I hate to say it, but... I’m not a big fan of cold fried chicken. The only times I like it are when I need an absentminded snack, or when I can repurpose the meat for a salad or wrap. I don’t care for the flabby damp skin or the mushy breading, plus that waxy film in my mouth afterwards, blech. But at the same time, I hate firing up the entire oven just to reheat a couple of pieces when it only seems to do a mediocre job of waking the chicken back up. Enter: the air fryer.
You know we love our air fryers here at The Takeout. I remember when everyone thought they were going to be a fad (I did too), but when I realized what a powerful tool an air fryer could be, I succumbed to its practicality. Plus, honestly, they’re so much fun. They kind of feel like toys, toys that put out some good frickin’ food when you wield them correctly.
Air fryers work some serious magic on cold fried chicken, because they use a powerful fan to circulate consistently hot air over your leftovers. This leads to an evenly cooked, or in this case, recooked piece of fried chicken. Calling it “reheated” doesn’t sound so appealing, but honestly, you’ll be able to get your fried chicken to about 90% as crisp as it was when you first got it—maybe even crisper if you happened to get an old piece of fried chicken to begin with.
How to reheat cold fried chicken using your air fryer
First, preheat your air fryer. If your air fryer doesn’t have a preheat function, just run it for five minutes at its maximum temp. Despite the fact that an air fryer heats up quickly, you do still need to preheat it before you use it, just like a conventional oven.
Then set your air fryer to 370 degrees F, and pop your chicken in, ensuring that none of it is touching, and in one layer only. Set your timer for a whopping six minutes, flipping your chicken halfway through.
By the time you flip the chicken, you’ll notice that the oil in the breading will be bubbling and sizzling, which is how the air fryer is essentially re-frying the chicken. It’s heating up in its own grease. If, perchance, your chicken is starting to go from its starting color to a darker one, just lower the temp a notch by 10 degrees and cook for that remaining time, then cook any further batches at the lower temp. All air fryers do vary a little, so you may have to adjust the settings, but not by much.
The result will be a crisp and hot piece of chicken all the way through, almost like new. There will be some slight differences; the oil that rises to the surface of the crust will make the chicken’s exterior a little greasy. Feel free to blot it off, but it won’t make a ton of difference—it is fried chicken, after all. Time to go to town, but just be warned, it’s piping hot, just like it should be.