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Food Safety

Can you Reheat Food?

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Aliza Hasnain

May 16, 2024

Read time : 15 mins

Table of contents

Reheating food once only is recommended by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). However, with special attention to food safety guidelines, reheated meals can be enjoyed without affecting quality.

General Safety of Reheating Food

Food safety guidelines require food leftovers to be evenly heated to an average internal temperature of  165°F (74°C) for a duration of at least 2 minutes in microwaves and stove tops. Reheating food in baking ovens requires higher temperatures and more time. For even heating, frequent stirring is preferred. Proper storage and defrosting of leftover food is done at the correct refrigeration temperature range between 0°C and 4°C.

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Can You Reheat Meat?

Reheating meat can be done safely, if the correct temperature and storage conditions are thoroughly followed.

reheat meat

Chicken

Reheating cooked chicken is safe but it is important to avoid moisture loss and changes in texture. Reheat chicken to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) for a minimum of 2 minutes. Reheating chicken in a microwave multiple times should be avoided as it can drastically lower its quality and taste.

If leftover chicken is stored in the fridge for more than four days, it is safer to discard it. However, cooked poultry can be safely stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Pork and Pork Products

Reheating pork dishes is safe, but maintaining their taste and texture can be a difficult task. This is particularly difficult for roast pork or pork chops, which may become dry and tough. Proper storage is required for reheating pork food. 

To keep pork safe for later consumption, do not leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Sausages

You can reheat sausages using the microwave or stovetop. Before reheating, cut the sausages lengthwise into two halves and add a small amount of water. This will prevent them from drying out. Refrigerate or freeze leftover sausages within two hours and consume it within three days.

Bacon

Bacon can be reheated in an oven by baking it on a wire rack or foil-lined baking sheet until it is heated internally.

Gammon

Leftover gammon can be reheated in either sliced form or as a whole joint. Warm the gammon and place it on a baking sheet at a suitable temperature.

Chorizo

Chop the chorizo into smaller pieces for even reheating. Spread the slices on a microwave-safe plate, preferably in a single layer. Reheat in short intervals of 30 seconds to a minute, to avoid overcooking.

Beef

Reheating beef dishes is safe. Using a microwave or stove top are preferred methods as oven reheating can lead to dryness and toughness. For best results, consider reheating beef in sauces like gravy, casseroles, or pies to retain moisture. Beef dishes already in sauce can be reheated as is or with a small amount of water in the microwave or stovetop.

Steak

Reheating steak can be carried out by the use of a damp paper towel on top of the steak. Then heat it on medium, rotating the meat in between, for at least 2 minutes. 

Lamb

Like other meats, reheating should bring the cooked lamb to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), measured with a thermometer. Proper storage and defrosting procedures are essential before reheating. Portions should be cooled, sliced, wrapped in foil, and frozen for later use. For leftover frozen lamb, thaw or defrost it in a refrigerator.

Duck

It is safe to reheat leftover duck. Place the duck in a microwave-safe dish and add broth or water, to prevent dryness. A plastic wrap or a paper towel can be used to cover the dish. Reheat the duck for 2-3 minutes on medium heat, until the temperature reaches at least 165°F (75°C) before serving.

Meat Balls

The correct method to reheat meatballs depends on whether they are served with sauce or not. When serving with sauce or gravy, reheat them gently on the stovetop by combining them with the sauce in a pan over low heat. If not served with sauce, reheat them in the oven making sure they are warmed evenly without drying out.

Haggis

Haggis can be frozen and reheated for later use. When reheating, defrosting in the refrigerator from the frozen state is important. Haggis can be reheated either by steaming or microwaving.

Kebab

Reheating kebab is safe the day after but not recommended beyond that due to meat freshness concerns. Use a microwave or heat on a stove to retain juices. Cool leftovers completely before refrigerating in airtight containers.

Can You Reheat Seafood?

When reheating seafood dishes, it is important to address timing and method for suitable taste and safety. Cooked fish can typically be reheated within four days, with the addition of onions or garlic, to improve flavour.

reheating seafood

Prawns

It is best to reheat prawns once to avoid texture issues. Make sure prawns reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) for safe consumption, whether reheating from frozen or thawed.

Fish

Minimum internal cooking and reheating temperature for fish is 70°C (158°F), for a time span of 15 seconds. Preheat the oven and place seafood in a buttered dish and cover with foil. Bake for around 15 minutes. For salmon, preheat to 275°F (135°C).

It is advisable to only reheat fish once to avoid bacteria growth. Reheating to boiling confirms safety but may affect taste. Proper reheating maintains both safety and flavour.

Tuna

Canned tuna and casseroles can be reheated by using a standard reheating method. For tuna steaks, reheating is possible if they are refrigerated properly. If the tuna steak has been lightly pan-seared and remains rare in the middle, a quick sear should be enough, preserving its quality.

Can You Reheat Eggs and Dairy Foods?

Leftover cooked eggs and egg-based dishes can be safely enjoyed if they are stored correctly and reheated to a sufficient temperature.

Several reheating techniques are suitable for different types of cooked eggs and egg dishes. Internal temperature should reach at least 165°F (74°C) before serving. Reheating cooked egg dishes does not affect their nutritional value but may undergo minor changes in texture or taste.

egg reheating

Eggs

While reheating eggs is generally safe, not all types of cooked eggs reheat well. Scrambled eggs and omelettes can be reheated. Hard-boiled eggs, whether shelled or not, can be safely reheated by placing them in boiling water for a few minutes. It is safe to reheat fried eggs but they may become tough and rubbery.

Milk

When using the microwave, reheat milk on medium to high power, stirring every 15 seconds until steam rises. On the stovetop, reheat directly in a saucepan with regular stirring.

Reheating milk is possible but not advisable, as it may form a gritty texture and lose its flavour. If reheating is necessary, store the milk in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Make sure not to keep reheated milk for more than two days and discard any leftovers after this period.

Cheese

Many dishes containing cheese can be reheated either in the oven or microwave, but only once. Refrigerate them within two hours of cooking and consume them within 2 to 4 days to maintain freshness and safety.

Custard

It is important to note that the custard can be stored in the refrigerator for a maximum of 48 hours. When reheating, use a very low heat and stir continuously until the custard is thoroughly heated. Do not bring it to a boil. Reheat only once and serve immediately.

Paneer

It is safe to reheat paneer in a microwaved covered dish. Avoid overheating that can lead to a tough texture. Upon reaching the desired temperature, remove the dish from the microwave. This will maintain better taste and texture.

Can You Reheat Grains and Legumes?

Reheating grains and legumes is possible, if done the right way. The cooked grains and legumes can be stored in the refrigerator for a maximum of four days or in the freezer for up to six months. Thoroughly reheat them before consumption and discard any remains having unpleasant odours or appearances.

Pasta

Reheat pasta with bolognese sauce in the oven. Add extra sauce or oil if needed, and bake under appropriate conditions. For pasta without sauce, boil water and immerse the sauce-free pasta for 30-40 seconds. You can also use a metal strainer submerged in boiling water for a brief reheating period. Drain and serve.

Noodles

A recommended method for reheating noodles without sauce involves placing them in a metal strainer. Then submerge them in boiling water until warmed, for approximately 30 seconds. This technique maintains texture due to the brief exposure to intense heat.

Quinoa

The best approach for reheating cooked quinoa is in the microwave. Place thawed or frozen quinoa in a microwave on high heat until it reaches the appropriate temperature.

Orzo

Like any pasta, leftover orzo might become slightly dry. Add water before reheating. For extra flavour, add lemon juice and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Bulgar Wheat

Bulgur, once cooked, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. When reheating refrigerated bulgur, place it in a saucepan with a small amount of water. Cook over medium heat until it is heated thoroughly.

Lentils

To reheat lentils, place the dish in a microwave and add a small amount of water or stock. Cover the dish and microwave it, stirring periodically until heated to 165°F (74°C).

Kidney Beans

Reheat kidney beans once to preserve taste and texture. Make sure there is enough moisture during reheating. Kidney beans should be stored correctly in the fridge or freezer.

Baked Beans

Reheating baked beans is feasible if they have been properly stored in a sealed container and refrigerated within 2 hours. Consumed leftover baked beans within three days. Baked beans must never be reheated in the original metal container. Achieve an appropriate reheating temperature to at least 165°F (74°C).

Chickpeas

To reheat, soak the chickpeas in freshwater and bring it to a boil. This is achieved on a stove top for 5-6 minutes, or in a microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Cooked Rice

To reheat leftover rice using a microwave, add 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of water per cup of rice. Microwave for 3–4 minutes until hot at a temperature of 165°F (74°C). For stir-frying, use oil in a pan over medium heat, breaking up clumps and checking temperature with a thermometer. Avoid reheating rice more than once.

Can You Reheat Vegetables?

While reheating vegetables is possible, it is important to be cautious and avoid overheating them. Studies indicate that exposing vegetables like spinach, carrots, turnips, or celery to intense heat can convert their high nitrate content into harmful toxins. This can lead to health issues such as cancer and infertility. However, there are safe methods to reheat vegetables.

Quiche

For reheating of quiche, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) allow the chilled quiche to reach room temperature. Then, set it on a wire rack in the oven and warm for 10-15 minutes. To prevent the crust from burning, loosely cover the quiche with foil during reheating.

Baked Potatoes

Reheating baked potatoes can be done by slicing them into quarters. This is followed by covered microwaving for 2 minutes. For oven reheating, baking at 350°F (177°C) for at least 20 minutes is recommended.

Garlic Bread

Reheating garlic bread is safe. Using an oven to reheat your garlic bread is recommended. Wrap the bread in foil and place it in the oven at 350°F (177°C) for 10-15 minutes.

Corn on the Cob

To reheat corn on the cob, there are several convenient options. In the microwave method, place the corn in a dish with water. Cover it with a damp towel, and microwave in intervals until heated to an appropriate temperature. Boiling the corn for a few minutes is another quick method. If you prefer the grill, brush the corn with oil or butter. Rotate it every 30 seconds until warm.

Can You Reheat This Food?

Spaghetti

For reheating spaghetti without affecting texture, the stovetop method is a suitable option. In a pan, place the leftover spaghetti with a small amount of olive oil or water to generate steam. Warm over low to medium heat, stirring at regular intervals until the dish is thoroughly heated. This reheating method saves up moisture and keeps your spaghetti fresh.

Gnocchi

You can reheat gnocchi using a stovetop. Boil water with salt and add gnocchi to the boiling water. Let it warm for 30 to 60 seconds, then remove. Oven reheating requires preheating to 320°F (160°C). Place gnocchi in a dish with water, and heat for 10-12 minutes. Gnocchi should only be reheated once for safety and quality.

Lasagna

Reheating a whole lasagna is feasible and convenient. For microwave reheating, individual servings can be placed on a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle water on the dish and cover with a paper towel. Heating in 90-second intervals is advised to avoid overheating.

Burgers

Reheating burgers is quite simple and easy. Cook the burgers until the centre of the patty reaches 165°F (74°C). If you are adding cheese, do it during the last 1 to 2 minutes of cooking.

Soup

It is best to thaw frozen soup in the refrigerator before reheating. Once thawed, you can reheat it either on the stove or in the microwave. To preserve quality, avoid reheating soup more than once, heating only the required time.

When reheating clear soups or broths, bring them to a boil for three minutes. However, for soups containing thickeners like cream or flour, boiling can change the flavour and texture. Instead, bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat while stirring continuously for 3 minutes.

Frozen Curry

Reheating frozen curry is straightforward. You can either defrost it beforehand or reheat it directly from frozen. If reheating from frozen, microwave it until it is hot enough. Stir for even heating.

Dumplings (Fried or Steamed)

Dumplings can be reheated but not in a microwave as it can affect the texture unfavourably. Steamed dumplings are best reheated by steaming them once more. Fried dumplings can be reheated by briefly steaming, then adding a small amount of oil for a crisp finish.

Gravy

For a quick reheating method for gravy, transfer the gravy to a shallow microwave-safe dish. Stir between intervals, until it is in steaming liquid form.

Porridge

Porridge can be reheated in a microwave, until it becomes piping hot. Stir thoroughly before eating with the addition of a small amount of liquid. Porridge can be kept safely refrigerated for up to 5 days and frozen for up to 3 months.

Conclusion

Whether you are reheating meat, seafood, dairy, grains, or vegetables, there are a number of suitable reheating methods to suit your taste and convenience. Some foods such as cooked rice and gnocchi should not be reheated more than once. Regardless of the type of food, it is recommended to confirm proper storage of leftovers. Use appropriate reheating temperatures to maintain food safety and quality.