Everything You Need to Know About Reheating Food

Check to see if you're doing it right when using your microwave.

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Cooking food at home is a necessity. Everyone needs to eat, and where better than at home where you know exactly what goes into your meal and how it's prepared. It's a fantastic way to not only eat the kinds of ingredients you love eating, without having to push that unappetizing piece of limp pechay or talong to the side, but also a great way to save. 

You know cooking and eating at home are both budget-friendly ideas, so it's just natural that when you do cook at home, there will be leftovers. Not every recipe is made for one person but that's not a bad thing. All leftovers mean is that you have another ready-to-eat meal waiting for you on those days you don't have time to make one from scratch. This also means that you have to know how to properly store and then reheat your food, too. 

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How do you reheat food? 

The best way to reheat food is this: transfer food from its storage container into appropriate cookware. (Use a pot for soups and stew, a saucepan for smaller portions of these, and a pan for fried food.)  Then it's just a matter of turning on the heat, waiting for the food to come to a boil, and letting it simmer until the entire dish is hot again throughout.

This method can take anywhere from a few minutes to as much as 20 minutes plus extra containers to wash. That's why reheating using a microwave is so popular! It can literally take only a minute to reheat a plate of food. Of all the appliances people believe they should have in their kitchens, the microwave has to be part of their top 5 kitchen appliances one must-have, after the stove and refrigerator. 

However, not everyone knows how to properly reheat their food in the microwave. There are many who believe that they already know to use this specialty appliance but in fact, are committing some mistakes when using the microwave

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Here's a quick guide on how to reheat your food when you use a microwave: 

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1 You need to add water. 

Even if the dish isn't a soup, you need to add water either in the food or in together with the food in the microwave. As little as a tablespoon of water in your food makes a difference. Why? Microwave ovens use radio waves to cook food faster than in a conventional oven, and these invisible radio waves are what agitates the molecules in food so that it heats up from the inside out. 

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Yes, inside out although this is said to not be an accurate description. All you need to know is that liquid molecules are easier to agitate than solid food molecules which is why water heats up so much quicker in a microwave than on the stove. Since liquid molecules are easier to agitate, you'll notice that your food also dries out often when heated in the microwave. That's where the addition of water comes in, to help distribute the waves so that it's not focused so solely on the food molecules and dries it out. 

Once you know how a microwave works, you know what your food needs: water or some form of it such as soup or even a sauce. 

Here's what to do the next time you need to reheat your food: sprinkle water over your food, cover it lightly, and place it in the microwave. Turn on the microwave and wait a few seconds or minutes, depending on how much food you're reheating. Your food will gently steam until it's heated through. If you don't want to add water to your food, place a glass of water in the oven with your food so the microwaves have liquid molecules to agitate. 

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Photo by Daks Angeles

2 Do not expect crispness.

Remember the water? That is why crispy food such as fried chicken, calamares, and other fried food that were once crispy do not crisp up in the microwave. What will happen before any crispness happens is the microwave will it dry out. Moisture is naturally in the air and even the crispiest food will soften with time. That's why the best way to make your crispy fried chicken crispy again is to use dry heat. Dry heat is what you have when you use a conventional oven or even a toaster oven

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3 Do not use metal or aluminum foil. 

The microwave uses radio waves to heat its food but it can't penetrate through metal and there are horror stories about foil catching fire in a microwave. However, according to the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), using a little foil in the microwave is okay to use. However, there are a few rules to follow if you do, the most important are these:

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  • Do not completely cover food with foil which will result in your food not heating up and can even damage your oven. 
  • Use only smooth foil sheets. Used sheets of foil are usually wrinkled, and these wrinkles can cause sparks. 

While there are other strict guidelines one must follow, our best advice for your and everyone's safety is this: do not use metal or foil in your microwave oven.

4 Do use microwave-safe containers.

The most commonly used containers to use in your microwave are tempered glass containers. These containers are usually labeled as microwave-safe and thus, some of the best food containers to have plenty of. The benefit of using tempered-glass containers is it can go from storage to microwave to the table and back in the refrigerator. 

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Beware though that even tempered glass can break. This is usually caused by extreme changes in temperature, such as a piping hot to the freezer. The best way to use these is to allow it to come to room temperature first before placing in the refrigerator or even washing it. 

Plastic containers also make great food storage containers and so do some ceramic tableware. To determine if your container is microwave safe, refer to the labels on the containers to be on the safe side. 

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5 Turn food frequently. 

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You finally have your food reheating in your microwave. Have you ever taken your food out of the microwave just to discover that your food is only halfway heated through? That's why there is turntable in every microwave oven. Turning your food helps the microwave cook or heat your food more evenly

However, this doesn't mean that you should not turn your food yourself. The bottoms of your food will heat up faster than the tops of your food because that's where the water or moisture will form. Since water heats up faster, the food touching that liquid will likewise heat up faster so turning or flipping your food over is a good idea, too. 

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