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Are you tired of soggy, dried out, or otherwise unappetizing leftovers? No one wants to waste food, and leftovers are great for not having to cook every single night, but choosing the ideal way for reheating your pre-cooked dishes can take your leftovers from drab to fab.
When To Reheat Leftovers in the Oven
Using an oven or toaster oven is the best way to return some life into food that was originally crispy or crunchy. The dry heat of an oven gives the dish the best chance at reclaiming the texture it had when it was fresh. Use an oven or toaster oven to reheat:
- Crunchy toast with toppings already on it (garlic bread, etc), including grilled sandwiches
- Fried foods - French fries, skillet potatoes, fried chicken, etc
- Apple pies, cobblers, muffins, or other baked goods (the microwave will make them soggy)
- Whole pizzas (if you are just reheating a couple of slices, see stovetop method)
When To Reheat Leftovers on the Stove
- A slice or two of pizza. Toss into a warm skillet with a lid. The pan will crisp up the crust and the lid will hold in the heat and melt the cheese on top.
- Soups, sauces, gravy, etc. A no-brainer. Anything with lots of moisture that was prepared in a pot is ideally reheated by that same method.
- Stir-fry. Use a medium-high heat to keep stir fry ingredients from becoming soggy when reheated.
- Pork chops or steak. Yeah I know, nobody likes reheated meat, but using a high heat and getting a new sear on the outside can add some flavor back into these cuts of meat that you just can't bear to waste. An even better option would be to chop them up, warm them in a skillet, and add some eggs and veggies! Yum.
- Mashed potatoes. If you've ever tried reheating these in the microwave, you know they become a sad puddle of liquid mess. Stir them frequently on low heat on the stove to keep their fluff.
When To Reheat Leftovers in the Microwave
Yes, the microwave certainly does have its place when reheating leftovers, and let's be honest, sometimes you don't have time to heat up a pan or preheat your oven. Just make sure to cover your dishes with a damp paper towel or Saran wrap to both prevent messes and hold moisture in your food.
- Soups, stews, and sauces
- Vegetables that have been cooked soft (steamed, boiled, etc)
- Pasta or rice (add a little bit of water before covering to help create steam and moisture)
Leftovers You Don't Have To Reheat
Sometimes leftovers can be repurposed and made even better by leaving them cold!
- Chicken - chop it up and make chicken salad!
- Shrimp or fish - add to salads or tacos and load 'em up with your favorite fillings
- Mashed potatoes - assuming you haven't added any strong spices, you can use leftover mashed potatoes to make old fashioned potato candy!
Did you make pancakes or waffles? Skip the refrigerator and store those puppies tightly wrapped in the freezer! When you're ready to eat them, pop them right into your regular toaster and they'll be good (or even better) than fresh.
Make Sure To Store Leftovers Correctly
How well your leftovers fare during a reheat starts with proper storage. Use glass containers to store red sauces that stain or food with strong flavors that can seep into plastic containers and linger even after they've been washed. Make sure the seals are tight on any container before placing them in the refrigerator to prevent texture damage from being exposed to air.
These glass storage containers have locking lids and are freezer, microwave, and oven safe. They feel so heavy and nice, too!
But the usefulness of a good set of plastic containers can't be overlooked, especially because they are typically cheaper than glass. I prefer these lids with the locking handles!