The Ingredient Ina Garten Adds For Better Reheated Chicken

Whether it's for a simple weeknight family meal or a special supper with friends, nothing beats roasted chicken. Just the aroma of the bird cooking in the oven brings instant comfort, and that's before you even get to eating the crisp bronze skin and tasty tender meat. And even better, roast chicken is also the simplest dish in the world to cook, according to Ina Garten.

Roast chicken is especially delicious when it's freshly cooked and hot, straight out of the oven, and rested gently before being served. But often, it's easiest to roast it ahead of time — whether to make dinner prep less stressful, or just to ensure the poultry is properly cooked through. Plus, roast chicken makes the best leftovers for future meals, too. So chances are, reheating is on the cards. Luckily, the Barefoot Contessa has a top tip to make reheated chicken taste even better, and it involves adding just one ingredient: fresh herbs.

For dishes such as her skillet-roasted chicken and potatoes, Garten likes to return the cooked chicken to the skillet before serving, so it's nice and hot. But she also adds soft herbs such as parsley and chives at this reheating stage, rather than when the chicken is being cooked from scratch. It means extra flavor for the chicken — and also keeps the delicate fresh herbs fresh, vibrant, and colorful.

Ina Garten reheats chicken with herbs for flavor and freshness

Adding fresh herbs brings a wealth of extra aromatic flavor to meats such as chicken, not to mention adding extra depth to the juices for making gravy or sauces. And hard herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, or even bay leaves – the one herb Ina Garten isn't sold on — work well when cooked with the chicken, as they can withstand the longer cooking time.

But when reheating chicken, which should always be reheated to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, per USDA guidelines, and only reheated once, then softer herbs tend to work better. Because soft herbs such as parsley, basil, chives, dill, or cilantro are much more delicate, they are better suited to being added towards the very end of the cooking time, or as a garnish. This means they're ideal for adding when reheating chicken, as the shorter time being exposed to heat means they keep their fresh, bright flavor and color.

Garten sprinkles minced fresh parsley, diced chives, and a little extra salt over her cooked chicken thighs when they are returned to the skillet, meaning the chicken can be served hot, with an extra burst of flavor. But a number of other herbs work equally well, and can also be added as ingredients to sauces, gravies, and dressings to accompany reheated chicken and make it extra delicious.

Other ways to elevate leftover roast chicken using herbs

When you've roasted a whole chicken, a great way to make sure you're getting the most out of the bird is by making a broth by simmering the bones in water with vegetables, peppercorns, garlic, and hard herbs such as sprigs of thyme, and bay leaves. When reheating chicken pieces such as the breasts in the oven, adding a little of the herb-scented broth to a baking tray along with the meat before covering with foil and baking will help keep the meat moist and full of flavor.

Another way to give reheated roast chicken an extra boost is to serve it with a sauce or gravy, with any leftover chicken broth lending an even richer taste. Adding herbs such as parsley, chives, chervil, and fragrant tarragon along with shallots and white wine works especially well. Or try adding chopped soft herbs to a creamy sauce made with heavy cream, Parmesan, cream cheese, and garlic.

If you'd rather eat leftover roast chicken cold, you can still use herbs to make it extra tasty. Mix soft herbs such as parsley, chives, or basil with mayonnaise and stir it through the cooked chicken for a quick, flavorsome chicken salad. Or if you only have dried herbs to hand, whisk dried oregano into a fresh, zesty vinaigrette with lemon juice, olive oil, and Dijon mustard; it's perfect for dressing salads and turning leftover chicken and herbs into star ingredients that really shine.