Fried chicken: Hot or cold?
October 5th, 2010
11:30 AM ET
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When a chef tells you you’re missing out on something, it’s time to pay attention.

I was recently interviewing Michelle Bernstein, owner of Michy’s and Sra. Martinez in Miami, Florida, for an article on luxury airline meals when the conversation steered toward fried chicken.

Cold fried chicken, to be exact.

Bernstein, who serves as a consulting chef for Delta Airlines, mentioned that she is planning to start offering this dish to premium class passengers next year and she sounded ready to dig into a heaping plate of the stuff as she described it.

“What’s better than a really great buttermilk tarragon mustard infused fried chicken that was made beautifully the day before and then chilled with a cold potato salad for lunch when you’re traveling?” Bernstein said.

“The texture is a little different when you eat cold fried chicken and it’s one of my favorite things in the whole wide world.”

Now I’ve nibbled on plenty of hot fried chicken, lured by the hunger-inducing aroma, the satisfying crunch of the skin and the salty, spicy flavor it gives the succulent meat. But I’ve never had cold fried chicken. Would it keep its appeal after a few hours in the fridge? Aren’t fried foods at their best straight out of the bubbling frying pan?

There was stunned silence on the other end of the line when I admitted this.

“It’s delicious,” Bernstein said. “You are missing out.”

OK, you learn something new everyday. For all of you fried chicken aficionados, do you like it best hot or cold? What’s the allure of the cold version?

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Filed under: Bite • Cuisines • Dishes • Fried Chicken • Southern

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soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. ThatOneKidWhoLovesColdFood

    Ironically, I'm eating cold pork tenderloin right now. :3

    March 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  2. G

    Cold Fired Chicken .. yuk ! But I would like to taste the recipe mentioned above. I think this will be very successful as airline food. I am going to try the recipe but serve it hot .

    There is nothing like Hot homemade Fried Chicken. Anyone who mentions fast food chciken chains like KFC, Churches, Popey's has no cooking skills...

    October 6, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • ThatOneKidWhoLovesColdFood

      To me, it's best to eat hot chicken one day, then turn around and not bother to heat it up the next. Sometimes, quality goes down when you reheat, i dunno why. Just look at mcdonalds fries. extremely bland if you reheat them.

      March 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  3. Duke

    My wife is good to me, she cooks the dark pieces first and places them in the freezer and then cooks for the rest of the family. Fried chicken (dark meat) in the fridge over night, cole slaw, hot buttery buttermilk biscuit and sweet tea, the best southern food there is besides turnip/collard greens with cornbread and pepper sauce.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  4. Judd Jugmonger

    Seems like some folks don't know their wings from their nether regions! Hot, crispy and crunchy with them juices runnin' down your chin is the only way to fly! Soft and scummy is just a sin!

    October 6, 2010 at 6:23 am |
  5. NotsosimpleJack

    Think about an airplane meal though. It would be way better cold than reheated in a microwave where it will be very rubbery.

    October 6, 2010 at 4:09 am |
  6. Zippy

    Cold friend chicken is excellent by it's self. But it's also quite good added into a salad. The flavors of the chicken
    mixed with veggies and some light dressing (like poppyseed) is great.

    October 6, 2010 at 4:07 am |
  7. Brian

    Cold is way better than hot.

    October 6, 2010 at 3:01 am |
  8. doobus

    Fried chicken is very good cold. Then again so is roast beef, ham, bacon, turkey and all those other unidentifiable lunch meats. Even cold fish is good. That's why we eat tuna sandwiches, sushi, etc. So basically meat is tasty whether it's cold or hot. Why is this a new discovery? Heck, even a cold meatloaf sandwich is good. I suppose the only thing that might not be very good cold is pot roast because gravy tastes best when it's hot.

    October 6, 2010 at 1:59 am |
  9. dsb

    26 years ago I had the second date with the man who I eventually married. It was for a Grateful Dead concert here in Austin. He's from Pittsburgh and I'm a Texas girl (b9rn and raised). It was an all day thing where you could bring in a cooler. I fried some chicken, sliced up some veggies (cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, etc) made a peach pie and off we went.

    What a wonderful day! Lasted until about 2 am. First time he had ever had cold chicken and he loved it. Ever since then he asks for it once a month. I always make enough for leftovers. In the summer cold fried chicken is the best. Can't ever have a picnic without. I found the secret is to fry it in less oil and then drain it well. Also, leave it out to get more to room temp if you don't like the fat that is left. I don't like it either but fried right there will be little fat left on the chicken.

    October 6, 2010 at 12:11 am |
  10. Robert

    I ate a ton of cold fried chicken at church and school picnics as a kid. It was a very common picnic food in the rural areas of Texasin the 1940s and 1950s.. I liked and I will still enjoy it as leftovers.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  11. Randy

    It's probably the most popular picnic food in the whole country.
    Anybody who hasn't tasted it- particularly if you're an adult- must have been raised on the planet Pluto. I can't BELIEVE the author has never encountered it.
    Besides picnics, it's a potluck staple. Her parents must have kept her in a cocoon.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  12. jason

    As a mostly lifelong resident of the Deep South (I live in TX now and no, that's not the Deep South), I can offer the following thoughts of a fried chicken connoisseur:

    White meat is best hot, or room temp if it is particularly moist, which is dependent on preparation. Don't forget that there are so many variations on prep before you put it in the fryer. Marinades are especially important for white meat. A 24hr marinade is the minimum. There's also no law against smoking white meat pieces before battering and dunking them, which provides for a real sensory overload.

    Wings are wings. If you really want to fry them, gob them up with a thick and maybe spicy batter because that's all you're going to get from them in the eating. I know people are used to getting their fair share of wings from KFC and other outlets, but we southerners don't bother that much with them. Gone are the days of going out in the yard and twisting the necks of yardbirds. We buy packs of legs and thighs and packs of breasts nowadays.

    The legs and thighs are where its at. That's the flavor! These, unlike breasts, are best eaten room temp and sometimes cold. Room temp is really the best though. You do need to trim fat well if you dont want jellied stuff on the final product. To do this, you need to skin the chicken, trim it, and then use a thick batter. It doesn't stick as well and provide that awesome taste of fried chicken skin, but it does get rid of the fat that people don't like encountering in cold chicken. I take it as a small sacrifice to pay for one of the best complex flavors and amazing textures around. I say leave the skin on and just pick off the fatty parts.

    If you haven't had a well-prepared, fried chicken leg served room temp or cold, you need to trade favors with a skilled southern friend.

    Or go find a Popeyes and get the low-priced all-dark-meat box and let it sit out all day on the counter. Spicy, of course.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  13. Bryan Youd

    The allure is that the grease balls up in painful lumps in your stomach instead of rolling down your chin.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  14. Howie

    Used to love cold KFC as a kid – even imagined as an adult I'd buy buckets and put them in the fridge! Never really did though...

    October 5, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  15. Scrappy Doo

    If you're in the south, Publix Deli chicken is the best, hands down. It's great hot or cold.

    October 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
  16. Graham

    Cold fried chicken with some Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce (or ketchup, in a pinch), and man you're eatin' good! I can still do cold fried chicken, but cold pizza doesn't sit as well with me as I've gotten older.

    October 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  17. James M. from Tucson AZ

    Cold Fried Chicken like Cold French Fries should be placed in one receptacle: The Waste Basket. Cold Fried Chicken tastes like cold grease. The same is not true of Cold Roasted Chicken or Cold Broiled Chicken which tastes great in a tossed salad.

    October 5, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  18. Ituri

    Eww... sounds like an excuse to move away from even serving any hot meals on planes, if you ask me.

    Fried chicken are like fast food fries. ONLY good within 30 minutes, straight out of the fryer. Once they go cold it takes a certain level of desperation... or lack of caring whatsoever (hello college students)... to put it in your mouth.

    October 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
  19. tll

    I would only eat cold fried chicken if I were starving and it was the only food available. It is awful and leaves a terrible after-taste. Ew. And that goes for every type of fried chicken I've tried. Hot from the fryer only pluh-leeeeze.

    October 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
  20. Marco

    I prefer no chicken.

    October 5, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  21. Greg B.

    Anyone who thinks that cold fried chicken isn't great is out of their mind. Try a cold fried chicken breast, some 'tater salad and a piece of corn bread for lunch sometime and then look me in the eye and tell me that you didn't just visit culinary nirvana. That's one meal I couldn't imagine living without in my life.

    October 5, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  22. Tom

    'Put on a few eggs, there's a good fellow!` Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. 'And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!`

    From The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien – if it is good enough for Gandalf and Bilbo, it is good enough for me :-).

    October 5, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
    • DollParts

      nice one!

      Saturday supper just got set: fried chicken (w/lotsa leftover to eat COLD the next day!), deviled eggs, and something green.

      Now, let's move on to the recipes, shall we?

      October 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  23. The_Mick

    I like cold fried chicken, but I love it warm. Same for pierogies, pizza, etc. If they want to serve it cold on the airline it's because they want to save money, not display a new taste sensation.

    October 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  24. The Spud

    I prefer hot fried chicken, but a good, crunchy cold piece of chicken can be great. White meat over dark any day.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  25. Murf

    Cold fried chicken, cold pizza, and cold spaghetti are the best.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  26. Usher73

    And how much money will Delta save by not reheating the chicken ?

    October 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  27. Hex-Wing

    I love me some cold fried chicken. I'll buy a box of it from Whole Foods and stick it in the fridge to let it cool down overnight. In fact, I can't remember the last time I ate it hot. (Too greasy.)

    October 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  28. jeremy

    michelle bernstein is a awesome chef and if she tells u fried chicken served either way is good just eat it!!!! That woman knows food!!!

    October 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  29. kuksupwan

    Come on! Are you really a US citizen? Everyone has had KFC cold the next morning out of the bucket.
    If you havent then show me your green card now!

    October 5, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • Robyn

      I agree!

      October 5, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  30. flutty dutty

    that is disgusting

    October 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  31. Mark Larezzo

    You never had cold fried chicken? Next you will tell me you have never had cold pizza for breakfast

    October 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • flutty dutty


      October 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
      • Mark Larezzo

        one word answer? Cant come up with anything better?

        October 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  32. V Saxena

    You done lost yo fragernackle mind!

    October 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  33. JB

    Loooooove cold fried chicken. I prefer it hot when it's fresh, but I haven't found a good way to reheat it and keeping the skin crispy after it's been in the fridge, so I developed a taste for just eating it cold. Can't do cold pizza though.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  34. DP44022

    Cold in the summer, hot in the winter. That's how I like my fried chicken.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  35. Jim Bob

    I've loved cold fried chicken since I was a kid 50 yrs ago.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  36. SandiK

    Cold fried chicken–if the chicken was fried properly, is not greasy–the flavor is unique, the texture perfect. Good hot or cold but different. And anyone who doesn't like cold pizza?? I cannot comprehend–the maturing of the flavors overnight in the fridge (not on the coffee table, please) makes it a masterpiece.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  37. JTW

    Love Fried Chicken.. hot or cold as long as its not too greasy.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  38. Tim

    Hot pizza great, cold pizza not as good. Hot fried chicken great, cold fried chicken, not as good.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  39. eric

    if it's free, I'll take it...

    October 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  40. Missy

    I prefer it cold, but will eat it hot and then I hide a piece or 2 under my napkin to slip into the frig asap.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  41. Limer

    It's best fresh out of the oil, but it's also very good cold or room temp.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  42. Don

    Cold is delicious as long as its not bone-in. Wat it plain or put it on a sandwich.. yum.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  43. Mary J

    Ooooh! Cold fried chicken is one of my favorite things in the world! However, I do not see how people can eat cold pizza. BLEH!

    October 5, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  44. Stephanie

    Ewwwwwwww cold congealed fat and almost as bad – it's on the bone. That is disgusting.
    Bring on the pretzels.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  45. Popeye

    There is nothing worse than the taste and texture of cold rubbery chicken skin with the congealed fat underneath it hiding under the soggy crust of fried chicken. I'd much prefer a bag of peanuts than that.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  46. michael rae

    i like cold chicken i dont like it at 35 degrees but 50 or 60 aint bad. To be honest its not really that great to re heat fried chicken anyways.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
    • Mary J

      I agree that fried chicken shouldn't be reheated. It's really soggy.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  47. jrod

    Oh man...I love cold fried chicken. I've been enjoying it since I was a kid. Sometimes I'll buy a freshly made hot 12 piece and put it in the refrigerator and eat it later. Of course I eat it hot too but cold is always a great treat for me. I think the best piece I had was from KFC in Houston, TX at my aunt's place, it was a breast, original recipe, back in like 1987.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • KernalSanders

      Are you referring to your Aunt's Breastessess?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
      • jrod'm referring to KFCs breasts...

        October 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  48. T-bone

    Exactly Virginian.. add some baked mac and cheese, potato salad and some home made buttermilk busquits and there's not a finer southern meal to be had.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
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