How To Store Fried Chicken Leftovers (So It Stays Crispy)

Fried chicken has always been a staple at my house, and one problem that always plagued me was how to store the fried chicken leftovers so that it stays crispy. Finally, after some trial and error, I figured out how to do it right.

The best way to store fried chicken leftovers is to keep them in an airtight container in a single layer to avoid damaging that crispy outer layer. Or, store the chicken wrapped individually in foil and then place it in a zip-lock bag or storage container.

Crispy fried chicken in wicker basket on a table

How Do You Store Cooked Fried Chicken?

The two best methods for storing cooked fried chicken are these two:

  1. The best way to store cooked fried chicken is to put it into an airtight container, like this one found on Amazon, in a single layer and place it in the refrigerator. This method works well no matter where the chicken was prepared, whether it is homemade, purchased from a fast-food chicken store, or brought home from a restaurant.
  1. Individually wrap the chicken in foil, and then place the individual pieces in a large container, similar to this one Or, just use a ziplock bag.

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Just keep in mind that the crispy coating on the fried chicken is more likely to be damaged with method number two.

So it is better for use with types of cooked chicken that don’t necessarily have a coating that needs to be preserved, like boiled, baked, grilled, or barbecued chicken.

How Long With Fried Chicken Last?

According to the USDA, cooked chicken, no matter how it is prepared, will stay good in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. It can also be wrapped by using either of these two methods and frozen for up to 4 months.

The USDA has a lot more to say on the subject, but their assessment is that any cooked chicken can safely be eaten hot or cold within 3 to 4 days when refrigerated or within 4 months if frozen.

Also, I would like to add here that it would probably not be a good idea to keep the chicken in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days and then decide to freeze it because at the end of the 4th day in the refrigerator after it is cooked, the chicken will have begun to lose some of its flavor and texture.

So, when dealing with the leftovers, if you don’t think you will use the chicken within 3 to 4 days, go ahead and freeze it right away for maximum flavor.

Pro Tip: Be sure to label the chicken with the date, especially when being frozen, so that it can be used within those safe limits of 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or 4 months if frozen.

Fried chicken pizza and lasagna uncovered in a refrigerator
This how to NOT store leftovers

How Do You Reheat Fried Chicken And Keep It Crispy?

There are two methods of reheating fried chicken that keeps it crispy.

Method 1- Use a Skillet

This is my preferred method, especially for reheating fried chicken strips, and it makes the chicken taste and crunch almost like freshly cooked.

  1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add in the cold chicken.
  2. Cover the skillet with a lid and heat it on each side for 2 to 3 minutes.

Note: This method will take longer if the chicken is bone-in or if the pieces are larger.

Method 2- Use the Oven

This method also works well, and some may prefer the simplicity.

  1. Place the chicken on a baking sheet in a single layer loosely tented with foil.
  2. Put it into a preheated 400℉ oven for 15 to 20 minutes, and turn it over after the first 10 minutes.

For larger pieces of chicken, like breasts and thighs, it will be better to cut them into pieces that are about the same size so they will take about the same time to heat all the pieces throughout. This process should heat the chicken and maintain the crispy outer coating.

How Do You Reheat Fried Chicken And Keep It Moist?

Here is a third method of heating fried chicken, and is really good if you like moister chicken.

I didn’t include it in my prior list because the fried chicken will no longer be crisp.

  1. Simply place the fried chicken on a plate or other microwave-safe dish.
  2. Heat in the microwave on high for a short time, depending on how much chicken you are heating and how big the pieces are.

Try this: It would be better to cut the chicken into smaller, more uniform pieces so that they will all heat at the same time.

The two methods I mentioned earlier for heating fried chicken, in an oven or in a skillet on the stovetop, will also result in moist chicken because the lid on the skillet and the tent of foil used for heating chicken in the oven will help to hold in the natural juices to keep the chicken moist.

How Do You Keep Leftover Fried Chicken Crispy?

The best method I have found for keeping leftover fried chicken crispy is to follow these 6 easy steps:

  1. To absorb any extra grease, place a layer of paper towels in a container large enough to accommodate a single layer of the leftover fried chicken.
  2. Put the cooled leftover fried chicken in a single layer on the paper towels.
  3. Store the chicken in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or store the chicken in the freezer for up to 4 months.
  4. To heat the refrigerated chicken, remove the container about 30 minutes before heating it to come to room temperature. To heat frozen chicken, thaw the chicken overnight.
  5. Preheat a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Use a skillet large enough to accommodate the chicken in a single layer without crowding. Or, heat the chicken in batches.
  6. Place the chicken into the skillet, cover with a lid, and heat for about 3-5 minutes on each side.

Note: This will take longer if the pieces are large. I use this method for rather large chicken strips, and it takes 3-5 minutes on each side.

Closeup of crispy fried chicken in a basket on a paper towel
Paper towels are the key

How Long Can You Keep Leftover Fried Chicken In The Fridge?

Leftover fried chicken or chicken cooked in any way will stay good in the refrigerator if packaged properly for 3 to 4 days.

If the chicken being stored is fried, it is better to store it in an airtight container in a single layer.

Place a layer of paper towel in the bottom of the storage container and spread the chicken in a single layer on top of the paper towel without crowding the chicken pieces. Add the lid securely, and place the container in the refrigerator.

The leftover fried chicken can also be wrapped individually in foil and placed in an airtight container or ziplock bag. But, with this method, the coating on the fried chicken is more likely to become damaged and will be less likely to result in crispy reheated leftover fried chicken.

If the chicken you are storing is cooked in any other way, such as baked, boiled, grilled, or barbecued, it can be stored in layers in an airtight container or simply be placed in a ziplock bag.

Pro Tip: Any cooked chicken can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, if packaged properly.

By the way, if you haven’t tried cold leftover fried chicken, even though it doesn’t sound that appetizing, you will find that it is amazingly good eaten cold and is an experience you should really try.

Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken On The Bone?

You can freeze cooked chicken on the bone. It will make no difference in the quality of the chicken once it is thawed and reheated.

But, here are a couple of reasons you may want to remove the chicken from the bone before freezing:

  1. If you are short on freezer space, you may want to remove the chicken from the bone and wrap it in a smaller package than you could do if freezing the chicken on the bone.
  1. If the quantity of the chicken is more than you can use at one time, then the best thing to do is to remove the meat from the bones before freezing and packaging it in amounts that you can use for each recipe or meal.

What Is The Best Way To Thaw Frozen Cooked Chicken?

The best and safest way to thaw frozen cooked chicken is to move the container of frozen chicken from the freezer directly to the refrigerator and allow it plenty of time, usually up to 2 days, to defrost.

Leave it in the same container or wrappings until fully thawed.

Frozen cooked chicken can be thawed in the microwave, but with care. 

  1. Remove the chicken from the container in which it was frozen, and remove all wrappings. 
  2. Then place the chicken in a microwave-safe container.
  3. Thaw by using the microwave’s defrost setting in 2-minute increments.
  4. Check after every 2 minutes of defrosting to see if the chicken is fully defrosted.

Here are a couple of no-nos when defrosting frozen cooked chicken.

  • Never thaw cooked chicken at room temperature.
  • Do not refreeze previously frozen cooked chicken.

How Long Can Leftover Fried Chicken Be Kept At Room Temperature?

According to the USDA, leftover chicken cooked by any method should not be left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, and it should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of being cooked.

This is true of most leftovers. They should all be refrigerated as soon as possible after the meal is finished to preserve the quality of the leftover foods.

By the way, if you want to see how I make Southern fried chicken, check this out:

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss The Best Oil for Frying Fish | Advice From a 50-Year Cook.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

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