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Can BBQ Chicken Be Reheated?

That BBQ chicken was so delicious right? You don’t want to throw out the leftovers, so you can pop them in the fridge or freezer and reheat them another day.

BBQ chicken can be reheated provided the temperature reaches 165°F, which is high enough to kill common bacteria. Salmonella is destroyed when food reaches 150°F, while Campylobacter and Clostridium perfringens are killed at 165°F. It’s a good idea to buy a food thermometer so you can check.

Let’s look at how long you can keep BBQ chicken in the fridge before it needs freezing or reheating, how to kill common bacteria in reheated chicken, how to reheat BBQ chicken without drying it out – and consider whether you can reheat it more than once.

How Long Can You Keep BBQ Chicken in The Fridge (Before It Needs Reheating or Freezing?)

It’s a shame to waste that delicious BBQ chicken, but you simply can’t manage another mouthful. Don’t worry: you can store your leftovers in the fridge or the freezer, and eat them on another occasion. However, because chicken is prone to developing bacteria, we have to be careful with how we store and reheat our meat.

Here’s what you do after dinner. Cover the chicken that you want to keep, and make sure it goes into the refrigerator within an hour. Why not put it in straight away? Well, the warm meat will raise the temperature inside the fridge, compromising the efficacy of the refrigerator and potentially warming other foods.

Before it goes into the fridge, make sure it’s sealed in a bag or plastic container. Store it above raw meat to prevent any risk of contamination (ideally, all raw meat and fish is already on the lowest shelf).

If it’s stored in an air-tight container in an efficient refrigerator, you can keep it for up to three days. By efficient, we mean able to stay at a temperature below 40°F.

The same goes if you want to freeze the chicken to use it in the future. Cool it, bag it then freeze it as soon as possible. How long can you keep BBQ chicken in the freezer?

This depends on the type of freezer you have, so consult your manual (or look it up in the manufacturer’s guidelines online). If the freezer works at the standard 0°F, we’d expect to be able to store it for up to three months.

And sorry: if there’s been a power cut, the chicken has to be the first thing to go. It may have been through all sorts of temperature fluctuations that you don’t know about during the outage, and it’s just not worth taking the risk.

Does Reheating BBQ Chicken Kill Bacteria?

Reheating chicken does kill bacteria, yes, but only if it reaches the right temperature. A temperature of 165°F is enough to kill the main bacteria. If you’re planning on doing a lot of barbecuing and reheating, invest in a reliable kitchen thermometer. You can even get smart ones now that will communicate with your cell phone.

What bacteria do we need to kill? Salmonella and Campylobacter are the two types normally associated with poultry, and both can make you pretty sick. Salmonella is destroyed when the food reaches 150°F and Campylobacter is killed at 165°F.

Another nasty bacteria that loves undercooked chicken is Clostridium perfringens, and again, cook your leftovers to 165°F to destroy this bug.

The worst thing we can do is warm it but not cook it thoroughly: between 40°F and 165°F is the danger zone for bacterial growth. So, either eat your cooked chicken cold from the fridge in a salad, or cook it through thoroughly.

We hope this hasn’t put you off your dinner! Happily, there are plenty of ways you can safely reheat your BBQ chicken, ensuring you have a delicious second serving without risking an upset stomach.

BBQ chicken legs
Reheating BBQ Chicken in the Oven or on the Grill

What’s The Best Way To Reheat BBQ Chicken (Without Drying it Out)

Chicken has a bit of a reputation for drying out when it’s cooked a lot, and we want to be able to reheat it safely without making it stringy. Here are a few things you can try to make sure your leftover meat stays moist.

If you’re happy to fire up the BBQ again, this is a great way to reheat your chicken without it drying out.

  • Place the chicken in a BBQ-proof dish
  • Brush on more BBQ sauce (or whatever sauce you’re using)
  • Cook it low and slow with the BBQ lid on
  • Check the temperature. When it reaches 165°F, it’s ready

Shredding the chicken is a good way to make it seem less dry. Treat it like pulled pork, and mix it up with some fresh BBQ sauce. Shredded BBQ chicken is delicious on top of a pizza or in a burrito, or served with salad and mayo inside a sandwich.

  • Reheat the chicken in the microwave before you assemble your burrito, taco or sandwich
  • Put the shredded meat on a microwave-safe plate with some added water. Cook in 30 second bursts, checking the temperature as you go
  • If you haven’t got a microwave, heat it in a skillet (see below)
  • If you’re adding the shredded chicken to pizza or serving it with nachos, put it onto the dish before you heat it in the oven (there’s no need to reheat it separately first)

The microwave is great for quickly heating shredded chicken; however larger pieces can go rubbery if heated this way. Instead, use the hob.

  • Cut or slice the chicken into pieces
  • Place them in a skillet with some water or stock to prevent it getting too dry
  • Cover the skillet and place it on a low heat
  • Slowly heat the chicken through, and keep checking the inside temperature of the meat

If you cooked your chicken simply in the first place (without herbs, spices or sauce), it can form the basis for a delicious soup or stock. Leftover drumstick and thigh bones make great chicken stock.

  • Roughly chop celery stalks, a carrot and cut an onion in two
  • Place them in a large pan with the bones, salt and peppercorns and cover everything with cold water
  • Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low, simmering heat
  • Simmer this gently on the hob for at least two hours
  • Strain it into a bowl, then use it as the base for a soup, a stew or as the liquor to reheat chicken pieces in a skillet (see above)

Whatever recipe you choose, just make sure the chicken reaches that magic number, 165oF. Feel free to send us any recipe ideas that you’ve tried: we love a BBQ recipe suggestion at Take A Yard.

Can You Reheat BBQ Chicken More Than Once?

This is a simple one to answer: no, you can’t. Each time you repeat the cool-store-reheat process, the chances of bacteria butting into this chain increases. However much you might regret binning that delicious grilled chicken, you’ll regret it far more if you end up with food poisoning.

Avoid multiple reheats by buying the right amount of chicken for just one or two meals. If you think you’ve bought too much chicken, freeze some of it when it’s still raw, then defrost it in the refrigerator before you need to cook it.

We always recommend defrosting chicken in the fridge rather than room temperature a) because it avoids that temperature danger zone between 40°F and 165°F, and b) because we have pets and no way can we leave chicken on the counter… It takes a bit longer to defrost in the refrigerator, so plan your BBQ chicken dinner in advance.

Conclusion: How to Reheat Barbecue Chicken

To avoid getting food poisoning, it’s essential you don’t leave your cooked BBQ chicken in the fridge for too long before either freezing it or reheating it.

When you do reheat your chicken, use a food thermometer to check it has reached at least 165°F – the temperature at which most common bacteria is killed.

If you take these simple precautions there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy your delicious BBQ chicken a second time round – but never a third.

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >