This article was updated on 21st August 2023 for clarity and to incorporate new methods we tested.
We’ve all fallen into the trap of ordering too much Chinese food at some point. My personal weakness is orange chicken.
But what’s the best way to reheat it? In an effort to reinvigorate its signature sauce (and avoid soggy chicken), I’ve tested out four different reheating methods. In a rush?
The best way to reheat orange 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 chicken in a skillet. Avoid using the microwave because you’ll end up with soggy chicken.
How I tested reheating orange chicken
The other day I ordered my usual: too much orange chicken. Of course, I ended up with leftovers, which I decided to store and reheat for lunch the next day.
Then I experimented with four reheating methods:
- Air fryer: Best results (if you have one).
- Oven/Broiler: The broiler is good for crisping.
- Skillet: Good for adding extra ingredients.
- Microwave: I don’t recommend this method.
I was looking for a method that kept my orange chicken extra crispy and reinvigorated the delicious citrusy flavor of the glaze.
Reheating orange chicken in an air fryer
Time: 5-7 minutes
- Set your air fryer to 390°F (200°C) and place the chicken pieces in the fryer basket.
- Heat them for 5 to 7 minutes, or until hot and crispy.
- If you have separate sauce: warm the sauce in the microwave on high for 20 to 40 seconds.
- Reassemble the dish and serve immediately.
I like letting the chicken rest for a moment after you take it out of the air fryer to give time for the chicken to settle and crisp up. If you toss it straight in extra sauce, it won’t turn out as crispy.
You also need to make sure not to overcrowd the basket. The chicken pieces need space to crisp up effectively.
Results: I was blown away by how effective the air fryer was. My chicken was so crunchy and delicious, so if you don’t have an air fryer, this is your sign to get one! It’s the closest you’ll get to it tasting freshly made.
Reheating orange chicken in the oven
Time: 10-15 minutes
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and spread your leftover orange chicken out in an oven-safe dish, covering it loosely with foil.
- Heat the orange chicken for 10 to 15 minutes, taking the foil off for the last 5 minutes. If you’re using a toaster oven, the chicken will need a few minutes less.
- Optional: crisp the chicken up under the broiler for 1-2 minutes at the end.
- Warm any sauce separately in the microwave before throwing it over the chicken.
Note: if your chicken is un-sauced, you can skip the foil and warm the chicken until it’s crispy.
Covering the dish with foil will stop the orange chicken from drying out during the reheating process, but you need to remove it towards the end if you don’t want soggy batter.
The reason I only recommend broiling the chicken for a short time is because the high heat can quickly burn the sugary sauce, which we don’t want!
Results: This method wasn’t bad, but the chicken definitely wasn’t as crispy as it was fresh. The sauce on the chicken got pretty sticky which was nice, but extra sauce is a good addition. Overall a decent method, especially for big batches.
Reheating orange chicken in a skillet
Time: 4-5 minutes
- Heat a glug of oil in a pan on high heat. You’ll know it’s ready when it sizzles as you drop something in it.
- Cut any big bits of chicken in half to ensure they heat through quickly and evenly.
- Place the orange 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 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 did 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.
Reheating orange chicken in the microwave
Time: up to 2 minutes
- Place your leftover orange chicken in a microwave-safe bowl and cover the bowl with a lid, leaving a small hole for steam to escape.
- Microwave your orange chicken in 30-second increments for up to 2 minutes, stirring the dish thoroughly at each stop.
- Once the chicken is piping hot, remove it from the microwave and let it rest for 30 seconds.
Be mindful when handling the dish, because the sauce will get very hot during the reheating process.
Covering the dish with plastic wrap locks in steam and helps to keep the chicken moist. It does, however, obliterate any chance of a crunch.
Results: The only time it makes sense to reheat orange chicken in the microwave is if you have absolutely no other option. This method leaves the chicken soggy, lifeless, and chewy.
How to keep orange chicken crispy?
If you know you’re going to have leftovers, only sauce the chicken you’re going to eat. You can also ask takeaways to deliver the sauce and the chicken in separate containers. Then store the sauce and the chicken separately. This will help the chicken stay as crispy as possible because the sauce won’t be soaking into the breading.
If the chicken is already sauced, you can try and wipe off as much as possible with a paper towel before storing it. But only do this if you have extra sauce to add when you’re reheating it.
If you’re making the orange chicken at home, double-fry the chicken pieces for extra crunch. The tougher exterior is also less prone to soaking up the sauce.
How to store orange chicken
To store orange chicken, first, allow it to cool to room temperature. Then, place it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for 3 days. If possible, separate the chicken and the glaze and store them in different containers.
You can also store any leftover rice in the fridge.
Can you freeze orange chicken?
To freeze orange chicken, start by patting the chicken dry with a paper towel. Then, place the chicken pieces in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag, and press out any excess air. Freeze the orange chicken for up to 3 months.
You can also choose to flash-freeze the chicken pieces first by spreading them out on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and popping it in the freezer for 1 hour. This step is helpful if you don’t want all the chicken sticking together.
To thaw your orange chicken, take it out of the freezer and leave it in the fridge overnight.
How To Reheat Orange Chicken [Tested Methods]
- 1 portion orange chicken
- 1 portion extra orange sauce optional
- Separate the chicken pieces from the sauce.
- Place any salvaged sauce in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap pierced with small holes.
- Pat the chicken dry with a piece of paper towel.
- Preheat your air fryer to 390°F (200°C) and place the chicken pieces in the fryer basket.
- Heat them for 2 to 3 minutes, and then rest them on a wire rack for 1 minute.
- Warm any remaining sauce/glaze in the microwave on high for 20 to 40 seconds or until piping hot.
- Reassemble the dish and serve immediately.