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Living without a microwave has actually improved my leftover game (and the quality of my food).

Jamie Vespa, MS, RD
May 22, 2018

Reheated leftovers aren't that thrilling, but they’re a necessary part of life. Reheated leftovers without the help of a microwave may sound like the bane of your first-world existence, but for me, it’s been the best thing to happen to my leftovers (which I prefer to call “nextovers”). Plus, I never have to worry about my lunch turning into an abstract art exhibit of explosive splatters from electromagnetic waves.

Sure there are plenty of times I fall victim to laziness and find myself eating cold Pad Thai straight out of the Tupperware container in front of my fridge, but for the most part, I make a concerted effort to enjoy my leftovers in a civilized fashion (i.e. heated through).

When I tell people I don't have a microwave, they usually ask me a number of questions like: How do you reheat such noodle dishes without a microwave? How about soup? Wings? PIZZA? Don’t worry, I have answers for you. Most of which will turn your nextovers into meals you’re actually excited about eating (again).

I use my stovetop.

This is my preferred method for most reheating because it’s quick and provides uniform, gentle heating. If you’re reheating any kind of grain-based dish, like stir fry or pasta, heat a small glug of neutral cooking oil in a nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-low to medium heat. Once warm, add your leftovers, give them a good toss, cover the pan, and let them reheat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Covering the pan creates steam that helps lock in moisture.

If you’re reheating soup or broth-based dishes like curry, apply the same method to a small saucepan. Resist the urge to crank the heat up too high, or you'll run the risk of overcooking your already-cooked food. Or, even worse, you’ll end up with some bites that are scorching hot and others that are barely warmed through.

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I rely on my toaster oven.

This may be the best kitchen appliance when you’re cooking (or reheating) for one. The toaster oven has the same basic functionality as an actual oven, but in a condensed, countertop-friendly size. Use it to re-crisp fried or breaded foods, refresh crusty bread, or to reheat grilled meats, sandwiches, or pizza.

To avoid the food drying out, aim for a low-temperature (no more than 350°F), and check on your food periodically until it's heated through.

For bigger dishes, I crank up the conventional oven.

Sometimes you just need to call in the heavy artillery. When it comes to casseroles, roasts, lasagnas, or cheesy baked pasta dishes, most other kitchen appliances (including the microwave) fall short in terms of uniform heating. Set your oven to 350°F, cover your food with foil to prevent the top from drying out, and let it sit inside the oven while it preheats.

Gently increasing the temperature of the food helps maintain its original texture and integrity. Start the timer at 20 minutes and check it periodically. Depending on how thick or dense the food is, you may need a solid 30 minutes.

Although I’m not on an anti-microwave crusade here, I will say that microwave freedom has greatly enhanced the quality and excitement level of my nextovers. It’s also nice to have more counter space without an unsightly, always-dirty zap box shoved in the corner. Ditching the ‘wave may also help you make better food choices (Hot Pockets and TV dinners bare little appeal without a microwave). Just don’t ask me about popcorn.

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