Reconsider Using the Microwave to Reheat Chicken

The 1945 invention of the microwave has made it quite easy to make foods from instant popcorn to frozen meals — and to reheat last night’s leftovers. These days, there are many arguments against using a microwave from the potential dangers of radiation to how it makes some foods turn out dry and overcooked. Still, many of us turn to the kitchen appliance to prepare foods in a jiffy. But although many items turn out just fine after a spin in the microwave, avoid reheating leftover chicken in there if possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s baked chicken breasts, crispy chicken wings, or fried chicken from your favorite chain, because time in the microwave will often make poultry come out dry and rubbery in texture. 

Why? It’s all about science. Chicken contains a lot of moisture, and when it’s put in the microwave, it changes its molecular structure resulting in a tough texture. Essentially, the moisture in the chicken quickly heats to such a degree that it alters the proteins in the chicken, giving it a new and much less desirable rubbery texture and taste. You have probably bitten into a piece of microwaved chicken that’s not quite as tender as it was fresh out of the oven, and that’s exactly why. Additionally, much of the moisture will escape the chicken and any crispy coating or skin will probably turn out soggy as a result.

Reheat chicken on the stovetop or in the oven instead

Top-down view of marinated chicken on a sheet pan

Consider reheating your chicken on the stovetop or in the oven instead of the microwave. For the stovetop method, slice or cut the chicken into smaller pieces to speed up the process. Add a small amount of broth, water, or oil to the bottom of the pan, warm it up, then add your chicken and heat it over medium. Don’t crank up the knob too much or you might overcook the chicken. Allow the pieces to heat through, and don’t forget to stir or flip the poultry to ensure it’s warm on both sides. To reheat chicken in the oven, go with a temperature of around 350 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain moisture and flavor. Place the chicken in a pan or on a baking sheet, cover it with foil, and cook it until it’s warmed through. 

RECOMMENDED:  How to Boil Water Faster with an Electric Kettle

In case you’re wondering if you can cook raw chicken in the microwave, reconsider that, too. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), meat can be cooked safely in the microwave, but it’s hard for the heat to get to thicker parts to effectively kill bacteria. If you decide to go this route, the USDA advises that you cover, stir, and frequently rotate the meat, but it won’t take much more effort to bake, fry, or sauté it instead as we do with our recipe for herby green goddess baked chicken that’s ready in 45 minutes. No matter how you decide to cook or reheat the chicken (even if you’re using the microwave), make sure that it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Our Experts
Our Experts

Look's editorial team comprises seasoned writers and editors who specialize in the food and drink, hospitality, and agriculture sectors. We also collaborate with external experts to ensure the delivery of accurate, current information and unique recipes.

Our goal is to publish informative and engaging articles, offering readers the content they seek, from daily news to cooking tips, tricks, trends, and reviews. To maintain the highest standards of comprehensiveness, currency, and accuracy, our team continually reviews and updates our articles as needed.