Food is (usually) great the first time around. Unfortunately, after you've decided you're full and have stored it in the refrigerator for later consumption, the level of satisfaction derived from eating it drops off by about 100%.
In fact, leftovers are so frequently a disappointing experience that it can occasionally be tempting to leave them in the fridge until enough time has passed that you are totally justified in just throwing them away. "Welp, I guess I can't eat these now," you'll inevitably say, cleaning out year-old egg rolls while you prepare to move to a new apartment.
BUT NO MORE! Because here, in this very article, we've -- with the help of our recipe guru Perry Santanachote and other great culinary minds -- clearly delineated the best ways to salvage the most common types of leftover foods, from pizza to rice dishes to a crafty new take on Thanksgiving repurposing. Read it, and know hope.
“Reheated rice can sometimes get crunchy or mushy,” says Perry, who has previously written about how to make the perfect stove-top rice. “Avoid this by placing the rice in a microwave-safe bowl with an ice cube tucked into the middle. Cover with plastic wrap, poke a hole for steam, zap it for a minute and a half, and... voilà! Your rice is soft and fluffy again.” PHEW.
Of course, if it’s only a day old, you could always just turn it into fried rice instead.
Pad Thai or other stir-fried noodles
Like Aziz Ansari, you can treat your noodles as "long-ass rice," and just do the same to them as we explained above.
GET YOUR HAND AWAY FROM THAT PREHEAT BUTTON! The best way to reheat pizza actually involves a skillet, some water, and a whole lotta gumption. Actually, you don’t need that much gumption, and we apologize if you already started mustering yours.
How many times have you tried baking old fries to revive them to their former glory? Dude, there’s a reason they’re not called “bakes.” Perry recommends sautéing (aka FRYING) fries in a tiny bit of oil in a skillet on your stovetop. However, “like anything fried, those taters might not ever be the same,” she warns.
We polled pitmasters to put together a comprehensive guide on how to salvage BBQ. Yeah -- pulled pork, brisket, even beef ribs. And they delivered (not the actual BBQ itself, but... y'know. Results.).
This oft-leftover appetizer requires a bit of finesse (and a whopping two heating methods) to get back on its feet. “Heat them on high in the microwave for 30 seconds, then transfer to the toaster oven (right on the rack) at 450 degrees for five minutes,” Perry says. “If you don't have a toaster oven, transfer rolls to a nonstick pan coated with cooking oil. Cook over medium-high heat for just a couple minutes, turning them to get even crispness.”
Pour out your coffee, Jim. It’s gone.
Soups and stews
“A thick soup will splatter if you reheat it in a microwave,” Perry says. “Instead, heat it up on your stovetop, covered, over medium heat and let it simmer slowly.” You don’t want to heat the soup up too quickly, because high heat will cause it to evaporate, and trust us -- soup vapor isn’t nearly as satisfying as the real thing.
Top Chef alum and pasta master Mike Isabella instructs: "Place leftover pasta and its sauce in a pan on the stove on low heat. You want to add a little water to the pasta and the pan. Stir the pasta and the water. As it slowly heats up, the water will loosen up the pasta and sauce and help it return to its original consistency. Continue to cook the pasta until any remaining water has evaporated."
For mac & cheese and other dairy-based pasta dishes, on the other hand, Perry recommends melting a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan on your stove, then adding the pasta and stirring in 2-4 tablespoons of milk “until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is soft again.”
The once-fresh toppings on your burger might be beyond salvaging at this point, especially if it’s older than a couple of days, so you might want to chuck them out and redress it if possible (hopefully it’s not overly modest). As for the patty, warm it in the oven until the center reaches 110°F, and then briefly sear both sides in a skillet on your stovetop. Of course, if you just ate the entire burger the first time, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.
“Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place a dab of butter or a tablespoon of white wine on the leftover fish and seal it inside a tinfoil pocket. Place it directly on the oven rack for 10-15 minutes, until warmed through,” Perry advises.
Everyone knows these are inevitable, unless you fast for a week before the actual holiday (not recommended). Instead of just slapping them between two slices of white bread, you should try turning them into Thanksgiving leftover fritters instead! We’ve even got a recipe for you. Just a warning, though: these are so eminently snackable, you’ll be squarely in roommate-mooching territory.