The Best Way to Keep Takeout Food Warm Until You’re Ready to Eat

published Sep 9, 2015
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(Image credit: Zoeytoja)

I was visiting friends a few months ago and we decided to order takeout for dinner. After dinner showed up, though, we weren’t quite ready to eat since they were still putting their son to bed. My friend did something smart with the food to keep it warm — I was surprised at first, but now it’s a trick I use too!

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Storing Takeout in the Microwave

My friend immediately put the takeout food into the microwave, shut the door, and walked away.

When it came time to sit down for dinner, my friend took the food out of the microwave. His wife looked confused and asked, “Why did you put it in there? Were you reheating the food?” But no — he figured since the microwave was an insulated appliance, the food would stay warmer in there than it would just sitting out on the kitchen counter.

And you know what? He’s totally right!

Testing This Tip

I decided to give his theory a try at home with just hot water so I could check on temperature. I filled two identical glasses each with eight ounces of hot water from my hot water kettle that was 165°F. I left one glass out on the kitchen counter and placed one glass into the microwave.

After 30 minutes, the water in the microwave had dropped down to 115°F, but the water on the countertop had dropped even lower to 110°F. Not a huge temperature difference, but the air in the microwave definitely felt warmer than when I first put the water in. The glass didn’t take up that much space, but I could see packing the microwave full of hot food would make it nice and toasty in there.

Why I Love This Tip

When you’re not ready to eat, but you want the food to stay hot, just throwing takeout in the microwave is so easy. It doesn’t matter what containers the food’s in since you’re not actually turning on the microwave, and it just takes a few seconds to do.

One of the other Kitchn editors asked if this tip would also work in the oven. If you have a lot of takeout that needs to stay warm, I think it would work just the same way!

While storing takeout in the microwave is a great way to keep it warm, do remember that you shouldn’t leave it in there for long periods of time. Warm food is in the “Danger Zone,” a range of temperatures where bacteria grows quickly, so only keep the takeout there for no more than 1 hour if the food is hotter than 90°F, no more than 2 hours if the food is cooler than that.

Have you ever stored takeout in the microwave to keep it warm?