St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Warm up leftovers the right way

Janet K. Keeler
Published July 20, 2005


If it's Monday, it must be Chinese.

Wednesday is rotisserie chicken.
Friday is always pizza.

And by Saturday, all those takeout containers are crowding the fridge. You've got enough leftovers for more meals, but how do you revive pizza without turning it into a puppy's chew toy? What's the best way to return pad Thai to its original glory?

The microwave, good for many duties, does not work for everything. And when using it, underestimate cook time. You can always add a minute, but it only takes that long to ruin something. Think burned popcorn. In general, reduce the power to 50 or 75 percent and heat at shorter intervals for small portions and longer for bigger portions.

One other tip: Store takeout leftovers no more than four days in the refrigerator.

Here's a guide to getting the most from your takeout the next day:

Pizza: Reheat slices in a skillet over medium heat until toppings are warm. Or, place on baking sheet or pizza stone and warm in a 400-degree oven for five to 10 minutes. Check frequently.

Asian food: Most leftovers can be zapped but should be transferred to a microwave-save container because takeout boxes often have metal handles. Heat for one minute on 75 percent power, stir, and then heat as needed to warm food, in one-minute increments. In rice dishes, add a few drops of water and cover to retain moisture.

Hamburgers and hot dogs: Remove from the bun and place on microwave-safe plate and cover with paper towel. Zap on 75 percent power for 90 seconds. Best with new buns.

Ribs: Place ribs on baking sheet and cover with foil. Heat in a 350-degree oven 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally until warmed through. Baste with barbecue sauce if you'd like. In the microwave, reheat for six to eight minutes on 50 percent power, stopping every two minutes to turn ribs. Microwaving can make ribs rubbery.

Pasta: The microwave works okay here, but a better trick is to put the pasta in a zip-closing bag and drop in boiling water for about 10 minutes. This keeps the sauce contained and prevents drying.

Sushi: In general, leftover sushi containing raw fish is a bad idea. Enough said.

Mexican: Any items with hard shells, such as tacos or tostadas, do not make good candidates for reheating. They get soggy. To reheat burritos, discard lettuce and tomatoes before refrigerating. Then, depending on the size of the burrito, microwave on 50 percent power for two to three minutes, stopping to turn the burrito halfway through. Even if your microwave has a turntable, you'll want to flip the burrito.

Fried food: Use the oven or skillet to revive fried fish or chicken, and french fries. Use a dry skillet over medium heat and flip food until heated through. A 350-degree oven for 15 minutes will reheat and recrisp.

Rotisserie chicken: Strip the meat from the bones before refrigerating. Reheat and serve in a number of ways. (Or don't reheat: make chicken salad or chicken Caesar wraps.) Bulk up canned soup with chicken pieces, make a pot pie or barbecue chicken sandwiches. To simply warm, microwave by first covering, then zapping at 75 percent power at one-minute intervals, depending on amount.

- Janet K. Keeler,

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.