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How To Keep Fried Chicken Crispy

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Crispy fried food is arguably one of the best culinary inventions ever! There are tons of multi-million-dollar companies built around crispy fried chicken for a reason.

It’s juicy and succulent on the inside while being extraordinarily crispy and crunchy on the outside – to die for!

But here’s where reality hits and hits hard – soggy, mushy, and wet not-so-crispy-chicken. It’s the worst, and unfortunately, inevitable.

There’s good news, too, however. Be it homemade, store-bought, or frozen fried chicken, you can easily keep them crispy and even re-crisp leftover pieces!

But how do you keep fried chicken crispy? To keep pieces of fried chicken crispy after you’ve made them, keep them in an oven on a low heat until they’re needed. If you want to reheat leftover fried chicken, you simply reheat them in an oven at a high temperature. This allows the coating to crisp while the chicken warms.

In this jam-packed article, we will look at all the different ways you can keep fried chicken crispy, as well as how to make leftover chicken crispy again. We will go in-depth on when which method is used, and look at the pros and cons of each.

Crispy Chicken

As you might have noticed, we love crispy chicken. Making it requires perfectly balanced ratios of ingredients, the best possible application of the technique, and frying the chicken at precise temperatures for a very specific amount of time.

But after all that effort, your chicken will probably only stay crispy for an hour or so – if you’re lucky! Fortunately, over the years we have experimented a lot with fried chicken, and today we will be sharing our learned techniques with you.

But, before getting into technique, it is important to know what you are working with first and how it will affect the method you choose.

The first factor that you need to consider is the type of chicken you are trying to re-crisp. Fried chicken can either be home-made (so made from scratch), frozen fried chicken, or store-bought pre-made fried chicken (from a fast-food franchise).

Each of these has different characteristics and will therefore require different techniques to keep them crispy. Even within each category, every brand, franchise, and recipe have different elements that might affect the method you choose in some way.

If the one technique doesn’t work for a specific brand of frozen fried chicken you use, remember it and try a new method the next time.

The second factor to take into consideration is when you are trying to revive your fried chicken; it can either be that you want to keep the chicken crispy over a couple of hours before eating, or that you want to re-crisp leftover fried chicken.

Reheating leftover chicken and getting it crispy is a whole different story compared to keeping fried chicken crispy for an hour or two.

What Makes Fried Chicken Crispy? 

When looking at the method used to make fried chicken, it is always the same basic steps with slight variations in ratios and technique.

The chicken piece is first cleaned, then often washed to remove any impurities or strange flavors. This step isn’t necessary and many people skip it – it is merely a precaution.

Next, the chicken pieces are individually coated in seasoned flour, then an egg mixture, and lastly seasoned breadcrumbs. There are a wide variety of ingredients that can substitute these, but the method always stays the same.

Often each piece gets coated twice to provide a better coating and ultimately, a crispier piece.

Once the pieces have been coated, a lot of recipes require them to rest in the refrigerator to help firm the coating. This depends entirely on the recipe and specific ingredients.

Finally, the chicken gets fried in hot oil, usually between 320-360°F (160-180°C). There are two reasons food gets crispy once fried.

The first is the actual method used. Frying food in very hot oil removes the moisture from the food, creating a dried out, crispy product. This is what is happening when your food sizzles in the fryer – it is water escaping from the ingredient and reacting with the oil.

The second factor that causes food to become crispy is the ingredients used, in this case, the egg-mixture. Have you ever fried an egg and had the edges become a little crispy? This is exactly what happens here too.

It is the moisture in the egg that is removed during frying, and that is why the coating is crisp while the chicken is still soft and juicy.

Who would’ve thought fried chicken is so technical?!

Why Does It Lose Its Crispiness?

So, if frying food removes moisture to create a crispy crust, it is very obvious that adding moisture will make it lose that crispiness.

Sure, it’s not like you’re dousing your fried crispy chicken with water, but moisture is everywhere! At room temperature, crispy chicken absorbs moisture from the air and becomes soggy. 

A fridge uses a liquid cooling system to help cool food, so naturally, fried chicken absorbs moisture there too.

So, the best way to keep chicken crispy is by consistently keeping it away from moisture, but how do you do that?

How to Keep Freshly Fried Chicken Crispy

Let’s start with freshly made fried chicken at home. Homemade fried chicken is quite a lengthy and messy process, so more often than not, people prefer making it in advance, leaving time for clean-up and other chores before actually sitting down and enjoying their meal.

As soon as your fried chicken comes out of the fryer, it starts absorbing moisture from the chickens’ flesh and the surrounding air.

These methods work best for homemade chicken and even frozen chicken, but not really for pre-made chicken. Pre-made chicken has already sat out for a long time before you’ve even bought it, so once it was removed from their heaters or ovens, applying these methods won’t help it a lot.

Method 1: Keeping Fresh Fried Chicken Crispy for an Hour

This method is perfect if you’ve just finished cooking and want to keep your pieces crispy before serving – or if you want to make sure your second helpings will still be in good shape before you go back for more.

To keep your fresh fried chicken crispy for about an hour, follow these steps as you finish up your cooking process:

  1. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet or roasting tray.
  2. After you’ve finished frying a piece or batch of chicken, remove them from the fryer and place them on the wire rack. Make sure the pieces don’t touch.
  3. Continue this process until all your chicken has been fried.
  4. Keep the tray in a cool, dry place away from drafts or direct sunlight. Both will speed up the moisture-absorbing process. An oven or microwave that has not been used for cooking is perfect.

The reason the “paper towel method” doesn’t work, is because the chicken sits in the oil and becomes soggy again. This is a great method that drains the excessive oil from the chicken and keeps it away from liquids and thus keeps it crispy.

Pros:

  • This works incredibly well when you need to fry a large batch of chicken. When the first pieces come out, they will probably sit for a couple of minutes, even up to an hour. This method helps keep those pieces crispy while you continue to prep.
  • This method doesn’t require additional work or preparation. You simply fry and set the chicken aside on the tray.
  • This method also doesn’t require special equipment and won’t cost you money (like replacing paper towels does).

Cons:

  • You cannot use this method to keep fried chicken crispy for a long period of time. Anything over 45 minutes to 1 hour will result in your chicken cooling, absorbing moisture, and becoming soggy.

This method is ultimately best when you need something simple to keep your chicken crispy right before you eat or while you’re eating.

Method 2: Keeping Fried Chicken Crispy For a Couple Hours

What if you want a method to keep your fried chicken crispy for a while, such as during a party or big family gathering?

The first method is useful for a normal night, but sometimes you want something you don’t have to worry about for a couple of hours.

To keep your fresh fried chicken crispy for a couple of hours, follow these steps:

  1. Set your oven to 200°F (100°C).
  2. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet or roasting tray.
  3. After you’ve finished frying a piece or batch of chicken, remove it from the fryer and place them on the wire rack. Make sure the pieces don’t touch. Continue this process until all your chicken has been fried.
  4. Once you are done frying, place the baking sheet and wire rack inside the oven on low heat. You can keep your chicken inside for at least 2 hours before it starts drying out the chicken flesh.
  5. If you feel that your oven is too hot, you can lower the temperature, but not too much as the moisture still needs to be constantly evaporated.

Pros:

  • This method works great as it still uses method 1 to prevent the chicken from being soggy, where the chicken drains over a wire rack, not on paper towels.
  • The use of an oven on a low temperature helps remove any moisture from the chicken and is a very easy, work-free method.
  • The chicken can be held in the oven, uber-crispy, for a couple of hours while you wait for guests to arrive or need to run some errands.

Cons:

  • This method does require the oven to be on the whole time, which uses a lot of electricity, a.k.a. money.
  • Does not work for leftover chicken.

Method 3: Revive Store-Bought Fried Chicken (Same Day)

When the pre-made fried chicken leaves the oven at the store, it immediately starts absorbing moisture and becoming soggy.

By the time you reach your house, it won’t be nearly as crispy. This is the best method to revive store-bought fried chicken on the same day:

  1. Preheat your oven to 360°F (180°C).
  2. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet or roasting tray.
  3. Lay the chicken pieces in a single layer on the rack, and place them into the oven.
  4. Bake on high heat for about 5-8 minutes, or until the coating has become crispy again.
  5. If you want to keep the chicken crispy for a couple of hours afterward, lower the heat to 200°F (100°C) and leave the chicken until you are ready to use it. Alternatively, only reheat the chicken once you need it.

Pros:

  • A very quick and easy method to reheat store-bought fried chicken.
  • Reheats the chicken while making it crispier.

Cons:

  • After a certain amount of time, there is nothing you can do to re-crisp store-bought fried chicken, simply because it has been kept for too long and heats and cools too many times.
  • You can also fry it in a deep-fryer again, but this still might not help certain cases.

How to Keep Leftover Fried Chicken Crispy

Leftover chicken is any chicken piece that has been placed in the refrigerator to cool completely and then reheated.

This is much more difficult to get crispy again, as the coating has absorbed a lot of moisture during this time and has become soggy.

For us, the following methods work fantastic with homemade leftover chicken, but not so much with frozen or store-bought pieces. Just make sure you stored it properly first!

Method 4: In an Oven

Here is how to revive your homemade leftovers, the best way:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. While the oven is preheating, remove the chicken from the fridge. Allow it to stand at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet or roasting tray.
  4. Lay the chicken pieces in a single layer on the rack, and place them into the oven.
  5. Bake on the high heat for about 12-20 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through and the coating is crispy again.

Pros:

  • This is an extremely effective method and because of the wire rack, dry air can circulate the piece completely, resulting in an evenly crisp product.
  • This is a very easy method that mostly requires time. You don’t actually have to do a lot of work. You can place it in the oven and leave it until it’s ready.

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of additional steps and you need some time to reheat the chicken.
  • Note: Chicken cannot be revived again after this method is used. Chicken should never be reheated twice.

Method 5: In a Fryer

If you have a fryer, this is a great way to heat up – and crisp up – your leftover fried chicken:

  1. Preheat your oil to 360°F (180°C).
  2. While the oil is heating, remove the chicken from the fridge, and allow it to stand at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Once your chicken has rested and the oil is hot, add the chicken to the fryer (in appropriately sized batches – preferably small) and fry for about 5-10 minutes, or until the chicken has become crisp again and has been fully heated.

Pros:

  • This is a convenient method because you probably still have the oil you initially fried the chicken in. Oil can be reused in the fryer or pot, making fewer dishes and less clean-up required.
  • This is a much quicker method compared to heating your chicken in the oven.

Cons:

  • This method does require more attention as the oils’ temperature has to be controlled to prevent the chicken from completely burning before being heated.
  • Chicken will become darker as it fries in the oil. This isn’t a massive problem, but some people don’t like too dark chicken.

Method 6: In an Air Fryer

If you have an air fryer, this is a fantastic way to heat up fried chicken. Refrying it in the air fryer will ensure it is nice and crispy again.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C).
  2. While it is preheating, remove the chicken from the fridge, and allow it to stand at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Place the chicken on a rack in a single layer, and place them into the air fryer. Cook for about 12-15 minutes, or until it has been fully heated and the coating is crispy.

This creates beautifully crispy chicken pieces and will work for any type of leftover chicken – whether it’s homemade, frozen, or store-bought (although the frying times might vary slightly).

Pros:

  • Air fryers have excellent dry air circulation and combine the best characteristics from the oven and fryer methods.
  • It’s a very easy and hassle-free method to use.
  • This method works for just about any fried chicken.

Cons:

  • Requires specialized equipment.

Up Next: Chicken Wing Dipping Sauce

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