So it’s chicken for dinner tonight? Sounds good! You’ve prepared the meal ahead of time, the table’s set, and you’re good to go.
And then your guests call to say they’re running late… It’s not the end of the world, but it can be a little annoying, especially when you’ve gone to such trouble to make sure your chicken is perfectly cooked for their arrival.
Now you need to know the best way to keep cooked chicken warm without drying it out because if there’s one thing worse than a cold chicken, it’s a dry one.
But don’t worry, we have so many methods for keeping chicken warm below, and all of them will stop your chicken drying out.
So let’s just get right to it and save this dinner, shall we?
Why NOT To Use High Heat!
If you want to keep something hot, you use high heat, right? WRONG! Especially when it comes to a delicious, perfectly cooked chicken.
If you just leave the chicken in the oven now on high heat until you can serve it, then trust us, you’ll end up with a VERY dry chicken at best, and a burned one at worst.
The key to keeping chicken dry is moisture. You want the chicken to be able to hold on to all of its natural juices and moisture after cooking.
That’s why we allow the meat to rest after cooking, because the chicken reabsorbs all those juices, helping keep the meat moist.
But if you just keep cooking the chicken at high heat, all those juices will continue to pour out of the chicken and disappear.
So NEVER use high heat when keeping chicken warm, or we can guarantee you it’ll be dry and unpleasant when you sit down to eat.
How To Safely Keep Chicken Warm After Cooking
Safely keeping chicken warm is about more than just preventing it from drying out.
You also have to be aware of the danger zone for bacteria growth so you can avoid it.
Below, we’ll tell you how long you can keep a cooked chicken warm safely at room temperature, before giving you some tips about keeping it warm using other methods.
How Long Can You Keep A Cooked Chicken Warm Safely?
A cooked chicken can be kept warm safely for around 2 hours on your countertop. That’s because the danger zone for bacteria is between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
A cooked chicken right out of the oven isn’t going to fall into this danger zone for a long while, so around 2 hours is safe.
But that’s if you’re just planning on leaving your cooked chicken out on the side without keeping it warm.
If you use one of the methods below, then generally you can keep cooked chicken warm for around 2-4 hours, but the longer you leave it the more chance there is of it drying out.
We wouldn’t recommend keeping chicken warm using the methods below for anything longer than 4 hours.
How To Keep Cooked Chicken Warm In A Crockpot Or Slow Cooker
Keeping chicken warm using a crockpot or slow cooker couldn’t be simpler.
Before we get started on telling you the method, it’s really important that you know this method will dry your chicken out if you keep it in there for several hours.
That’s just unavoidable. But, if you only need to keep your chicken warm for a couple of hours, then this method is perfect.
Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked and still at a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or above, then it can just be placed in a slow cooker or crockpot on the ‘Keep Warm’ setting for a few hours safely (but as we said, it will start to dry out after around 2).
A small amount of liquid, around a tablespoon or so, might be all it takes to keep your chicken from drying out too quickly, as it will steam slightly, helping keep the meat moist.
When you’re ready to serve, just switch off your slow cooker or crockpot and enjoy!
How To Keep Chicken Warm In The Oven Without Drying It Out
Some ovens will have a keep warm temperature range of between 170 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is perfect for keeping food warm safely because it keeps food in the safe temperature zone whilst avoiding the danger zone of between 40 and 140.
Simply place your chicken in an oven at between 170 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and your chicken will stay warm safely for several hours.
If you want to make sure your chicken doesn’t dry out, just pour a little water in the tray’s bottom your chicken is keeping warm in, and cover with some aluminium foil.
This helps create steam which will keep your chicken warm and moist, and the aluminium foil will act as a second layer of skin, preventing chicken from drying out anymore.
If your oven doesn’t go as low as 170 degrees Fahrenheit, then 200 will do.
Just remember that the higher the heat of the oven, the easier it is for your chicken to dry out, so keep it low, keep it moist, and keep it covered for best results!
How To Keep Chicken Warm Using Aluminium Foil
If dinner is only running slightly behind schedule, then you might not need to keep it warm at all.
If you’re planning on leaving your chicken out on your counter, then just remember you have to eat it within 2 hours, or it may no longer be safe to eat and could easily make you sick.
To guarantee that your chicken doesn’t dry out whilst on the side, and to make sure your chicken keeps hold of its safe temperature for as long as possible, use aluminium foil.
Simply cover your chicken in aluminium foil and leave on the countertop for no more than 2 hours.
The aluminium foil will keep the chicken warm because of its reflective properties, and it’ll also encourage your chicken to hold on to all its juices and moisture, too!
It’s Not All Doom And Gloom…
So, as you can see, it’s not all doom and gloom. If your guests are running late or dinner is delayed for some other reason, you now know how to keep chicken warm for varying amounts of time.
And that’s all without chicken drying out – making you the master of your own kitchen, no matter what curveballs are sent your way!