How to Reheat Food Without a Microwave

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.

Stovetop

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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Crazy for Coconut

36 Responses to How to Reheat Food Without a Microwave

  1. Danielle Hull says:

    We use a double boiler on the stove top for smaller amounts of leftovers. That’s the first thing I purchased when our microwave died and I knew we didn’t want another one. My daughter is learning how to really cook, too!

  2. Annette says:

    We recently discovered how wonderful it is to reheat un-sauced pasta just by pouring boiled water over it and letting it sit for a while. So now we keep our sauce separate from the pasta so we can heat the sauce in the oven or on the stove top and heat the pasta with the water. Less sticking and it tastes better too!
    Annette recently posted..Lessons from a beach vacationMy Profile

  3. Teri says:

    Where do you get your new lids for the jars?

  4. TheresainAK says:

    When we moved off-grid we gave away our microwave for health reasons and because of its energy consumption. I heat anything delicate or that is likely to stick in a double-boiler. They are also great for melting chocolate and other baking steps that specify the microwave.

  5. Karen says:

    I’ve been without a microwave for 9+ years and wouldn’t change a thing! I use all the methods mentioned above. I do find that the food tastes better as well when not heated in a microwave. Microwaved food tends to taste soggy.

  6. Marjorie says:

    I’ve also ditched the microwave for the most part. I use all of the above methods and have great results. And as a bonus, the food tastes better. Crispy food stays crispy and food tends to be more evenly heated. For work, I bought a cheap hot plate at Target and I use that instead of the microwave. Several co-workers have taken to using too!
    Marjorie recently posted..Salmon with Artichokes and Tomatoes in ParchmentMy Profile

  7. CLove says:

    We haven’t had a microwave in 4yrs.

    I use a double boiler for just about every reheat! Sometimes I put the food in a dish and place the dish into the top of the double boiler with a little water, almost a triple boiler!

  8. peggy m. says:

    dont own one. been using the stove to re heat.

  9. Unza says:

    Just curious, but how do you feel about GMO food? You sound like a very health conscious person who is worried about food nutrients so this is why I asked. I agree with you about the microwave but much of the food people are heating up is not fit for consumption, especially anything made with grains – wheat, corn, soy, not to mention meat, poultry and farmed fish that are fed GMO feed, and given growth hormones and antibiotics because of the conditions in the slaughterhouses. They (Monsanto) modified our crops so that insects would die and be repelled if they eat it and so that it won’t go moldy in the silos. And this is what is in the food we eat and it is causing record numbers of illnesses in this country. Our bodies were not meant to eat this stuff. It is banned in other countries and we can’t even get Monsanto to label that it is GMO because of political connections.

  10. Unza says:

    The foods you are worried about re-heating are so very unhealthy to begin with, the microwave is not the problem, although I wouldn’t use it to “cook”. Meat,farmed fish, GMO grain and cooking in GMO oils are going to kill you long before the microwave.

  11. Tatjana says:

    I haven’t owned a microwave in 13 years. One more way to reheat foods, that I like, is to use a metal steam basket – just like you were steaming vegetables. This works with meat really well, which can get dried out in the oven. And its pretty fast. Loved seeing this!

  12. Blessed Mama says:

    Curious… what about hot packs? My upper back muscles stay tight & I use the microwavable heat packs that provide moist heat… I’ve tried the plug-in variety, but didn’t get as good of results… I’ve been thinking of getting rid of our microwave, but this is the one thing I can’t figure out!

    • I actually bought a (used) microwave JUST so I could heat up “rice bags,” which I think are similar to the heat packs you are describing. I don’t have an issue with using a microwave for non-food uses. I keep it out of the kitchen so it’s not taking up valuable kitchen space!

      • Donna says:

        Ever since we heard about and bought Salad Master Cookware, I have very rarely used the microwave. This cookware heats so fast. They are like miniature pressure cookers. You start cooking on medium heat and turn in down to low when the little clicker on top clicks. It is non toxic cookware and the food tastes phenomenal. (Wow, I don’t even sell this cookware, but maybe I should)

      • Woolylam says:

        You could use a hot water bottle. I like my rice/heat pack too, but I just bought a hot water bottle. Weaning ourselves off of the microwave.

  13. Kimberley says:

    I stopped using a microwave a little while ago. I discovered a mini Crock-Pot that is meant solely for heating up food (it won’t cook the food). I leave it at work and just bring home the removable metal container to put my lunch in ech day. I plug it in an hour before my lunch, and my food is warmed in time for lunch. It works well for heating up my broth in the afternoon as well. Great for one person and awesmoe for at work when all they have are microwaves.

  14. P & J says:

    We just bought a Cuisinart TOB-195 Stainless Steel Exact Heat Toaster Oven, (it reheats, defrosts, bakes, broils, & of course: toasts!). We haven’t used it yet, but we bought it to replace our microwave, since we have a baby & don’t want to use it around her. Apparently, it’s like having a 2nd oven, except that it cooks/reheats A LOT faster than the oven. Now, we just need to buy some stoneware to use with it, (Lead-free glaze, of course)! It’s a little on the small side, but if we need to reheat anything larger than a plate of food, we always have the regular oven. It will be an adjustment, but SO worth it, for the health & well-being of our daughter, (& the whole family). :-)

  15. gail says:

    I haven’t used my microwave for years either and I don’t miss it one bit. I find most things reheat easily on the stovetop with a little extra liquid or fat added to them, or in the convection toaster oven.

    My new apartment had a microwave installed over the stovetop… I use it for storing salt, pepper, and spices that I need frequently for cooking. VERY handy to have them so close and out of sight.

  16. beth says:

    its a good idea to remove the micro’s.. I’m planning to buy a new toaster oven that reheats..
    with using my foreman for all the meats we grill.. and eating veggies steamed or raw.. there’s no need for the micro.. we have an air popper for pop corn.. crockpot for baking and an electric tea pot for hot water.. not much left to need.. lol

  17. Melissa says:

    Love the post and all the subsequent comments. Anyone have an idea for warming up tea or coffee, that has gone cold in the mug? I guess the double boiler would work , but am curious if someone has come up with other solutions.

  18. Kim says:

    We ditched our microwave a few years ago due to the health effects – only thing I had ever used it for was defrosting meat so haven’t really missed it – just need to plan ahead and take meat out of the freezer the night before. I have been thinking about investing in a small portable electric hotplate for the office kitchen for reheating my lunch but the toaster oven or mini crock sound like great ideas too.

  19. Tara says:

    I reheat lots of food in an electric vegetable steamer. I can reheat rice in a bowl while steaming my veggies. Love it!

  20. marilyn says:

    I actually eat mostly raw foods and don’t cook much. My Vitamix will even make soup :)

  21. cas says:

    My fav way to reheat food is in a bamboo steamer. Put it over a big pot and you can stick your entire plate on it. And if you have more than one plate, you can stack another or two in the next layer of the steamer. It goes pretty fast and the food is always really moist. It’s great!

    Here’s what they look like: https://www.google.com/search?q=bamboo+steamer&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=NA7uUaWlLo6kqQH5m4GADw&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1440&bih=805

  22. Alex Z says:

    Pizza
    Best reheated in a covered, cast iron skillet with lid. Crust will firm up as crispy as you like, cheese will remelt and flow.

  23. Jackie says:

    I thought you had come up with some miricle way of reheating food…this is just common sense isn’t it? this is what we did before microwaves where even invented, but I guess a lot of younger people have never lived without one.

  24. Dawn says:

    I love my under the cupboard toaster oven!

  25. Sarah says:

    For foods without enough moisture to reheat on the stove top without drying out or scorching, I wrap the food in foil or enclose in a smaller glass dish, and heat it in either a double boiler or a convection over. This even works for dinner rolls.

  26. Drenda says:

    Besides the stove, we have been using pressure cookers. It takes a little practice, but we even use it to defrost.

  27. Rosie says:

    Thanks for this post and all the comments. Great ideas. We just use ours for warming coffee too, going to check out the mugs sold through Amazon….Thanks again!

  28. Samantha says:

    Having a microwave free challenge this month! So far, using stove top for everything, including biscuits and hamburger buns. :)

  29. Nicole says:

    I am moving to a new office for work where NOTHING is allowed except a microwave and a refrigerator to store food. No hot plates, crock pots, or toaster ovens are allowed…nothing! I have yet to figure out how to reheat my food in this environment.

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