I haven’t used a microwave for our food in many years. We did actually buy a used microwave last fall because our new apartment didn’t have one, but that was only to heat up our rice bags, which keep our feet warm in the cold months. When it comes to food I avoid the microwave at all costs.
This isn’t meant to be a post about why you should skip the microwave, so I’m going to let you do your own research on that front. If you’re curious about my personal reasons, I avoid microwaves because I have read that they may destroy some of the nutrients in your food. Given the amount of time, effort and money I put into serving us healthy food I’m just not willing to risk compromising my work by subjecting that food to a microwave.
When we stopped using a microwave the biggest adjustment was figuring out how we were going to reheat all of the leftovers we routinely eat. After a few years I’ve arrived at a system that works well for us.
Countertop Oven (or Full-sized Oven)
My favorite way to reheat foods is in our countertop convection oven. My dinnerware is oven-safe, so I just load up my plate with leftovers and then stick the plate directly into the oven. I like this method because it’s fast, doesn’t require frequent stirring or other monitoring, and doesn’t generate any extra dishes. If you’re single, or find that you’re mostly only heating up leftovers for one person at a time, I highly recommend investing in some sort of small countertop oven.
If you always heat up leftovers for several people at once, you’re probably better off just sticking with your regular oven. The same idea applies, though—if your dinnerware is oven-safe, just load up your plates/bowls and place them directly into the oven. If you don’t have oven-safe dishes, you can instead place the food on pans, casserole dishes, or even oven-safe glass containers like Pyrex or Glasslock. (If you plan ahead and store your leftovers in oven-safe glass containers, you could even save a few dishes in the process.)
I find that most foods do well in the oven. I’ve reheated all sorts of things, such as roast vegetables, brownies, fish, ground meats, beans, rice, and pizza. If you’re not too picky about your food being extremely hot, I think it’s pretty easy to reheat at a moderate temperature while keeping the food in good shape. Some foods, however, do tend to dry out too much in the oven. For these types of dishes you might be better off choosing the stovetop method.
Anything somewhat liquid-based will, of course, reheat very well on the stovetop. I’ve had excellent success with soups, chili, stews, broth, pasta sauce, etc. I have also found that dishes that were originally cooked in oil, such as sautéed vegetables or stir-fries, also tend to perform well on the stovetop.
Foods that aren’t inherently oily or liquidy can often be successfully reheated on the stovetop with the addition of some sort of lubricating agent. Adding a little bit of oil or water will often work. Depending on the food, you could also opt for some sort of sauce. I really like roast chicken reheated in gravy, for instance. Beans and ground or diced meat are yummy with some salsa. I’m sure that there are a myriad of other possibilities depending on what you’re reheating.
Reheating Frozen Foods
Reheating frozen foods adds an extra level of planning ahead, but it is still quite simple to do without resorting to your microwave. For the easiest reheating process, allow your food to defrost in the fridge until thawed. Depending on the size and type of the food in question, this may take overnight or up to several days. Experiment to find the ideal times for different foods.
Many foods, however, do not need to be fully defrosted in order to be reheated on the stove or in the oven. Simply remove the partially thawed food from its container and reheat with your preferred method. I often reheat at higher temperatures when reheating frozen foods—just be sure to check frequently for sticking or burning.
If you ever need to defrost something within a short period of time, placing the container in water will greatly expedite the process. If you’re in a real hurry, you can do this with cold water at room temperature. If you have more time, putting the container in a larger container filled with water in the fridge also works well.
Reheating Foods Away from Home
Trying to reheat food away from home is especially challenging. If you have access to an electrical outlet at work, however, I highly recommend investing in this lunch crock. It’s a 20 ounce, mini crock pot that reheats leftovers over a period of an hour or two. Jesse has been using his at work for the last five months and has been very pleased with it.
Have you ditched your microwave? What are your best tips for reheating food without relying on your microwave?
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