This article was updated for clarity on 30th June 2023. I also tested another reheating method, the skillet.
When it comes to Chinese food, I think we can all agree that General Tso chicken is right up there with the best. But what do you do if you have leftovers?
Can you reheat this chicken dish and keep its signature crunch? I tried four different ways to reheat General Tso chicken, and I’m pleased to report that the results were great (for some methods anyway).
The best way to reheat General Tso chicken is in an air fryer. Set it to 390°F (200°C) and heat the chicken for 5-7 minutes. If you don’t have an air fryer, you can use the oven or fry the General Tso chicken in a skillet. Avoid using the microwave because the chicken will turn soggy.
How I tested the reheating methods
I ordered a few portions of General Tso chicken from my favorite Chinese restaurant (along with duck pancakes, because who can resist duck pancakes?!). Had some for dinner and, using all my willpower, made sure I had a decent amount of leftovers, which I stored overnight in the fridge.
The next day I tested four reheating techniques:
- Air fryer: Best results overall.
- Oven: Tasty, and broiler good for crisping.
- Microwave: Worst method – unless you like soggy chicken!
- Skillet: Pretty good.
How to reheat General Tso chicken in the oven
Time: 10-15 minutes
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Spread out your chicken pieces on a baking sheet and cover the baking sheet with foil.
- Warm your chicken for 10-15 minutes, removing the foil for the last 5 minutes of heating.
- Once hot, remove from the oven and serve immediately.
- For a toaster oven: skip the foil and reduce the heating time to 7-10 minutes.
- If you have separate sauce: skip the foil and bake the dry chicken uncovered. Warm the sauce separately in the microwave and combine just before serving.
If you want really crispy chicken, use the broiler on high for the last 2-3 minutes of heating, but keep an eye on the sauce. It can burn quickly under such high heat because of the sugar.
The chicken will be in the oven for quite a long time, so the foil makes sure it doesn’t completely dry out. But if you forget to remove it, you’ll end up with very soggy batter.
Results: My chicken tasted nice, but there wasn’t a whole load of crisp. Broiling the chicken helped fix this, but the sauce got very dry and sticky. I can see the oven being useful if you’ve got large amounts of General Tso chicken to reheat, but for small amounts, it’s inefficient.
How to reheat General Tso chicken in the air fryer
Time: 5-7 minutes
- Set your air fryer to 390°F (200°C).
- Spread your chicken pieces out in the air fryer basket and heat them until crispy (5-7 minutes).
- Shake the air fryer basket halfway through.
- Let the chicken pieces rest for a minute before serving.
- If you have separate sauce: warm the sauce in the microwave for 30 seconds before tossing the chicken in it.
An air fryer is basically a mini convection oven, so it’s great at re-crisping food without the need to get any oil involved. You do need to be careful not to over-crowd the basket though because you need optimal airflow for best results. If you’re reheating a large amount of chicken, do it in batches.
You can keep the early batches warm in a low oven (set to 200°F).
Psst… other sources claim the air fryer will heat your food in 3-4 minutes, but in my tests, the chicken was still only lukewarm after 3 minutes.
Results: This method far exceeded my expectations. I could hardly tell my General Tso chicken was reheated. It was crunchy and fresh. The only annoying thing was having to clean the air fryer afterward (and it’s probably annoying reading this if you don’t own an airy fryer… sorry!).
How to reheat General Tso chicken in the microwave
Time: 1-2 minutes
- Place your General Tso chicken in a microwave-safe bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a slightly damp paper towel.
- Microwave your chicken in 30-second intervals for up to 2 minutes, stirring during each break.
- Once piping hot, remove from the microwave and let the chicken rest for 30 seconds before serving.
- Optional: crisp the chicken for 30 seconds under a hot broiler or in a preheated toaster oven (to 400°F/200°C)
The bowl is likely to get quite hot during this process, so be careful not to burn your hands when you lift it.
I also tested running the microwave at 60% power, but there were no noticeable differences in the results. It just took longer, and the whole point of the microwave is convenience.
If you have any rice to serve with your chicken you can heat this in the same bowl. I like to sprinkle a bit of water on the rice to help bring back its fluffy texture.
Results: I wouldn’t recommend this method unless you’re in a huge hurry or don’t have any other choice. The chicken tasted dull and chewy – but wasn’t so bad that it was inedible (I still finished off the whole bowl!). Also, there’s no extra washing up with this method.
How to reheat General Tso chicken in a skillet
Time: 4-5 minutes
- Heat a glug of oil in a pan on high heat until it sizzles when you drop something in it.
- Cut any big bits of chicken in half to ensure they heat through quickly and evenly.
- Place the General Tso chicken in the skillet and fry it for 3-4 minutes, constantly stirring.
One of the best things about this method is that you can add extra things to the pan. Want more veggies? Throw them into the pan a few minutes before you add the chicken. Think the sauce needs loosening up? Add a few splashes of lemon juice or soy sauce to the mix.
For best results make sure the oil is really hot before you add the chicken. If you get impatient and add the chicken too early, it will soak up the oil and become greasy.
Results: my chicken wasn’t SUPER crispy, but the frying seemed to bring the flavors of the sauce back to life (the fact I threw a few chilis into the pan probably helped). Overall I was pretty pleased and would use this method again.
How to keep General Tso chicken crispy
The best way to keep your General Tso chicken crispy is to store the sauce and the chicken separately. Only sauce the chicken you’re going to eat right away and leave the rest un-sauced. This means the sauce can’t soak into the breading (which is the main sauce of sogginess).
If you’re cooking this delicious dish at home, you can also double-fry the chicken pieces to give them an extra crisp coating. And use this trick from Kenji Lopez. He adds brine to the dredging mixture to give the breading more surface area.
How to store General Tso chicken
To store General Tso chicken, first, let the leftovers cool to room temperature. Then transfer them to an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also keep any leftover rice in the fridge.
If you haven’t sauced the chicken yet, keep the sauce and chicken in separate containers. This will help the chicken stay as crispy as possible! I would also put a dry paper towel in with the plain chicken pieces to absorb any excess moisture.
Can you freeze General Tso chicken?
You can freeze leftover General Tso chicken for up to 3 months. For best results, keep the sauce and the chicken separate. Lay the chicken out in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and freeze solid. Then transfer the chicken to a freezer-safe bag, removing excess air.
When you’re ready to thaw your General Tso chicken, place it in the fridge overnight to defrost.
Flash-freezing the chicken pieces first means you can easily take out just a handful if that’s all you want. If you’ve kept the glaze separate, freeze this in an ice cube tray and then place the cubes in a freezer bag.
How To Reheat General Tso Chicken [Tested Method]
- 1 portion General Tso Chicken
- Remove your chicken pieces from their sauce/glaze (if not already separated).
- Place the glaze in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with plastic wrap pierced with small holes.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
- Set your oven/toaster oven/air fryer to 390°F (200°C).
- Spread your chicken pieces out and heat them until crispy. Once hot, let the chicken pieces rest for a minute.
- On full power, microwave your glaze for 20-40 seconds.Reassemble the dish and serve immediately.