Maintaining the Proper Temperature to Reheat Food

When reheating food, it is important to maintain the proper temperature. The wrong temperature can lead to a meal that does not taste good and can even cause food poisoning. Remember, the safest range for foods is between 40F and 140F. By understanding the temperature range, you can rest assured that your leftovers will be safe and taste good.

Getting the appropriate food temperature while reheating leftovers is the key to making them both safe and tasty. Food safety also depends on careful reheating. You will discover how to reheat leftover meals in this article confidently.

Why do Food Temperatures Matter During Cooking and Reheating?

It’s crucial to regulate the temperature of the food when it’s being prepared or kept. In addition to maintaining the food’s quality, it guarantees its safety for consumption by preventing the growth of dangerous microorganisms. Consumers are shielded from the risk of food-borne infections by ensuring food safety, which helps avoid linked problems, including food poisoning and allergies.

To ensure food safety, it is crucial to ensure that the food is prepared and stored at the ideal temperature advised by the U.S. government. To kill hazardous germs, it is recommended that items like meat, poultry, and eggs be cooked until they reach the minimum internal temperature. Meat, eggs, and poultry must all be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F.

Reheating meals to a specific internal temperature is also essential. This eliminates any bacteria that might have grown on the food while it was being preserved. Improper handling increases the danger of contamination in food that is held over or stored. When food is reheated in the microwave, the entire item must be in contact with 165 F for 15 seconds.

A meat or grill thermometer is the best way to be sure that food has achieved its ideal internal temperature.

Basics of Food Temperature Reheating

Use the same equipment and technique to reheat food as though it had just been prepared.

If you have a large kitchen, you can use this guideline to make your dish as authentic as possible.

You can reheat soup in a pot, roast chicken or turkey in the oven, etc., and most of the time, it works. The dish will just be heated in a manner identical to how it was cooked.

The General Instructions

The general safety recommendations you should keep in mind are as follows:

  • Cool leftovers as soon as you can (2 hours or less). For 3 to 4 days, store it in the fridge in a clean, tightly sealed container.
  • Food leftovers can be frozen for up to 4 months. Frozen leftovers are safe to eat, but the flavor and texture are important.
  • Defrost frozen leftovers before reheating them by moving them from the freezer to the refrigerator. Defrosting can also be done in a microwave. Refrigerate after defrosting and reheating, and eat within 3 to 4 days.
  • You may reheat partially defrosted food in the oven, microwave, or saucepan. Simply put, reheating food that hasn’t thawed entirely will take longer.
  • Make careful to reheat food to the proper temperature (165°F; 70°C) and hold it there for at least two minutes. Evenly reheating food requires stirring, especially when using a microwave.
  • Serve the reheated food right away.
  • Never refreeze leftover defrosted food.
  • Repeated reheating is not permitted.

Not everyone has access to a kitchen that is fully functional. Some people’s only microwave is in the office. What are your options in these circumstances?

The Three Major Reheating Equipment

You can rely on the following three appliances to reheat your food:

Oven (or toaster oven), Microwave, and Stovetop

1. Ovens

Ovens provide a rapid and practical warming solution. Food is handled delicately by it. Simply cover or wrap the meal with foil if you’re concerned that it will dry out (but you should never use foil in the microwave). The oven’s reheated food temperature should be kept low, ideally no more than 350°F. Check on your food occasionally to ensure it is heated through.

You can reheat certain items in the oven, such as:

  • Baked products – When reheated in the oven, muffins, pies, tarts, and other baked goods do not become soggy. Even stale cookies can be revived in the oven for a short time.
  • Bread with a crust – Refresh crusty bread (particularly French bread) by baking them for 5 to 10 minutes at 350°F. Thanks to this, your bread will be soft inside and have a nice crisp exterior.
  • Foods that have been breaded or deep-fried should be crisped up again in the oven or oven toaster.
  • Pizza: The oven is the ideal method for reheating a whole pizza. You can use the stovetop if you only need one or two slices.
  • Seafood: For a delicious texture and flavor, slowly heat seafood in the oven at a low temperature.

2. Microwave

With a catch, this appliance offers the quickest and most practical way to heat or reheat food. The technique may alter the texture. As a result, it only works well with foods that don’t have crunchy crusts, including casseroles, noodles, spaghetti, rice, sautéed and stir-fried foods, soups, stews, boiled or steamed veggies, etc.

However, a tip for warming food in the microwave works best: spread the food uniformly. Then wrap it in a wet paper towel. This will generate steam within the microwave during reheating, preventing dry food from being produced. To ensure that the food heats uniformly in medium and large containers, stir and spread the food.

Do not place all of the different dishes you are reheating on one platter at once. Before adding less dense food to the microwave, reheat denser food (such as pork chops) alone (vegetables, rice, etc.).

3. Stovetop

The cooktop is your buddy if you want to restore the food’s original texture. This is especially advantageous for damp meals (soups and stews).

On the stovetop, reheat leftovers over low to medium heat, often stirring to ensure equal cooking.

Additionally, reheating food on a cooktop with the proper cookware is advantageous.

The following foods can be heated on a stovetop in pans and pots:

  • Pizza – A stovetop is ideal when you only need to reheat one or two slices. Cover it with a lid to prevent it from drying out. This will also preserve the cheesy crust’s crispness.
  • Meat – Searing leftover meat in a pan on the stovetop is all it takes to reheat it. Reheat the meat over high heat. For more consistent heating, you can use a cast iron pan.
  • Additionally, turn the food periodically to prevent overcooking one side.
  • Reheat food that has been sautéed or stir-fried over low heat in a frying pan or another shallow pan.
  • Rice, pasta, and noodles may all use a little milk, stock, or water splashed in the pan to restore moisture.
  • Chilis, soups, and stews should be reheated in a pot or saucepan with a lid since they contain a lot of moisture.

Foods that can be heated on a stovetop with steamers:

Steamed food – items like dim sum or steamed fish must be moistened to prevent drying out. Reheating is accomplished using the same principle; place the food back in the steamer.

Additional Guidelines for Reheating Leftovers Correctly

1. Before reheating leftovers, let food cool for at least two hours after cooking and place it in airtight containers.

When reheating food in a microwave, it should be well covered with foil or put in a container with vents to release steam. Ensure the food is heated to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout. To guarantee that all bacteria are eliminated, allowing the food to remain at this temperature for at least two minutes.

2. Only warm leftovers once. Reheating food repeatedly lowers its flavor and nutritional value while raising the risk of food poisoning.

3. Reheat food until it is thoroughly steaming hot and serve it right once. Delay increases the risk of food poisoning by allowing dangerous bacteria to proliferate.

4. To determine whether food has reached the ideal internal temperature while being reheated, use a meat or grill thermometer.

5. Avoid letting food defrost at room temperature if you have frozen leftovers. Since bacteria multiply when temperatures rise over 46 F, leave frozen goods to defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

6. You can freeze a dish cooked with raw meat or poultry after defrosting it. However, only reheat leftovers once.

7. To reheat food, employ the same technique used to prepare it. Reheat dry stews or gravies in the microwave or on the stove. Reheating crisp meals in the oven is recommended.

8. Reheating leftovers for soup or stew in the microwave or a saucepan is secure. You can reheat solid items in a microwave as well.

Why is Reheating Leftovers Important?

It’s crucial to ensure leftovers are properly stored and reheated once food has been prepared to the ideal internal temperature. This protects food safety and kills the microorganisms that cause food-borne diseases.

There is a risk of infection when cooked food is left on a cooling rack or steam table owing to careless handling or unkempt containers. This may also jeopardize the quality of the meals. It’s crucial to remember that germs multiply quickly between 40 and 140 F.

Food should be chilled to 40 F within two hours. This is a safe temperature for refrigerator storage. Leftovers should be wrapped in airtight packing or packed in containers to keep bacteria out and stop odors from developing.

Food Reheating Temperatures for Various Foods

As was previously mentioned, different types of food should be reheated to different internal temperatures to ensure food safety. For whole meats, a safe internal temperature is around 145°F, and for ground meat, 165°F. Poultry must be cooked internally to a temperature of 165 F. However, it is 180 F if you are cooking the entire bird. Whole eggs should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of about 150 F.

The fundamental guideline to remember when reheating food is to cover it completely while leaving space for steam to escape. Most food should be heated up within two hours to prevent bacterial growth and served right away.

What is the Temperature Holding?

Food should be held at an acceptable temperature for ingestion and complies with food safety regulations so that it can be offered at a buffet or held before being reheated and served. Temperatureshot holding and cold holding are the two different types of holding.

Hot holding occurs when food is stored in pans and kept on a constant low heat source. It is recommended to keep the hot-holding temperature at 135 F.

Any food that will be utilized again goes into cold holding. Cold storage temperatures must be maintained at 42 F to prevent bacterial growth.

Your 6 Mistakes When Reheating Leftovers

You leave food out for longer than two hours at room temperature.
Never leave prepared food or leftovers out at room temperature for longer than two hours if they are perishable. Serve your meal while it is still at least 140 °F after cooking. The “danger zone” is defined as the range between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit by the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. At that temperature, dangerous germs that lead to foodborne illnesses can flourish.

They are not kept in sealed containers.

Do not use wraps, takeout containers, or other weak or inconsistent plastic items as food storage containers. Instead, use sturdy, sealed containers. Match the number of leftovers you have to the container’s capacity, packing it as full as possible to eliminate any additional room for air. This keeps bacteria from growing inside, maintains moisture, and prevents other scents from attaching to the food.

You keep leftovers in an uncool refrigerator.

Set your refrigerator’s temperature to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and then double-check it using a thermometer. More than a third of individuals normally keep their refrigerators set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and 41% report they are unsure of the ideal temperature. Consider all the wasted food and bacterial growth that could have resulted from this.

Leftovers are kept for more than three to five days.

According to the USDA, refrigerated leftovers should be used within three to five days or frozen for up to four months. Be sure to throw away any items with strange flavors, colors, or texture changes because your nose always knows best. To make life simpler, label leftovers with the date they were prepared and keep your fridge tidy so you can see what you have on hand. And if in doubt, discard it.

They are not heated up sufficiently throughout the reheating process.

The USDA advises that when reheating leftovers, foods should reach 165 F as measured by a food thermometer. “Bring sauces, soups, and gravies back to a rolling boil to reheat. To reheat leftovers, cover them. This keeps the moisture in the food and guarantees complete heating of the dish.” Always use a food thermometer to confirm that the meal has achieved a temperature high enough to kill hazardous microorganisms. Reheating items like chicken, eggs, and pork likely to trigger a foodborne illness requires extra care.

Your microwave has cross-contamination.

Many individuals still thaw frozen meat in their microwaves. We don’t advise it because this is a different matter.

If you use the microwave to defrost meat, shellfish, or poultry, take steps to prevent cross-contamination, as juices from uncooked meat frequently carry hazardous bacteria. Use different microwave-safe plates, for instance—keeping one for reheating things you’ll eat right away and another for defrosting meat—or wash your plate in hot, soapy water in between usage.

You cling to the fable that botulism may be created by reheating cooked potatoes.

We do not intend to minimize the seriousness of botulism, therefore let’s briefly review: According to Tamika Sims, Ph.D., senior director of food technology communications at the International Food Information Council, “Botulism is an uncommon but deadly illness produced by a Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum).” “Food preparation must always follow proper food handling procedures because C. botulinum can be found on the surface of fruits, vegetables, and shellfish. This is especially critical when home canning is involved. Keep shellfish away from prepared dishes, and thoroughly wash produce with cool running water.” (Refer to our instructions to learn how to wash produce properly.)


The secret to properly storing leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer is to do so before reheating them. Over takeout cartons or plastic wraps, use clean, airtight containers. To remove extra airspace and keep bacteria out, use containers that are the proper size.