Cooking Tips

The Best Ways to Reheat Pizza, Steak, Pasta, Polenta, and More

With this handy cheat sheet of our kitchen-tested methods for reheating common leftovers, last night's dinner can taste just as good the second time around.
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Published Oct. 18, 2023.

Leftovers are gold. 

They’re the promise of an extra-special meal, minus the initial investment of time and effort. My family makes fun of me because I’ve been known to lose sleep over the excitement of snacking on dinner-party remnants—for breakfast. 

But the reheat requires care too. Because whether the food is something splurgy like meat or seafood, festive like pizza-party fodder, or utilitarian such as potatoes or eggs, you want to make sure it tastes (almost) as good the second time around. 

That’s why we’ve run dozens of tests over the years on reheating some of the most common leftovers and compiled our favorite methods into this handy cheat sheet. 

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Roast Beef, Roast Pork, Steak

This method takes time but nicely revives most roasted or pan-seared cuts of beef (even steak) and pork, including their crust, and minimizes the amount of juices that are expelled. Placing the meat on a wire rack promotes even heating. The only variable among them is the warming time.

  • Place meat on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet in 250-degree oven. 
  • Heat until roast registers 120 degrees or steak, 110 degrees; this can take as little as 30 minutes or as long as 1½ hours depending on cut. Pat surface dry with paper towels. 
  • Sear meat on all sides in oiled, hot skillet, 1 to 1½ minutes per side. (Do not sear cut ends.)

Roast Turkey

This two-part method for roast turkey rewarms the meat without drying it out and recrisps the skin.  

For the meat

  • Wrap leftover portions in aluminum foil, staking any slices, and place meat on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. 
  • Heat in 275-degree oven until meat registers 130 degrees. (Timing will vary greatly based on shape and size of leftover turkey pieces. For half breast cut crosswise, 35 to 45 minutes should be sufficient.)


For the skin

  • Lightly oil skillet and heat over medium-high heat. 
  • Place any large skin-on pieces skin side down in pan. 
  • Heat until skin crisps. 

Fried Chicken

Bringing fried chicken to room temperature before rewarming helps it heat more quickly and ensures that the odd-shaped pieces heat more evenly. 

  • Allow chicken to come to room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Place chicken on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.  
  • Transfer to 400-degree oven. 
  • Heat chicken to internal temperature of 120 degrees, 14 to 18 minutes for breasts and 8 to 12 minutes for legs and thighs. 

Fish

Covering fish with foil as it reheats prevents the delicate flesh from drying out. Note that this method is only for fillets that are at least 1-inch thick. Leftover thinner fillets are best served in a cold application such as salad.   

  • Place fillets on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and cover them with foil. 
  • Heat fish in 275-degree oven until it registers 125 to 130 degrees, about 15 minutes for 1-inch-thick fillets (timing will vary according to fillet size). 

Soft-Cooked Eggs

This precise method for soft-cooked eggs ensures that the yolk warms through but stays runny. Make sure to use refrigerator-cold eggs (you can warm up to six at a time), and don’t shock them after heating, since the method relies on carryover cooking.    

  • Bring ½ inch of water to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. 
  • Using tongs, gently place eggs in boiling water, cover, and cook for 3½ minutes. 
  • Remove eggs with tongs and serve; yolks will remain warm and runny for up to 15 minutes.    
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Pasta

If you know you’re going to have leftover pasta, reserve a small amount of the pasta cooking water for adding to the pasta as it reheats. It will both loosen and smooth out the reheated sauce.   

  • Add splash of water or pasta cooking water to sauced pasta. 
  • Reheat in nonstick or carbon-steel skillet on stove (best for thick, creamy, and/or cheesy sauces) or for 30-second increments in the microwave (best for oil- or butter-based sauces or plain pasta). 

Pizza

Microwaving makes leftover pizza soggy, while a hot oven will dry it out. But reheating it covered in a low oven will restore it to a nearly fresh-baked state. 

  • Place slices of cold pizza on rimmed baking sheet and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  • Place on lowest rack of cold oven and heat to 275 degrees. 
  • Heat until bottom is crisp and cheese has melted, 25 to 30 minutes. 

Polenta

Soft polenta gels and firms up in the refrigerator, and simply reheating it won’t return it to its soft, scoopable texture. This “ricing” approach gets it much smoother. 

  • Cut polenta into 2-inch cubes, then push them through fine plate of potato ricer. 
  • Stir in ¼ to ½ cup milk, water, or broth per 1 cup polenta to reach desired consistency. 
  • Reheat polenta over low flame or in microwave, stirring periodically, until it’s warmed through. 

Pancakes

It’s fine to refrigerate (overnight) or freeze (for up to two weeks) leftover pancakes. This reheating method works for both—and means you can have pancakes in about the same time it takes to make toast. 

  • Place pancakes on toaster-oven tray or rimmed baking sheet and heat in 325-degree toaster oven or conventional oven until warmed through, 5 to 6 minutes.

Mashed Potatoes

Because mashed potatoes tend to firm up when chilled, it’s important to reheat them gently, stirring often, with a little extra liquid to help loosen them up.     

  • Add splash of dairy (milk, cream, or buttermilk) to cold potatoes; cover; and microwave at 50 percent power, stirring every 30 seconds, until warmed through. 

French Fries

This method works for leftover fries of all thicknesses. Adding the fries in a single layer ensures that they recrisp evenly. 

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick or carbon-steel skillet until just smoking. 
  • Add fries in single layer and stir frequently until they darken slightly in color and are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  • Drain on paper towel–lined plate and sprinkle with a little salt to reseason. 

Fudge Sauce

Most fudge sauces store well in the refrigerator for several weeks. You can reheat the entire container, spoon out what you want, and rechill it each time you want to use it. Just be sure to use low heat and stir often, since high temperatures will break the emulsion.  

  • Microwave sauce, stirring every 10 seconds and not letting it exceed 110 degrees, until it’s just warmed through.

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