How to Reheat Food Without a Microwave

Microwaves are convenient, but not everyone has one. Here are four pieces of equipment you (probably) already have that do the job just as well.

Published Dec. 28, 2023.

In a world where most people have a microwave (a whopping 98% of our subscribers, in fact), how does anyone reheat food without one?

Well, I don’t have a microwave. I didn’t want to sacrifice the counter space. 

Since I’ve had to get creative to enjoy my leftovers, I reached out to several test cooks to find alternative means for the 2% to reheat their food.  

We’ve written about reheating specific dishes, but now we’re approaching it from a different angle: kitchen equipment you (might) already have. Here are four ways to reheat leftovers without a microwave.

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Air Fryer/Toaster Oven 

If you want to recapture crispiness in fried food, use an air fryer. Both air fryers and toaster ovens are small convection ovens that circulate air around the food using fans, which makes them perfect to reheat things such as french fries, fried chicken of all sizes, and even phyllo pastry. 

Like a microwave, air fryers heat up instantly, but temperatures and efficiency vary, so don’t leave your food unattended for too long. Check your pre-programmed settings for “reheat” and “toast” options that typically warm food evenly in 5-10 minutes. Also, buy yourself a bit of insurance by using a foil sling to keep food from sticking and flipping large items to make sure the undersides get reheated too.

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Conventional Oven 

Opposite to the toaster oven in size, but similar in application, a regular oven is great to reheat large amounts of food. Casseroles and dishes in a broth or sauce are less prone to drying out, so throw the whole pan in when reheating for large crowds. When reheating meaty dishes with a broth or sauce, Test Cook Olivia Counter recommends heating the sauce in the oven first (stir frequently) and then adding back the leftover meat to ensure the meat stays tender.

The downside to an oven, however, is how long it takes to preheat. It’s not the best choice if you’re in a time crunch, but it can slowly warm food if you don’t have room for a large Dutch oven on your cooktop. Keep in mind that your oven rack location matters, so items with a crust should be heated on a lower rack while items you want browned on top should go on a higher rack.

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Stovetop or Range 

For food that needs to keep moving (like a stir fry) and/or benefits from direct heat, consider warming it in a skillet on the stovetop. Use a bit of water to keep things loose, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook’s Country’s Faye Yang's favorite way to reheat pizza is using a skillet with a lid. You want that contact with direct heat for the crust and using a lid helps steam the ingredients and warm up the cheese to gooey perfection.


Steamers work in conjunction with a cooking vessel like a skillet or pot to heat food indirectly with moist air. Steamers are great for delicate foods like dumplings and for items that benefit from a moist heating environment, such as rice

Using a steamer is fairly simple; equipment expert Miye Bromberg gives tips such as pulling off loose bamboo fibers and adding enough water to keep things moist. Also, it’s not recommended to add food directly to the bottom of the porous basket, so line it with cabbage leaves or perforated parchment paper first.

If you don’t have a steamer but you do have a wok or Dutch oven and a domed lid to fit inside, you have what you need to hack a steamer.

Learn more about bamboo steamers right here.

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