A Mess-Free Guide on How to Reheat Food and Keep Its Flavor


Leftovers are a godsend for anyone harried by the day’s activities but still craving for a good, satisfying meal. (This is the reason we love Christmas.) Whether they’re takeout from a dinner with friends or extra batches of a dish cooked up over the weekend, leftovers have saved many souls from unsettling hunger. But do you know the proper way to reheat food?

There’s a science to reheating leftovers. The goal is not only to heat food but also to retain its flavor, texture, and freshness. If you're confused, remember this basic rule Reheat leftovers they way they were originally cooked. This results to food that is just as good as it was when it was initially prepared.

For the lazy (or busy) man, however, there are exceptions. Admit it, would you fire up a grill just to reheat a stick of barbeque or use up liters of oil to reheat a chunk of lechon kawali? Here now is a listing of various reheating methods—plus the type of food that’s best for that purpose—that promise efficiency and the best possibilities of accomplishing the goal.


1| Toaster oven

This trusty equipment promises more than just toasting bread. Aside from being a valuable cooking implement (we've made five-star meals using this device), the toaster oven is also the most versatile reheating gadget. The result is almost always hot, crispy, and golden. Since the oven heats up quickly, you can also consume your food without too much waiting time. The toaster oven is suggested for reheating food originally prepared via dry-heat methods.


If you want to invest in a good toaster oven, choose one that has varying temperature options—low and slow is the best way to go when reheating to keep meat from drying out quickly. For best results, spread out your food in one, even layer. You can also wrap your food in foil to further the insulation and to prevent burnt spots.

Best for:

  • Fried food, with or without breading
  • Roasted meat, including chicken
  • Grilled meat, including pork barbeque, ribs, fish
  • Baked pasta
  • Quesadillas and burritos
  • Sandwiches, including burgers
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Bread, pastries, cookies, other baked goods

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2| Steamer

Steaming is suggested for leftovers that were originally prepared via moist-heat cooking methods. Food cooked this way usually involve a lot of water, and is usually softer in texture. Refrigerating or freezing alters water content, so steaming is the best way to give food that moisture back.


Setting up a steamer may require extra effort, so instead, do as some Filipino households do, and steam your leftovers in the rice cooker as you cook your rice. There are a lot of possibilities when you have a rice cooker.

Best for:

  • Dim sum, including siopao
  • Steamed meat, including Hainanese chicken
  • Boiled shrimp and other seafood
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Puto and other rice cakes

3| Stovetop

The stovetop is a foolproof way of reheating food, although it requires more time and effort to set up. It is best, however, for reheating food that has a lot of moisture or come in thick sauces, and those that are larger in quantity.  


Keep the heat at the lowest setting and to use heavy-bottomed pots and pans to avoid scorching. 

Best with:

  • Filipino stews and braises, including kare-kare, kaldereta, bicol express
  • Soup, including sopas
  • Rice and noodles (sprinkled with some water or oil)
  • French fries (re-fried in a single layer)
  • Pizza (in a dry pan with lid)
  • Steak, chicken, and pork chop (by quick searing)


4| Microwave

The machine can get heat food easily, but the result could be varying—even alarming at times. Your food can end up burnt and dried if left in the microwave for too long or if reheated in a setting higher than suggested. What more: things could get messy (watch the Mr. Bean movie, if you want to know how). The microwave, however, shouldn’t be disregarded that easily, as it still promises good outcomes for some types of food. You can even cook full meals using a microwave if you understand how it works. 


For best results, make sure to space out your food in its container, check it often (at least halfway through heating time), and mix it often. Do not heat different types of food at the same time. Cover your container (but be careful not to seal it fully). If you want to avoid drying out your food, place a damp cloth over your microwaveable.

Best for:

  • Single-serve portions of most food, including rice and pasta
  • Soups and stews that aren’t too thick, including arroz caldo
  • Stir-fries and boiled vegetables, including chopsuey

5| Hot water

There’s nothing hot water can’t cure, including some types of food that need to be reheated. Yes, all you need to do is place your food in a zip-top bag (unless its naturally sealed, like eggs—thanks to nature!) and submerge it in hot water for a few seconds. This reheating method is suggested for food items that are highly sensitive to heat.


Don't use boiling water! You can heat several dishes at the same time using this method. Just place them in separate bags and dip in a larger container of hot water.

Best with:

  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Grilled or cured meat, including burger patties and sausages
  • Vegetables, including broccoli and cauliflower
  • Sauces and gravies



Temperature plays an integral role in the enjoyment of food. A little extra step or two that these reheating methods suggests will give you hot food that’s retained its flavor and texture. Some other reminders:

  • Thaw your food in the fridge before reheating. Do this overnight, especially for larger quantities.
  • Use containers that are food-safe and best for the chosen reheating method.  
  • Also try to use up leftovers to come up with new dishes
  • Do not reheat food more than once. Do it in batches, if necessary.
  • Reheat thoroughly! Make sure your food is hot all the way through.
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Idge Mendiola
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