How to Reheat Food Without a Microwave

I am thinking about getting rid of our microwave. I know it seems uheard of, but the darn thing takes up so much counter space. I dream of what I could do with that counter space. And it appears to be on its last legs. I wonder how I can sneak it out to the dump without my husband noticing it’s gone.

Really, the only thing I use the microwave for is to thaw and reheat things. I never use it for cooking anymore. Thawing without a microwave just requires a little advance planning. But reheating seemed like a more difficult prospect, until I gave it a little thought.

I have two secret weapons when it comes to reheating on the stovetop or oven, rather than in the microwave. They are butter and chicken stock.

Most cooked vegetables, including purees and mashes, reheat very well by adding a little butter, and it doesn’t hurt the flavor any. Melt the butter over medium-low. Then add the leftover vegetables and stir gently until warmed through.

For other dishes, I use chicken stock.I don’t bother with homemade stock for heating. I just keep a couple of those aseptic containers of stock in the pantry. Once opened, they keep for a week in the fridge, and since I use chicken stock almost every day, they are handy to have around.

On the stovetop, I add a little chicken stock to pasta and rice dishes and stews, just enough to moisten the food and provide a medium for conducting heat. You don’t want to turn the leftovers into soup (or maybe you do — nothing wrong with that). Reheat over medium, stirring frequently, until warmed through. This works even if the food is already in a sauce, as I find that sauces tend to thicken while in the fridge.

For casseroles, baked dishes and whole pieces of meat like chicken breasts, I add some chicken stock to the baking dish, cover with foil and reheat for 10 minutes or so in a 425-degree oven. This is actually a trick I learned from carting home leftovers from Maggiano’s, and it works very well. I know that seems like a high heat, but you want to reheat the food, not re-cook it, so a higher temperature is necessary.

The best way to reheat pizza is in a dry nonstick skillet on top of the stove, by the way. This keeps the crust crispy. What tips do you have for reheating? And do you think I should do away with the microwave?

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33 thoughts on “How to Reheat Food Without a Microwave

  1. Pat Turlington 16 April 2009 at 10:20 pm

    i saw an interview with one of the chefs in Napa. They were interviewing her in her kitchen and the interviewer ask where was her microwave. She said that she never had one and saw no need for one. I seldom use mine. It is good for warming up bread and melting chocolate real fast. It may take less energy than heating up the oven but I have no data on that. I think that men like them more than women and I know that my husband thinks that he could not live without one. If I was you and I would find someone in need of one and donate it to them. Try a month without one and see if you miss it. I often heat my left over meat and rice in a skillet with a small amount of liquid. Sometimes combining or adding wine or other seasonings can change the dish so it doesn’t seem like a left over.

  2. Shannon 19 April 2009 at 10:22 am

    Microwave is going out of the house today! Husband agreed, much to my surprise.

  3. Jenny bean 20 April 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Wow, you are brave! I use my microwave constantly- but I’m an impatient person. I rarely ever COOK something in it but I warm my milk and coffee- oatmeal etc…

  4. Shannon 21 April 2009 at 9:24 am

    I’ve been without the microwave for 2 days now, and so far, so good. I’ve even had to reheat rice, but no problem with a pat of butter and a splash of chicken stock on the stovetop.

  5. outdoor cooking equipment 28 April 2009 at 4:42 am

    Hi

    Absolutely right, you should get rid of the microwave. Don’t you find that when you use it for reheating it makes meats especially dry and chewy. Butter is the way, or in my case a spot of olive oil.

    For some great priced cast iron cook ware , such as: skillets, Dutch ovens, baking pans, covered soup pots, etc. have a look at my our webstore; prices are way down for the month of April on cast iron cook ware.

    All the best

    Stephen

  6. simplykerri 5 June 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I have been microwave-free for 2 years now and the only downfall is with school out, I have to trust my daughter to use the stove or oven to make her lunch. There have been very few times that I thought ‘Man! I need a microwave!’ But I do miss the quickness of it.

    How have you been doing without?

    K

  7. Shannon 6 June 2009 at 7:51 am

    It has been great. I haven’t missed it at all. And I love having the extra counter space.

  8. Tracy 10 August 2009 at 10:10 pm

    We’ve been without a microwave for at least six months to a year now. After the last one broke, we just never re-purchased. The only thing we missed at first was the quick popcorn. My extended family (my mom especially) thinks we are crazy for not having one and asked if she bought one for us would we use it. You know, my answer was actually no, I don’t think we would. The only thing I miss it for is sometimes the ease for re-heating leftovers, but otherwise, we would never use it and the counter space is so much nicer to have. Although we do still have the toaster oven, which I find the best for reheating pizza. :)

  9. Shannon 11 August 2009 at 6:48 am

    I have had exactly the same experience, Tracy. The microwave seems to be one of those space wasters you think you need, until you try going without it for a while. Then you really see how little you do need it after all.

  10. kd 5 September 2009 at 3:09 pm

    yes it is fast, but microwave is dangerous to cook or heat food.

  11. Matt 21 December 2009 at 9:13 am

    I’m constantly amazed by the volume of people that don’t understand why I don’t have a microwave.

    The only time I think it might be useful is for re-heating left over cottage pie for example, where a normal oven might dry it out.

    An ex of mine used to user hers constantly for cooking veg, which always gave them a funny metallic taste. I’ve had meat defrosted in one and it gave me food poisoning, the only time I’ve ever had it.

  12. Warren 10 February 2010 at 9:19 am

    I am glad to hear that you are getting rid of your microwave. Microwaves are not good for your health and they take away the nutrients of the foods. Sadly though, almost every household has at least one microwave. I understand that I might not be precise with the information I am leaving here, but please do your own research on microwaves and understand that it is bad! Especially processed frozen foods that you have to microwave!

  13. [...] on How to Make the Perfect Stir-FryHillary Mac on Spaghetti alla CarbonaraWarren on How to Reheat Food Without a MicrowaveRisotto with Roasted Vegetables « Simply Cooking on [...]

  14. [...] on my cooking blog, readers seem to be interested in learning how to reheat foods without a microwave. I gave up my microwave and highly recommend it. Oh, the freedom! And the counter [...]

  15. Rainier 18 June 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I just moved in with a person who doesn’t have a microwave. I’m a student, and had roommates in the past who used microwaves, so I never bought one for myself.
    Now that I don’t have one, I find myself improvising ways of reheating foods; oven, stove-top, etc. It really does taste better, and reheating curry, for example, allows room for improvisation, like putting a couple eggs on it, serving it for breakfast.
    Thanks for the pizza on the skillet tip, I’m crunching on that awesome crust just as I post this
    R

  16. Lucky 13 November 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Microwave ovens ruin food and expose people to harmful microwave radiation. Oh wait, you’ve had yours tested for leakage and it’s within the government’s “acceptable level”? Guess what, there IS no acceptable level….and, you don’t need the new proteins created and the enzymes killed with microwave radiation.

    I still have one. We use it to sterilize sponges…and we’d NEVER put our nose to the window and watch things go around, we leave the room when it’s operating.

    And, bread? There is an important molecule in bread called gluten. It is wrecked by microwaves and enhanced grandly, or otherwise brought to life by radiant heat.

    We just might be better off avoiding MSG, HFCS (new innocent sounding name: “corn sugar”), all processed foods and by using a juicer and going 100% organic. More satisfying and cheaper in the long run.

    No aluminum pans, no Teflon…cast iron and enamel-coated iron ROCKS!

    Look to nature for answers.

    Be well

  17. GuruMandy 29 December 2010 at 1:31 am

    @Lucky-I’m curious about the gluten comment. Are you telling me that someone who has a food allergy to gluten can microwave it and will not have a reaction?

    By the way, just moved into a new house and haven’t had a microwave for about 10 days of cooking here. It is being installed tomorrow (it will be the vent-a-hood over the stove). This is the first time I actually had to learn how to heat my Christmas dinner leftovers without one, so thanks! A little butter in a skillet for my veggies and ham should do the trick.

    I pretty much just use it to reheat and melt butter for baking and reheating my coffee when my kids distract me all morning and it gets cold. Oh, and potatoes. I am trying to get away from using it so much, so I look forward to your reheating tricks, and maybe I will just take time to bake a potato proper.

  18. Van 16 January 2011 at 12:26 am

    I don’t own a microwave at home. I don’t have the space and I don’t like them. But they are so useful at work. How would I warm my pasta or veggies without one? I don’t want to just eat sandwiches for lunch all the time. Sometimes at work I want a hot meal. I don’t really care for thermoses either, too bulky and kind of awkward to eat out of unless it’s soup.

  19. Shannon 16 January 2011 at 11:29 am

    Well, usually you don’t have the luxury of a stove at work, unless you work at home. ;-)

  20. senacia 3 July 2011 at 6:20 pm

    I have lived without one for a year now and I don’t really miss it. I rarely used it. Microwave popcorn was a constant for the boyfriend, but now that we have a theatre popper (goes on the stove, it’s AMAZING) microwave popcorn would never compare to it. I guess once in a while I miss not being able to reheat with a microwave, but honestly, most things taste good cold too, which I resort to if I don’t have it in me to actually turn the stove on.

    I found your site after wondering how to reheat rice without dehydrating it.. :) thanks for the info, now back to the kitchen for me!

  21. Evon T. 25 September 2011 at 1:04 am

    Thank you, so much!!! I remember when we were kids, my mom reheated our leftovers on the stove, but she used a little water in the pan for steaming. We begged my parents to finally get a microwave like all our other friends. Now that I’m older and more aware of the dangers of microwave ovens to your health, I’m now more turned on by the stovetop and conventional oven methods. I appreciate this article, and I didn’t know about the oven temperature being at 425 for re-heating. I can’t wait try it. Thanks!

  22. Marianne 27 October 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to add, I tossed out our microwave at least a year ago and dont miss it one bit!! I reheat most things right on the stove top and occasionally in the oven. To me it takes no longer than a microwave and tastes better too! Who likes soggy microwave pizza anyway :)

  23. Ami-Jayne 7 November 2011 at 10:49 am

    Having just come across this really helpful post I would like to add (for future late-comers!!!) that the best way I have found to reheat rice is in a steamer (or run over with a kettle). Just pop a decent bowl of it in and leave it for a wee whiley. Things with rice and sauce on top (like a left-over bowl of curry like I’m munching just now) do great in it too.
    Make sure its not one of those cheap ones that just puts water in everything and does very little cooking though.

  24. Kelly 21 November 2011 at 10:41 am

    I haven’t had a microwave in 4 years – when my husband and I got married we lived in a small apartment and didn’t have the counter space. We returned the microwave we received as a wedding gift. Now we live in a house with much more space and I have enjoyed not having a microwave so much that I don’t intend to go back (although my husband sometimes whines about it). My dad has also tried to offer to buy me a microwave – I told him instead to contribute toward an awesome dishwasher (also haven’t had a functioning dishwasher in 4 years!)

    I generally use water in place of chicken stock or butter (I always use non-stick pans for reheating) and I’ll put a lid on top to help heat thoroughly and quickly. This works especially well with rice – you can’t even tell the difference between fresh and reheated rice.

    I always forget to pull my meats out of the freezer the night before to defrost but I recently learned an awesome defrosting tip: if you have a convection oven where the fan and the heat can be turned on separately from each other, place your meat in the oven with the convection fan on (no heat). The moving air helps the meat defrost quickly (these instructions came straight from my oven instructions). You don’t want to let the meat defrost there longer than 2 hours because of the bacteria growth.

  25. Cocoa 13 January 2012 at 10:29 pm

    So glad I found this! I’m planning to cook a big batch of brown rice for breakfast, but I’ve been wondering how I’ll reheat it without a microwave.

    Thank you!
    c.

  26. shi 17 February 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Hi
    i just saw this and i applaud you i have been living with out a microwave for a long time now ( im only 19 >.>) bc when ever we had them either me or my mom somehow cause them to blowup but thats how i learned to cook and its a passion now ^-^

  27. Ashley 22 April 2012 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for the tips on reheating rice! I recently moved, and my place does not have a microwave, and I’ve gone almost 2 months without buying one. I almost broke down and bought one this weekend just to reheat some leftover rice, but thanks to your tip, I can go a little longer without it!

  28. Kevin 10 May 2012 at 7:14 am

    I’m 51 years old and I’ve never had a microwave oven……I either add water, butter or oil depending on the dish. I don’t know about adding chicken stock to everything, ecspecially if reheating a potato dish with eggs and cheese, but’s that’s my opinion. I add a little water and cover the casserole dish with alfoil, cooking on a high heat for as long as it takes to reheat.

  29. belindalynettemicciulli 11 May 2012 at 5:53 am

    Thanks for this post! I’ve recenlty moved to an apartment that didn’t come with a microwave, and I’m in such a rurla location, that running out to buy one just isn’t practical. Eating out every day is a waistline disaster, but cooking single portions is tedious. These tips will certainly change my weekly cooking and reheating routine. And some of the other comments to this post are convincing me that perhaps I don’t want a microwave anyway, due to the health risks and impact on food taste and quality.

  30. [...] person’s essential tool is another person’s waste of space. For instance, I got rid of my microwave and don’t miss it at all, but many cooks would not be without one. I do use my food processor [...]

  31. Maggie Steele 18 June 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I don’t have a microwave either and always end up eating burnt rice because of it! Thanks for posting this blog. A little chicken stock works so well! Keep up your helpful posts!

  32. BenC 28 July 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I’ve done the same thing. I put the microwave in my spare room and haven’t used it in months.

    I’m not convinced that microwaves are dangerous though. Unless you are melting butter: I wasn’t paying enough attention and it suddenly exploded completely coating the inside of the microwave!

  33. Big John 8 March 2014 at 10:55 pm

    Don’t like them–never had one and refuse to get one. I have a convection oven which I use for reheating and making toast Other than that I cook on a stove or oven which makes food taste better and is healthier!!

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