If you’re a fan of Chinese takeout, chances are you’ve ordered orange chicken before. This popular dish has a sweet and tangy flavor that always hits the spot. But what do you do when you have leftover orange chicken? Reheating it can be tricky, and if done improperly, can result in dry, rubbery chicken that’s unappetizing. In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about reheating orange chicken so that it tastes just as good as when you first ordered it.
Why Reheating Orange Chicken is Tricky
Orange chicken is tricky to reheat because of its sauce and breading. The sauce can make the chicken soggy if not reheated properly, and the breading can become overcooked, resulting in a tough, dry exterior. Additionally, reheating chicken can be dangerous if done incorrectly, as it can lead to foodborne illnesses.
One way to avoid these issues when reheating orange chicken is to use a microwave-safe dish with a lid. This will help to trap moisture and prevent the chicken from drying out. It is also important to reheat the chicken to the proper temperature, which is 165°F (74°C), to ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed. Another option is to reheat the chicken in a skillet on the stove, which can help to crisp up the breading while keeping the chicken moist. Regardless of the method used, it is important to handle and store leftover chicken properly to prevent the growth of bacteria and ensure that it is safe to eat.
Different Ways to Store Orange Chicken for Reheating
It’s important to store your leftover orange chicken correctly to ensure it reheats properly. The best way to store orange chicken is in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This will keep it fresh for up to four days and preserve its flavor. If you want it to last longer, you can store it in the freezer for up to three months.
Another way to store orange chicken is by vacuum sealing it. This method removes all the air from the container, preventing any bacteria growth and keeping the chicken fresh for a longer period. Vacuum-sealed orange chicken can last up to six months in the freezer.
When reheating orange chicken, it’s important to do it properly to avoid any foodborne illnesses. The best way to reheat orange chicken is by using a microwave or oven. If using a microwave, make sure to cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap to prevent any splatters. If using an oven, preheat it to 350°F and place the chicken in an oven-safe dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
Tips to Ensure the Best Possible Results When Reheating Orange Chicken
Before reheating your orange chicken, consider the following tips:
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before reheating it to bring it to room temperature. This will help it heat evenly.
- Add moisture to the chicken before reheating it to prevent it from drying out.
- Reheat the chicken in a shallow dish to help it heat evenly.
- Always check the temperature of the chicken before eating it to ensure it’s heated to a safe temperature.
Additionally, it’s important to note that reheating orange chicken multiple times can affect its taste and texture. It’s best to only reheat it once to maintain its quality.
Another tip to consider is to add some fresh orange juice or zest to the chicken before reheating it. This will not only add flavor but also help to keep the chicken moist.
Microwave Method for Reheating Orange Chicken
The microwave method is the quickest way to reheat orange chicken. Here’s how to do it:
- Place the leftover chicken in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a damp paper towel.
- Microwave on high for 30-second intervals, checking the temperature in between, until it reaches 165°F.
- Let the chicken rest for a minute before serving.
It is important to note that while the microwave method is quick, it may not result in the same crispy texture as when the chicken was first cooked. To achieve a crispy texture, consider using a conventional oven or toaster oven instead. Additionally, be sure to store leftover orange chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consume within 3-4 days to ensure freshness and safety.
Oven Method for Reheating Orange Chicken
The oven method takes a bit longer than the microwave method but results in a crispy exterior and juicy interior. Here’s how to do it:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the leftover chicken in a baking dish and cover with foil.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165°F.
- Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes to crisp up the breading.
- Let the chicken rest for a minute before serving.
It’s important to note that the oven method is ideal for reheating larger portions of orange chicken, as it allows for even heating throughout the dish. Additionally, if you want to add some extra flavor to your reheated chicken, try brushing on a bit of extra orange sauce before baking. This will help to keep the chicken moist and add an extra burst of citrus flavor.
Stovetop Method for Reheating Orange Chicken
The stovetop method is best for smaller portions of chicken and results in a crispy exterior but may dry out the chicken if not done properly. Here’s how to do it:
- Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat.
- Add the leftover chicken to the pan and cover with a lid to create steam.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes, flipping the chicken occasionally, until heated through and the breading is crispy.
- Remove from heat and let rest for a minute before serving.
It is important to note that the stovetop method may not be the best option for reheating large portions of orange chicken. In this case, it is recommended to use an oven or microwave to ensure that the chicken is heated evenly and thoroughly. Additionally, if the chicken has been refrigerated, it should be brought to room temperature before reheating to prevent uneven cooking.
Steaming Method for Reheating Orange Chicken
Steaming your leftover orange chicken is a gentle way to reheat it and helps prevent the chicken from drying out. Here’s how to do it:
- Fill a pot with about an inch of water and bring to a boil.
- Place a steamer basket or colander over the pot and add the leftover chicken to the basket.
- Cover with a lid and steam for 10-15 minutes, or until heated through.
- Remove from the basket and let rest for a minute before serving.
Aside from being a gentle way to reheat your orange chicken, steaming also helps to retain the nutrients and flavors of the dish. This method is especially useful for those who are health-conscious and want to avoid using oil or other fats to reheat their food.
Another benefit of steaming your orange chicken is that it can be done without a microwave. This is particularly useful for those who do not have access to a microwave or prefer not to use one. All you need is a pot, a steamer basket or colander, and a lid.
How to Add Moisture Back to Dry Leftover Orange Chicken
If your leftover orange chicken is dry, there are a few ways to add moisture back to it:
- Brush the chicken with a bit of oil or chicken broth before reheating it.
- Add a small amount of water or chicken broth to the dish before reheating it to create steam.
- Mix in a small amount of sauce before reheating it to help keep the chicken moist.
Another way to add moisture back to dry leftover orange chicken is to marinate it in a mixture of soy sauce, honey, and ginger for a few hours before reheating it. This will not only add moisture but also enhance the flavor of the chicken.
Alternatively, you can also add some vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and broccoli to the dish before reheating it. The vegetables will release moisture as they cook, which will help keep the chicken moist and add some extra flavor and nutrition to the dish.
How to Avoid Overcooking or Undercooking When Reheating Orange Chicken
Overcooking or undercooking your leftover orange chicken can ruin the texture and flavor. Here’s how to avoid it:
- Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the chicken to ensure it reaches a safe temperature of 165°F.
- Don’t overcook the chicken or it will become dry and rubbery.
- Don’t undercook the chicken or it can be unsafe to eat.
Another way to avoid overcooking or undercooking your orange chicken is to reheat it in the oven. Preheat your oven to 350°F and place the chicken in an oven-safe dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through.
It’s also important to store your leftover orange chicken properly to ensure it stays fresh. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If you want to keep it longer, you can freeze it for up to 2-3 months. When reheating frozen chicken, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it.
The Best Sauces and Sides to Serve with Your Reheated Orange Chicken Dish
The best sauces to serve with reheated orange chicken are the same ones you would typically get with the dish – sweet and sour sauce or extra orange sauce. As for sides, consider some steamed rice, stir-fried vegetables, or even some egg rolls.
Another great sauce to serve with reheated orange chicken is teriyaki sauce. Its sweet and savory flavor complements the dish perfectly. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try a spicy chili sauce for a little kick.
If you want to add some crunch to your meal, consider serving some crispy wontons or fried noodles as a side. Alternatively, you can opt for a refreshing side salad with a light vinaigrette dressing to balance out the richness of the chicken dish.
How Long Can You Keep and Reheat Orange Chicken Safely?
Leftover orange chicken can be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to four days or in the freezer for up to three months. When reheating it, always ensure it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F.
It is important to note that the quality of the orange chicken may deteriorate after being stored for an extended period of time. To maintain the best quality, it is recommended to consume the leftovers within two to three days if stored in the refrigerator and within one to two months if stored in the freezer.
Additionally, when reheating the orange chicken, it is best to use a microwave or oven rather than a slow cooker or grill. This is because slow cookers and grills may not heat the chicken evenly, which can lead to bacterial growth and foodborne illness. It is also important to stir the chicken occasionally while reheating to ensure that it heats evenly.
How to Tell if Your Leftover Orange Chicken Has Gone Bad
If your leftover orange chicken has gone bad, it will have a sour or rancid smell, mold may have grown on it or the texture may have become slimy. If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard the leftover chicken.
It’s important to note that leftover orange chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consumed within 3-4 days. If you’re unsure about the freshness of your leftover chicken, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and throw it out. Eating spoiled food can lead to food poisoning and other health issues.
Top Mistakes People Make When Reheating Orange Chicken and How to Avoid Them
The top mistakes people make when reheating orange chicken include not adding enough moisture, reheating the chicken for too long, or not checking the internal temperature before eating it. To avoid these mistakes, follow the tips mentioned earlier in this article and ensure the chicken is reheated to a safe temperature of 165°F.
Another common mistake people make when reheating orange chicken is not covering it properly. If you don’t cover the chicken, it can dry out and become tough. To avoid this, cover the chicken with a lid or microwave-safe wrap to trap in the moisture.
Additionally, some people make the mistake of reheating the chicken in the wrong container. Plastic containers can melt or release harmful chemicals when heated, while metal containers can cause sparks in the microwave. It’s best to use glass or ceramic containers when reheating orange chicken in the microwave or oven.
Alternative Uses for Leftover, Already-Reheated Orange Chicken
There are a few alternative uses for leftover, already-reheated orange chicken if you’re tired of eating it as is. You could slice it up and use it as a topping for a salad, chop it and add it to stir-fry dishes, or even use it as a protein in a wrap or quesadilla.
By following these tips and methods, reheating your leftover orange chicken can be safe and easy, while still maintaining its delicious flavor and texture.