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Ah, the KFC chicken. Who doesn’t love KFC chicken? Well, aside from vegans and people who don’t like chicken meat. But everyone who loves chicken loves what KFC has to offer. And since it’s both 1) too good; and 2) too expensive, to simply throw out even if you feel like you wouldn’t be able to take another bite in the next 100 years, you might be wondering if you could freeze leftovers for future use.
The answer is yes, you can freeze the KFC chicken. While meat is a product vulnerable to bacteria, and you will need to take certain precautions while freezing, thawing, and reheating it, that doesn’t change the fact that you can keep the KFC chicken in your freezer for over a month and enjoy it whenever you want.
Not that I believe anyone could keep KFC chicken drumsticks or wings in a freezer for over a month unless they suddenly lose access to their freezer, but theoretically it is very possible.
How to Prepare KFC Chicken for Freezing
The major rule for getting KFC chicken freezer-ready is the same as with all other cooked products – make sure whatever you’re putting in the freezer is completely cool.
You have little to worry about aside from that, but you can go one step further if you want to increase the chicken’s chances of maintaining the full flavor profile:
- Wait for the chicken to fully cool;
- Place the chicken on a freezer and/or fridge-friendly tray covered by parchment paper; the chicken should stay uncovered;
- Place the tray in a fridge or the freezer for the chicken temperature to drop as low as it can get without being frozen – it should take a couple of hours in a fridge, but significantly less in a freezer. In any case, it’s different with every fridge, so do check upon the chicken a couple of times;
- When the chicken is cold and hardened, transfer it to an airtight container of your choice and forget about it with a clear conscience, until it’s time for the chicken to be reheated and enjoyed again.
The chicken can be allowed to cool at room temperature when the temperature is lower – after which you can just put it in the container and put it away until further notice.
But leaving the chicken out in the warmth makes it highly susceptible to contamination, as bacteria love warmth (to a point – more on that later). So I’d say it’s better to jump through a few extra hoops and ensure your chicken stays healthy, rather than try to cut corners and save time – and end up with bad chicken.
How to Freeze the KFC Chicken
As mentioned above, getting the chicken ready for the freezer is easy – if a little time-consuming.
Freezing it, fortunately, is much easier. All you need is a good air-tight container – either rigid container (glass or plastic Tupperware) or flexible (bags and wrapping), will do.
Your best bet is probably a plastic sealable bag since it can change shape and easily accommodate multiple chicken pieces. Since silicone can be a little rigid, you may find it hard to put many chicken pieces inside – but it could work just as well.
When it comes to rigid containers, glass is a better option than plastic since it doesn’t absorb smells, or bacteria, for that matter. But do make sure that there’s a good amount of space between the chicken and the lid left, since, without that additional air, a glass container may shutter in the freezer.
If using a plastic container, make sure it’s marked with either #4 or #5 (as that’s the “safe plastic” to use with food).
How Long Can You Keep the Kfc Chicken in the Freezer?
This is probably the hardest question when it comes to freezing KFC chicken. There seems to be no consensus around the subject at all.
The recommendations vary wildly, with some advising not keeping the cooked chicken of any kind (not only KFC) in the freezer for more than a few weeks, while others assuring that you can keep the KFC chicken in your freezer for up to 3 months and it will be completely fine for consumption in the end.
I, personally, wouldn’t recommend keeping any kind of cooked meat in the freezer for over a month and a half, with 2 months pushing it – and KFC chicken is no exception.
Does It Affect the Flavor?
Unfortunately, yes – freezing does affect the KFC chicken taste.
This doesn’t mean the chicken won’t be tasty – it just won’t be as tasty as it is freshly cooked. The spices seem to dull and the meat itself tastes blander when you reheat the frozen KFC chicken. This is usually the case with any cooked meat – but since the KFC chicken flavor is especially dependent upon its signature spice mix, being frozen and then reheated can have a more noticeable influence on its flavor profile.
You can significantly improve the flavor by adding some extra spices while reheating the chicken. Especially if you Google some copycat KFC spice mix.
How to Defrost the KFC Chicken
The only way to defrost the KFC chicken is to allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight.
You shouldn’t, under any circumstances, defrost KFC chicken – or any cooked meat for that matter – at room temperature, especially in warm weather.
This is due to the meat’s sensitivity to the bacteria we mentioned above. If your meat gets contaminated, the only way to make it completely safe for consumption is to reheat it until the internal temperature reaches 165°F, at least – since that’s the temperature point at which bacteria start to die.
Warmth, on the other hand, allows them to thrive.
While cold doesn’t kill bacteria, it does slow down their growth – so defrosting the chicken in the fridge ensures that it doesn’t get contaminated, or, if the meat is already contaminated, the bacteria won’t grow further.
Take the chicken out of the fridge right before reheating – not earlier.
Other Ways of Storing the KFC Chicken
You can keep the chicken in the fridge if you intend to be done with it in the next 2-3 days. Otherwise freezing has no alternatives.
Can You Re-Freeze the KFC Chicken?
Theoretically, you can. Theoretically.
Cooked meat can be safely re-frozen once – but re-freezing affects the quality, texture, and flavor profile of even raw meats, and the impact is worse for the cooked ones.
So odds are, the final product you’ll be left with won’t be worth eating anyway.
How to Reheat the KFC Chicken
After being properly thawed, you can use several methods to reheat the KFC chicken – but not all of them will leave you with the best results. If you can, refrying the chicken is probably the best option, but you can use the oven if you prefer the hands-off approach. Just don’t use a microwave, it might not be safe.
- Heating in a deep-fryer:
Probably your best option – heat any neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point in the fryer (so no olive oil), place the chicken pieces inside, and allow them to fry for around 2-3 minutes. Get one of the pieces out and either check the internal temperature using a thermometer or cut it open to see if it’s been warmed through. If so – get the rest of the pieces out of the fryer.
- Heating on a stove top:
The process is pretty similar to that of a deep-fryer’s, but instead of submerging the chicken in the oil, you’ll need to keep constantly turning it. Put enough amount of neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point to fully cover the bottom of the pan (a cast iron skillet would be your best option, but any pan will do), and let it heat over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, place the chicken pieces inside the pan and wait for them to heat through, turning them over maybe every 30 seconds or so. Overall, around 2 minutes should be enough for each side – but still, check the temperature either with the thermometer or by cutting a piece.
- Heating in an air-fryer:
If you wish to avoid using an excess amount of oil, but still keep the chicken crisp, an air-fryer is your best bet. Preheat the air-fryer to 375°F, place the chicken in the fryer basket (the pieces should be in one layer and preferably not touching each other), and let the fryer do its job for around 4-5 minutes while flipping the chicken midway.
If it turns out not to be enough, return the chicken to the air-fryer for additional 2 minutes.
- Heating in an oven:
Similar to air-fryer, preheat the oven to 375°F, arrange the chicken pieces on a tray covered with parchment paper in a single layer, sprinkle with a little bit of oil (spray would work best for even coverage), and leave it for 10 minutes.
Check the chicken and… you know the drill.
- Heating in a microwave:
Don’t use a microwave to reheat the defrosted chicken. It will likely have trouble bringing the chicken’s internal temperature to 165°F (at least, without rendering it inedible in the process), so your chicken might not be safe for consumption.