 Mins Read

Can you reheat chicken? Yes, you definitely can. It is crucial to heat chicken when reheating it thoroughly. As many of us love to indulge ourself in hot, crispy wings of KFC or grilled BBQ prepared at most gatherings. Chicken is high in protein that makes most of the popular dishes for any occasion; whether it’s a simple weekend dinner, brunch, or a wedding event. It is also frequently cooked at home for supper or lunch.

Learn how can you warm chicken up, what are the procedures of reheating chicken and many other tips and tricks to reheat chicken from this blog.

What is Reheating Chicken?

While “Reheating” means heating again, “reheating chicken” means heating or warming up the previously cooked chicken following the correct procedure at the correct temperature. It is safe to reheat chicken only once and also recommended to consume reheated chicken in one sitting.

Close-up of grilled chicken leg on the flaming grill.

All about Chicken

Chicken is a healthy source of food being more healthful than red meat, with lower concentrations of cholesterol and saturated fat. Due to the availability and low cost, chicken has become a staple of fast food since the latter half of the 20th century.

A chicken can either be eaten as a whole bird or can be divided into four different cuts: the drumstick, thigh, wing and breast. With all the different pieces which include smaller pieces, you can prepare chicken in a wide range of ways; you can bake, grill, fry or barbecue your chicken. Some of the most common chicken dishes are-

  • Crispy parmesan chicken
  • Butter chicken

  • Chinese chicken curry
  • Teriyaki chicken
  • Honey roast chicken
  • Peri peri chicken

  • Korean fried chicken
  • Chicken tandoori

Find out more recipes of chicken from BBC Recipes and BBC good food.

How to Store Chicken?

Chicken, whether raw or cooked, can be stored in the fridge or freezer. To store raw chicken in the fridge, keep its original packaging or put the chicken in an air-tight container. Make sure that the packaging is well-sealed and away from the contact of other cooked foods and meats. In this way, you can store the raw chicken for up to 5 days.

To store the cooked leftover chicken in the freezer, put the chicken in a ziploc or an airtight container for storing in the freezer for up to 6 months. You should allow the chicken to cool after cooking and then, within two hours, wrap it well to place it on the top shelf of your fridge. Do not mix your cooked chicken with raw meat and use it up within two days.

How to Defrost Chicken?

Arrangement of frozen chicken pieces on the table.

You need to defrost your frozen chicken before you cook it. The following are the defrosting methods:

Defrosting in the Refrigerator

To defrost frozen chicken in the refrigerator, allow at least 24 hours for the meat to defrost thoroughly. You can keep the chicken for a day or two after defrosting. This is the safest period but do not keep the chicken in the fridge for more than two days.

Defrosting in the Microwave

Microwaving chicken is the quickest way to defrost. Put your chicken on a microwave-safe plate in the microwave and press the ‘defrost’ setting until it is completely defrosted. You should then immediately cook the defrosted chicken since microwave-defrosted chicken can cause bacteria to proliferate at room temperature.

However, defrosting chicken in the microwave might cause it to lose its texture. Some parts of the chicken may even begin to cook.

Defrosting in Running Cold Water

Defrosting chicken in cold water requires sealing the chicken in a plastic bag and soaking it in cold tap water for 30 minutes. If it floats to the top, weigh it down with a plate or dish. Make sure that the water is below 40°F to ensure food safety.

You need to change the water after every half an hour. You can also keep a gentle stream of water running from your tap, but it will waste a lot of water in this process. A pound of frozen meat may take an hour or less to defrost, whereas it may take two to three hours for two to three pounds. You should cook the chicken before refreezing once it has been defrosted.

Defrosting with Hot Water

To defrost in hot water, place a small kettle of water on the stovetop and check the temperature to get the water bath to exactly 140°F. Transfer it to a large mixing bowl and add the packaged frozen chicken after it reaches 140°F.

The water temperature will drop to about 115-130°F immediately if you leave it alone. After 10-15 minutes, the chicken breast will be completely defrosted with a slight colour change. The skin will turn a faint shade of white, but it will be barely apparent.

This is comparatively a risky method of defrosting as it may lead to the growth of bacteria. But, the water remains hot, so the meat defrosts quickly enough to limit bacteria development to a minimum.

You can also check out our other blog, “Can You Reheat Salmon? The Science of Reheating Salmon.

Can you Reheat Chicken?

You can definitely reheat your leftover chicken. Remember that the quality of reheating also depends on how you have cooked and stored the chicken. If your chicken gets dry due to storage, moisten it up by sprinkling some water. Covering your dish would help to retain moisture as much as possible. You should reheat the chicken thoroughly and serve when piping hot. For reheating chicken safely, you should-

  • Arrange the chicken in a single layer in the baking tray or skillet without overlapping
  • Reheat chicken thoroughly to a minimum temperature of 75°C or 165°F
  • Avoid heating more than once
  • Cover the cooked meat after serving
  • Never leave the raw chicken at room temperature for long
  • Store the cooked chicken in the fridge within an hour of serving

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The Science and Safety of Reheating Chicken

While following the wrong process to reheat chicken can lead to food poisoning, knowing the correct process can help avoid so.

It is technically ok to reheat chicken, but you need to check that every single part of your chicken reaches a temperature of at least 175°F to ensure dangerous bacteria are killed. You can do this by using a food thermometer. Furthermore, you should keep cooked chicken below 42°F if you plan to reheat it and you should toss away any cooked chicken that has been around for more than three days.

Besides, you can check out our other blog, “Can you reheat risotto? Safety and the science of reheating risotto.”

A thermometer indicating the safe temperature for cooking and storing chicken.

Different Ways to Reheat Chicken

Reheating chicken is comparatively an easy method. You can reheat chicken in simple steps in the oven, air fryer, microwave, or stovetop, whether make-ahead or leftover. Find out how you can reheat chicken by following the ways mentioned below-

Reheating Chicken in the Oven

The oven serves as the best option when it comes to warming up chicken that’s still on the bone. Here is how you can reheat chicken-

Preheat the oven

Close-up of hand rotating button of microwave oven for cooking food in kitchen.

Take out the chicken from the fridge to let it rest at room temperature. In the meantime, preheat the oven to a temperature of 350°F.

Add moisture

Close-up of housewife checking roast chicken in the oven.

Transfer the chicken to a baking dish once the oven has finished preheating. To create a very shallow layer of liquid in the pan, consider adding several tablespoons of chicken stock or water. Cover the baking dish with a double layer of foil afterwards. The steam created by the water will ensure that the chicken’s flash stays moist.


Close-up of young woman putting marinated chicken in baking bag in oven.

Put the chicken in the oven and reheat until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. When reheating is done, remove the chicken from the oven and serve it.

Can You Reheat Chicken in the Microwave

Reheating in the microwave might be the best way to reheat the chicken, but it is certainly not the best method for reheating. Heating in a microwave can make the chicken rubbery and hard to chew. Still, if you are in a hurry and microwaving your leftover chicken is the only option, follow the steps below for better results-

Prep the chicken

Spread the chicken on a microwave-proof plate keeping the small pieces of meat at the centre and the larger pieces near the edge of the plate.

Add some moisture

To keep the chicken moist and improve its flavour, sprinkle a few teaspoons of water over the top of the chicken and then add a drizzle of olive oil.

Cover and reheat

Cover the plate of the chicken with a microwave-safe plastic wrap and microwave for two minutes. Check whether the chicken is ready after two minutes. If not, flip the meat before covering the plate and continue to microwave in 30-second intervals. When the chicken is heated to 165°F, you’re done with the reheating.

Reheating Chicken on the Stove

The stove is an effective medium to reheat your boneless chicken. However, you shouldn’t just toss a boneless chicken breast in a frying pan since the direct heat can dry out the poultry real fast. Follow the steps mentioned below to reheat chicken on the stove and enjoy a tender treat-

Prep the Chicken

Close-up of raw chicken breasts on wooden cutting board.

To get your chicken ready for stove reheating, you need to plan what you’re going to do with it and give a cut to your chicken accordingly. For example, for bone-in thighs, take the chicken flesh off the bone and check the meat to remove any cartilage. If you are working with a boneless breast, slice it into one-inch-thick pieces for reheating the meat quickly.

Heat the leftovers

Close-up of chicken legs in saucepan on the gas stove.


Take a skillet and add enough water to cover the bottom. Set the stove to medium heat and add the chicken as soon as the water starts to simmer in the pan. Then lower the heat and gently stir the chicken to cook it until the meat warms to 165°F. Once the chicken is nice and hot, take the pan off the stove.

Reheating Chicken in an Air Fryer

You can reheat your crispy piece of chicken using an air fryer and still get that crunchy texture. Here is how you can do it-

Preheat the air fryer

To start reheating chicken in an air fryer, preheat the air fryer at 375°F for about 5 minutes.

Prep the chicken

Place the leftover chicken into the air fryer tray in a single layer.

Close-up of air fryer homemade crispy chicken drumstick.

Heat the leftovers

Heat your leftover chicken in the air fryer for about 4 minutes, shaking the tray halfway through. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, indulge yourself in the crispiness of the reheated chicken.
Check out the following videos to have an in-depth understanding of how you are supposed to reheat the chicken.

What happens if Chicken is Reheated more than Twice?

It is best to eat any sort of food right after it’s cooked. In terms of food safety, you can reheat food safely multiple times as long as you reheat the food at the correct temperature and for the correct duration of time. However, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA, food should be reheated only once, so this guidance should be followed wherever possible.

If you reheat chicken more than twice, you often have to compromise the quality. Chicken is high in protein and reheating causes a change in the composition of protein. This protein-rich food when reheated more than twice gets denatured or broken down giving you digestive troubles.


While cooking chicken can be fun, reheating it in the wrong way can ruin the taste of your favourite dish. Hence, follow the steps of reheating mentioned in the blog to enjoy your chicken even after a day!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many times can I reheat chicken?

You shouldn’t be reheating chicken more than once. Reheat the leftover chicken to at least 70oC for a minimum of two minutes. When you reheat chicken, you should properly heat it the whole way through.

Is it ok to reheat cooked chicken?

Yes, it is completely fine to reheat cooked chicken. When you are reheating chicken, you need to be careful that you shouldn’t undercook or overcook it. If you overcook it, the chicken might dry out and become inedible. Also, you should be aware of how long the chicken has been in the fridge. If you have kept the chicken for more than three days, you should toss it out.

How long should you reheat chicken for?

How long you can reheat the leftover chicken would depend on the method of reheating. The fastest way to reheat chicken is using the microwave, followed by the air fryer, stovetop and then oven. Typically, it takes 1- 3 minutes to reheat chicken in the microwave, 4 -5 minutes in the air fryer and 5-10 minutes to reheat in the oven.

Is it safe to reheat chicken in the microwave?

It is safe to reheat chicken in the microwave but not more than once. If you reheat your chicken repeatedly, it will become prone to the growth of bacteria that can lead to food borne illnesses. While reheating in the microwave, keep monitoring the time and temperature as overcooking can dry out the chicken and make it chewy.

Can you reheat cooked defrosted chicken?

Cooked defrosted chicken can be reheated and eaten; however, it should not be reheated multiple times to become the reason for food poisoning. Cooked chicken that has been removed from the freezer should be reheated and eaten within 24 hours of fully defrosting.

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