5 Things You Should Never Reheat in the Microwave

published Mar 11, 2016
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(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

I’ve been without a microwave for the majority of my adult life, but when we moved into our current apartment a couple years ago, there was already one installed into the kitchen. While I was a bit put-off by it (I’d been a proud, anti-microwaving human after all!), my now-fiancé was elated — because as far as he was concerned, he could finally reheat food the easy way again.

Now that I live with one, to be honest, there have been moments when it has come in handy — like to quickly reheat a single serving of soup for lunch. But a microwave really shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all when it comes to reheating food; unfortunately it can cause more harm than good to certain items. Here are five foods that should be left out of the microwave.

1. Bread

The funny thing about reheating bread in the microwave is that at first it seems like it worked great, especially for something not particularly crusty like soft dinner rolls. The bread gets extra-soft and hot fast, but let it cool for a couple of minutes and suddenly that bread is tough and dense. And if there did happen to be a good crust on it, it’s far from crisp.

That’s because the heat of the microwave actually dries out the gluten and toughens it while also not allowing the crust to re-crisp. Instead, reheat the bread in the oven or toaster oven, wrapped in foil if it has been sliced, at 350°F for five to 10 minutes.

2. Fried Food

Whether it’s french fries, fried chicken, or falafel, fried food really is always best eaten fresh. However, if you do have some leftover, you want to reheat it in a way that will revive its crispy goodness, which the microwave just won’t do; instead it will just become soggy.

Try reheating any fried food in the oven on a baking sheet. Reheat for 10 minutes at 375°F. Then remove the foil and bake for another five to 10 minutes until the outside is crisp.

3. Pizza

For the same reason bread doesn’t work, pizza doesn’t work either. The crust loses its nice crunch and you’re left with a limp, sad slice with an unpleasant chew. Instead, if you’re reheating a bunch of slices, stick them in the oven on a baking sheet at 375°F for 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. But if you’re only reheating a slice or two, try our skillet method below.

4. Steak

The biggest concern with reheating steak is the fear of overcooking it. If you reheat it in the microwave, especially at high power, it can go from perfectly cooked to well-done in a matter of seconds.

You’re better off thinly slicing your leftovers, then putting a little oil in a sauté pan or cast iron skillet that’s set over medium heat, add the steak, and cook just a minute or two on each side, until the pieces are just warmed through.

5. Fish

Yes, you’ll likely make enemies if you try to reheat fish or any kind of seafood in the microwave due to the smell it will put off, but the culinary reason not to do it is similar to that of steak — it’s an easy way to overcook it.

The best way to eat leftover fish is to actually repurpose it, because no matter what way you try to reheat it, it’s just never the same as the first time you cooked it. Instead turn flaky fish like salmon into fish cakes, or toss that cooked shrimp onto your salad.