How do you reheat leftovers without a microwave?

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A Megan-simple solution: buy an AWESOME microwave.
A Megan-simple solution: Fuck it, buy a microwave.
We just moved into a lovely older house that we’re planning on renting for at least a year. It doesn’t have a microwave, and I’m inclined to keep it that way for health and environmental reasons. (Also, I’m cheap and don’t want to buy one.)

I am seriously at a loss, however, for how to heat up leftovers — especially meat — without making them rubbery and dry. If anyone can help, I thought it would be the Homies.

Any tips for this erstwhile cook? -Allie

Despite Megan’s dependance on her microwave, we’ve talked about the reasons why it’s cool to NOT own one. But now let’s talk about microwave work-arounds. Homies, what ‘chu got?

Comments on How do you reheat leftovers without a microwave?

  1. We lived sans-Microwave for a while.

    Two primary ways of reheating food were in the frying pan and in the oven. In the frying pan we put a little oil or butter down. Can’t recall what we did to prevent rubbery/dry meat in the oven, but if I was oven-reheating now I’d put the meat in glass bakeware with some water (1/2 – 1 cup) and put a lid on the bakeware (either corningware with a lid, or a cookie tray, or aluminum foil).

    Eventually some friends pitched in together and got us a small microwave. But sometimes we still reheat leftovers in the oven simply because of volume and time.

  2. We replaced our microwave with a countertop oven, and it’s great not just for leftovers, but also small dishes. I know you said you didn’t want to spend any money… but the alternative is just using the oven, which, if it’s small amounts of leftovers, is equally an energy drain to be powering the whole thing up for small portions (especially if it’s not a modern, energy efficient model). We’ve been microwave-free for almost two years now! It’s great!

    If you can save up for a decent countertop oven, I swear, it’s the best investment because it’s so versatile, quick heating, and low-energy consuming…

  3. Omg! I have nothing worthwhile to contribute but I just got married and moved and we do not have a microwave either! I have just begun the foray into cooking and I never know what to do with leftovers. I mostly just put them in a glass baking dish in the oven like the above mentioned, but I’m having a hard time with leftover vegetables. Can’t wait to see what people say!

    • For vegetables, rice etc. cooking/reheating in steam works well. A large saucepan filled with water (1/1.5 cm) with a metal/wood ring/ a cookie cutter to raise the vegetable/rice container (preferably steel or any metal) and cook on medium /low heat. Make sure to keep an eye on water and add more if required. Rice cooks in 20 minutes- 1 cup of raw rice will take 2 cups of water.

    • Leftover vegetables turn into wonderful vegetable hash, in the frying pan. They also go well into frittata type dishes either in the frying pan or in muffin tins. Pureed into sauces to thicken them. And I cannot forget soup.

  4. I find it depends on the nature of the leftovers. As a general rule I re-heat at low temperatures and for about 5 – 15 minutes. Low temperatures won’t dry out the food and the longer time will help it come to that nice n’ hot stage.

    If it’s pasta or casserole then I spritz it with some water, cover with tinfoil and then pop it in the oven (or toaster oven) for about 10 minutes. Any meat generally still tastes good!

    If it’s veggies or meat roasted the night before then I let them come back to room temperature first. Then turn the broiler on low and slide them in for a minute or two. They might brown a little more though.

    If it’s something like canned or steamed veggies then I do something similar to the casseroles. Bring it to room temperature, spritz it with water, cover with vents and then slide into a low heat oven (no higher than 350).

    If it’s fried foods we eat the day of and then just toss the rest. :/

    • You can reheat fried foods under your broiler! Just heat it up and slide it under there for a few minutes. It’ll brown a bit more but the broiler puts a decent crisp on it, just keep an eye on it cause things go from pleasantly toasty to burned quickly. I always set a timer in one or two minute increments to remind myself to keep looking at it

  5. I haven’t had a microwave at home in 5 years. And i guess what i tend to do is re-purpose leftovers. Like if i have leftover roast, it gets made into soup, or paninis (we have a george foreman), or mixed with quinoa or something. (if i am making a quinoa dish i tend to add a bit more water, let it boil and then start simmering, then i just add whatever leftovers i want to add on top of the quinoa and it sort of steam heats while the quinoa cooks then i mix it all together – does that make sense?)

    Leftover vegetables tend to get used in an omelet or something. but depending on what they are can be done on a stove top pretty easily.

    for straight up re-heating, i use a casserole dish too. put everything that needs heating in it, a bit of water, or maybe rub it with olive oil (whichever seems to make more sense) then pop it in the oven.

    honestly, once you get used to it, you never even think about a microwave.

    • I was sitting here wracking my brain because I pretty much only use the microwave for melting butter while I make popcorn. I couldn’t figure out what we do with our leftovers!

      But it’s this. I remake them into other things, mostly. And if worse comes to worst (pizza) I’ll use the toaster oven. But so often if I am reheating something my partner is too, so we just use the oven together even though it’s not even usually the same thing being reheated.

      • I fail to see how pizza is a “worse comes to worst” situation. Pizza is delicious, hot or cold (and ever so much better reheated in a toaster-oven than in a microwave). 😀

    • I use milk/butter/oil or broth to reheat instead of water. Water doesn’t have any flavor and when reheating I like to make the dish into something more then whatever it was originally.

      With meats, I always add oil and fry, trying to brown/reheat/make new all at once. So if I had some left over steak, I would slice it into pieces that are thin and bite sized, and brown it up with butter or oil in the frying pan.

  6. My workaround for avoiding the microwave is to use leftovers as components of new dishes which are cooked on the stove or in the oven/grill.

    Leftover beef roast becomes chimichangas (well, an altered version of them), leftover rice is turned into fried rice, left over mince turns into tacos, sausage rolls or nachos, leftover chicken can be added to other things and turned into a pie or become part of a risotto. I don’t usually reheat the leftover veggies, because they tend to be scarfed down by the kids for a snack the next day.

    • This is my go-to fix for dry leftover meat. Cut/slice it into small bits, throw it in a pan with a little oil or butter until it starts to get brown and flavorful, then dump it all over rice or pasta or into tacos. Leftover chicken tacos made with rotisserie chicken are my absolute fave!

  7. I reheat most food by steam. I use the steamer insert in a pot – it’s best for pasta (even if there is sauce on it) vegetables, chicken, turkey and pork. You can even heat up stuffing and rice this way. Steak does better in a frying pan. Things re-heat very quickly in steam.

  8. my folks never had a microwave when i was growing up and still don’t have one now. the first time i had one was when my roommate had one in college my sophomore year and i seriously didn’t know how to work it, lol.

    while i’m very microwave-savvy now, i still remember how i did things before then. it really depends on the food. most potato and starchy dishes got done in a frying pan (think scalloped potatoes, candied sweet potatoes and stuffing from thanksgiving, etc), and also some meats, although those were usually just eaten cold or with some warm gravy. wetter foods in a pot with more water added (spaghetti, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes with a little extra butter or gravy added). breaded and crispy things got done in the oven (french fries, chicken fingers).

    a lot of stuff got eaten cold too, but you just have to start experimenting, really. it’s just like cooking…you’ll probably render some leftovers inedible in the process, but there’s a learning curve and you’ll get it. 🙂

  9. We lived without a microwave for awhile and I grew to love it. My food tasted better without it. We primarily used a toaster oven and the stovetop to heat up things. Sometimes it was difficult, but we got used to it. I preferred being without one.

  10. a steamer is really good for reheating veggies and meat and that sort of thing. It wouldn’t work out so well for pizza I don’t think.
    We have a toaster oven, it works really well for reheating – it just takes longer then a microwave… and I tend to be impatient. My husband is not, so he uses the toaster oven.

  11. This is going to be the least helpful advice, but when we didn’t have a microwave, we just worked really hard not to have leftovers. Which is not to say that we went around throwing out leftovers or anything. We would halve the meat portions and refrigerate them, uncooked, or prep all the veggies then refrigerate half still raw. For big meals, we’d make casseroles, meatloaf, soup or pizza, all of which I think are easy to reheat (I reheat pizza in a skillet.)

  12. We have been living successfully without a microwave for over 2 years now.
    The best strategy for leftovers is making something new with them. Personally, I don’t dig reheated food, so microwaving is not for me anyway. Making a new dish out of leftovers add interest, flavour and variety (you’re not eating the same thing twice).

    I have three tips for making new stuff out of leftovers:
    1. Try to keep foods separate (e.g. keep rice and curry different containers)
    2.The frying pan is your best friend. Who does not love fried rice or an omelette with extra’s? Seriously, a lot of dishes taste just as nice when you reheat them in the frying pan (with a little oil/butter).
    3. Add new ingredients or sauces for interest and let you imagination run wild :). Add an egg, some onions, ready-made (tomato / garlic / spicy pepper) sauce, fresh veggies, cheese… whatever there is in your fridge and you think might taste good. Some ideas: Melted cheese over pasta, fried rice with an egg beaten in and some ham, tomato sauce with spring onions.

  13. The professional-chef way (at least from what I gathered researching this on the Internet a while back!) of reheating meat that you don’t want to overcook is to put it into a plastic zip-close bag and immerse it in hot water in a pot on the stove until it’s heated through.

    (If you’re trying to avoid using plastic bags, then this is obviously not the tip for you!)

    • This is a great idea and you can immerse even a tupperware bowl (a microwavable one) in hot water. Or you could simply put the leftovers in a watertight metal container & immerse it in boiling water or put it in a steamer

  14. Frying pan or wok, low heat, little bit of water, cover with a lid but leave a bit of space for steam to get out….stir maybe once or twice, ten minutes later….bang! Awesome leftovers.

  15. Nonstick pan with a cover, a little butter or olive oil, a little water, let it all heat up together. Veggies that had been crisp will now be soft, but otherwise it’s the quickest, easiest and least-dryingest way I’ve found of heating up leftovers. We haven’t had a microwave in years. It even works for stuffed peppers (our electric oven also works for that).

  16. I have a toaster oven/ counter top oven and it is a good way to reheat things, but in the beginning I definitely forgot about the food I was reheating a few times! It is frustrating to toss ruined leftovers in the trash but eventually it will become habit to put on a timer or whatever so things don’t get too “well done”. Another method is to create packets- in the summer especially this is good on the grill. Just throw leftovers in a tinfoil packet, drizzle with oil, and listen for the packet to stop sizzling! Indoors and in the oven you can put in a dutch oven/ casserole to reduce waste. Also have you thought about meal planning? I only do it for dinners but it allows me to plan for leftovers to be incorporated into other meals during the week. For example the leftover roast chicken gets made into chicken salad sandwiches or put on top of a green salad. This way you can also minimize the need to reheat/ potentially ruin your leftovers! Good luck!

    • Many toasters nowadays have timers so that you hopefully won’t burn something……Of course, my own toaster oven is a vintage 1950’s stainless-and-chrome toaster oven that I inherited from great Auntie Peep, so I have to set a separate timer.

  17. We lived for several months without a microwave or an oven, and we tended to keep the leftovers separate to be turned into new meals. Leftover chicken breast can be easily stirfried, potatoes can be turned into fried patties, and so on. It’s even possible to reheat pizza on a stovetop, if you use sufficient oil and watch it very, very closely 🙂

  18. I was without a microwave for a while during a college internship. I just learned to portion meals adequately so that I didn’t have leftovers unless it was the kind of food that could be reheated easily on the stovetop, like soups.

  19. My husband and I have a microwave, but we rarely use it (it’s in the basement for the odd times we need it). My tip is to just barely cook your veggies and meat when you initially cook them, if you think you will be reheating them. It’s much easier to reheat them without drying them out if you don’t over-cook them the first time (I can’t tell you how long it took me to figure this out!).

  20. 1. Switch from plastic food storage to glass food storage. Pop the lid on to refrigerate, pop the lid off for oven use. Ta Da!

    2. Have a supply of cooking stock. A splash of that with anything really revives most things. It steams solid stuff and loosens up sauces.

    3. We also have a toaster oven, which we love. It was actually a gift, and I thought I would never use it. Totally wrong! Reheating, baking things in the summer, toast (of course). Toasting/broiling is good for reheating fried food by the way.

    • I also rely on glass storage. Just a quick tip – not all glass storage is oven or freezer friendly, so make sure that you check this. Also, you want to allow frozen food to thaw before sticking into the oven, as quick temperature changes can break even oven safe glass.

      15 years, microwave free! (Though my husband has a small one he uses for heating leftovers when I’m not around. He just has never gotten used to a kitchen, sigh.)

      I reheat casseroles and lots of other things in the toaster oven. Curries, soups, or other saucy food I reheat in a saucepan. (Just a note – if you have quality pans, which aren’t even that expensive, food heats super fast). I tend to grab my ceramic nonstick frying pan for pasta, broccoli, carrots, and rice.

      Am I the only one who is lazy enough to often just eat the leftovers cold?

      • Nope, you’re not the only one. I have a microwave (although have also lived microwave free), and I still sometimes eat leftovers cold. It’s not pure laziness, either — they’re good that way! (Although laziness definitely does play a role…)

        • I hear that! Through sheer laziness I have discovered a lot of leftovers that I legitimately enjoy cold.

          I remember when my parents got their first microwave when I was a kid. We always managed to heat stuff up before it, but in a silly way it seems so foreign now! I know we reheated everything sans-microwave, because we certainly didn’t throw anything out.

          My leftovers also often get transformed into something else – various vegetable dishes get dumped into “everything soup”, or into egg dishes. I’ve never really used a recipe for casseroles – they typically are another “dumping ground” for various leftovers from the fridge, both raw ingredients that need to be used up. Different leftover meats are often used on cold sandwiches for lunch the next day – even meatloaf. I love a meatloaf sandwich!

          Lots of great tips here – and so much common sense 🙂 I have been thinking of getting rid of my microwave mostly to free up space and so it’s one less thing to move when the time comes. Thanks to everyone here for the easy alternatives for reheating!

  21. Incorporate the leftovers into a new dish (ie: spaghetti casserole!) or simply use an oven and covered baking dish with some kind of moisture added, like water. You can also reheat on the stove in a pan, depending on what you’re re-heating. After a while it gets easier, just takes practice and PATIENCE.
    Almost 5 years with no microwave here, and I LOVE it! I’ve learned to cook better and also how to plan out leftovers carrying over into new meals for the following days.

  22. There’s always the ‘lazy’ option: Eat cold leftovers. Not all and any of them, but with some types of food it works well. I never reheat pizza, I think it’s better cold than reheated. Boiled potatoes – add a little bit of dressing, and you have potato salad. Some pasta dishes are just as good cold as they are warm. Chicken and several other kinds of food as well, the type of thing that’s sometimes intentionally served cold. Even with a microwave I don’t always reheat these sorts of things.

  23. Toaster oven! Not only is it great for leftovers, it’s brilliant in the summer. We don’t have a working oven (though our stovetop works) and I don’t even miss it cause of my swanky toaster oven.

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