7 Food Reheating Mistakes You Should Avoid

Reheating can be trickier than it looks! The core of the problem is the fact that not every kind of food reacts the same way when exposed to heat. Adding moisture is pretty key for broths, sauces, etc but when it comes to reheating bread-based recipes or something with a tough consistency, extra moisture can mess with the food.

Certain greasy or fried foods are hard to reheat because instead of turning toasty, they may burn or turn hard, whereas eggs, cheese and certain other soft foods may become rubbery if fried in the wrong way. Let’s look at some reheating mistakes you should avoid.

Using the Microwave for Everything

The microwave is a convenient tool, but it's not always the best option for reheating food. Microwaves can cause uneven heating, leading to cold spots that can harbour bacteria, and they often change the texture of food, making it rubbery or dry.

Use the microwave selectively. For soups, stews, and other liquid-based dishes, the microwave is fine. However, for items like pizza, breaded foods, or meats, consider using an oven or stovetop to maintain texture and flavour. When using the microwave, cover the food and stir it halfway through reheating to ensure even heating.

Reheating Food Multiple Times

Each time you reheat and cool food, it goes through the “danger zone” (40°F to 140°F or 4°C to 60°C), where bacteria can multiply rapidly. Repeatedly reheating food increases the risk of foodborne illness. Only reheat the amount of food you plan to eat. If you have leftovers, take out what you need and leave the rest in the refrigerator. This minimizes the number of times your food enters the danger zone.

Not Storing Food Properly Before Reheating

Improper storage can spoil food before you even have a chance to reheat it. Leaving food out at room temperature for too long or not sealing it properly in the refrigerator can lead to bacterial growth and food spoilage. Store leftovers in airtight containers and refrigerate them within two hours of cooking. For large portions, divide food into smaller containers to cool more quickly and evenly. Label containers with the date so you know how long the food has been stored.

Reheating Food at Too High a Temperature

Reheating food at high temperatures can cause it to dry out or burn, especially in the microwave. This can also lead to uneven heating. Use a lower temperature and reheat food slowly. In the microwave, use medium or medium-low power settings and stir frequently. On the stovetop, reheat on low to medium heat, and in the oven, reheat at a temperature between 250°F to 300°F (120°C to 150°C) until the food is heated through.

Using Aluminum Foil in the Microwave

Placing aluminium foil in the microwave is a common and dangerous mistake. Aluminium foil can cause sparks and even start a fire. Never use aluminium foil in the microwave. Instead, use microwave-safe covers or paper towels to cover your food. If you need to use foil to cover food in the oven, make sure it does not touch the heating elements.

Reheating Food Directly in Plastic Containers

Some plastics are not microwave-safe and can release harmful chemicals into your food when heated. Additionally, even microwave-safe plastics can warp or melt if overheated. Transfer food to microwave-safe glass or ceramic containers before reheating. Look for containers labelled "microwave-safe" to ensure they are suitable for use. Avoid using plastic wrap directly on food in the microwave; instead, use a microwave-safe lid or cover.

Not Adding Moisture

Reheating certain foods without adding moisture can cause them to dry out and become unappetizing. Foods like rice, pasta, and meats can lose their moisture content and become tough.

Add a splash of water, broth, or sauce to the food before reheating. For example, sprinkle a few drops of water over rice or cover pasta with a damp paper towel before microwaving. When reheating meats, adding a bit of broth or sauce can help retain moisture.