When your chicken is ready to eat, but you are not, how do you keep your cooked chicken warm until then? The worst thing you can do is to keep cooking it until you are ready to eat because that will result in dry and tough food that no one will enjoy.
So how do you keep cooked chicken warm whilst keeping it succulent and moist with crispy skin?
For the very best results never cook it for longer than it needs and then keep it warm up until the point you can eat it. The worst thing you can do is extend the cooking time.
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How to keep chicken warm without overcooking it
Don’t cook your chicken for too long
The primary issue with overcooked chicken is dryness and toughness which can happen when you cook a chicken for too long.
That problem can be easily be solved with a meat thermometer.
The cooking directions you find on meat packaging often advise a much longer cooking time than actually required. I can only assume it is because shops don’t want to get sued if you get food poisoning.
One Christmas I cooked my turkey for the exact time advised on the instructions, which was about four hours. The turkey was dry, tough and hardly edible. What a waste of food!
The next year I got wise and bought myself a meat thermometer. The turkey reached its cooked temperature ( 75C/ 167F) in just two hours. After that I let it sit on the countertop covered up for at least an hour to keep it warm while I cooked everything else. The turkey was deliciously tender and moist, and no one got sick as a result of eating undercooked food!
For chicken or turkey, you need your meat thermometer to reach 75C/ 167F at the thickest point which for whole birds is between the breast and thigh. When the meat reaches the cooked temperature, you can remove it from the oven or grill and keep it warm.
How to safely keep chicken warm after cooking
Once your chicken has reached its cooking temperature. Take it out of the oven and keep it warm by wrapping it in foil. If it’s a whole chicken you can use tea towels for extra insulation.
If you don’t need your oven for anything else, you can use your oven to keep your chicken warm.
Let the temperature drop to about 65c/150f and then put your chicken back in the oven wrapped loosely with aluminium foil.
How long can you keep a cooked chicken warm safely?
Cooked chicken can be kept warm for up to four hours. Be careful of the ‘danger’ zone in which bacteria are more likely to grow. That is 40F-150F or 4C-65C. Food should not be kept in this danger zone for longer than four hours.
If you think you won’t be eating your food within that time, either keep it above 150F/65C or put it in the fridge and reheat it later.
How to keep chicken warm in a crockpot or slow cooker
Even the cheapest slow cookers usually have a keep warm setting. I have an entry-level crockpot with a manual dial which has a keep warm setting. Some more expensive slow-cookers will automatically switch to keep warm at the end of the cooking time.
Chicken dishes can be safely kept warm in a slow-cooker for up to four hours, as long as you cooked them in there in the first place. It shouldn’t be used to keep oven-cooked food warm.
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How to keep chicken wings warm and crispy
If your fryer isn’t big enough to cook everything at once, your best bet is to fry in batches and keep warm as you go.
- Preheat your oven to warm at about 175f or 80c.
- Fry your chicken wings according to the recipe and then drain the excess oil.
- Put your chicken wings on a wire rack inside the oven.
Your chicken wings should stay nice and crispy until you are ready to enjoy them.
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How to keep roast chicken warm in the oven without drying it out
Roasted chicken will not dry out in the oven as long as you keep the chicken covered and don’t overcook it.
Use a dutch oven with a lid or put aluminium foil over the top of the chicken to keep the moisture from escaping.
Whether you cover it or not will depend on your particular oven.
I have noticed that when I turn the fan off on my oven the whole oven cavity becomes steamy which is a great environment for keeping things moist. If your oven has an option to cook without a fan try that or turn off the heat. You will need to experiment with your particular oven.
Usually, on a Sunday, I have something else to cook after the roast chicken is done. So I take it out and put it on a steel serving plater and then wrap it in aluminium foil followed by a couple of layers of tea towels.
I find that a chicken can keep warm this way for at least an hour. A turkey can keep warm for at least two hours.
How do you keep chicken warm after grilling?
If you are having a barbeque and you expect people to arrive at different times, or you have too many guests to feed at once then you will want to cook your chicken ahead and keep it warm.
If you are cooking on the barbeque you should let the flames settle first otherwise your chicken will be burned on the outside and raw inside.
Cooking ahead is a good idea because you can make sure that the chicken is cooked through well before you want to eat it and everyone can eat together.
- Immediately wrap each chicken breast in aluminium foil when it is cooked and put it in a warm (150f or 65c) oven. This way you can take as long as you need to cook everything.
- Ten minutes before you want to eat the chicken turn the temperature up to 250f or 120c.
How to keep a rotisserie chicken warm
If you are going to be eating your rotisserie chicken in the next few hours what you won’t want to do is put it in the fridge if you can avoid it. If you do that the meat will dry out and toughen once you reheat it.
You can keep the chicken warm on the countertop for a little while. Keep it in its packaging if it arrived in a foil bag and pile some tea towels over the top and underneath.
If you have one put it in an insulated cool bag because you can keep food hot in there too.
If your chicken isn’t warm enough when you come to eat it you will need to reheat it in the oven.
How to reheat a rotisserie chicken in the oven
If it is going to be a little longer before you get to eat your rotisserie chicken, you will need to reheat it in the oven.
Here is a method that will get a nice crispy skin but keep the insides moist and succulent.
- Preheat your oven to 350F or 180C
- Put your chicken in an oven-safe dish and pour in a cup of chicken stock. If you have a rack to put the chicken on, this will work better.
- Roast for 25 minutes, remove the foil and roast for another 5-10 minutes until the skin is nice and crispy.
How to keep food warm when transporting it
The key to this is heavily wrapping your chicken. You can do this with a layer of aluminium foil followed by several cotton towels.
If you have an insulated picnic basket you can keep your chicken warm for longer.
How to reheat chicken safely
You can safely reheat a cooked chicken as long as you only do it once and then eat immediately.
- Pre-heat your oven to 350F or 180C.
- Cook the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 167F or 75C.