How to Reheat Meal Prep: 3 Best Ways to Reheat Your Weekly Meals
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When you’re first learning how to meal prep, there are so many steps to learn from start to finish, like how to shop for groceries and how to cook and portion your food. But there’s one step in the meal prep process that can make or break your entire meal — reheating your food. In this meal prep beginner’s guide, we’ll show you how to reheat meal prep three different ways, as well as cover a few tips you need to know to reheat your food safely.
- Reheating meal prep in the microwave
- Reheating meal prep in the oven
- Reheating meal prep on the stovetop
- Do you need to reheat meal prep?
- Reheating meal prep FAQ
As someone who has spent years of cooking and eating leftovers, I’ve had plenty of time to learn what does and doesn’t work when it comes to reheating my food. In my experience, there are three methods that work the best for reheating meal prep — and here’s a quick breakdown of each:
|Microwave||– quickest, easiest method|
– doesn’t use extra dishes
– safe for plastic or glass containers
|– food can become soggy|
– food can become overcooked
– not everyone has a microwave
|Oven||– cooks food more evenly|
– can keep food crispy or moist
– great for frozen food
|– not easily accessible|
– takes more time to cook
– requires oven-safe containers
|Stovetop||– cooks food more evenly |
– helps keep food crispy or moist
– works great for soupy meals
|– not easily accessible|
– takes more time to cook
– more dishes to wash
As you can see, each reheating method has different pros and cons, depending on things like your food, containers, location, and more. So, to save you from having to trial-and-error this process yourself, we’ll share everything you need to know about these reheating methods, including pros and cons and how to use each method for meal prep.
1. Reheating meal prep in the microwave
Microwaving is one of the most common methods — if not the most common method — of reheating meal prep, and for good reason. Not only are microwaves easily accessible both inside and outside of the home, but they can quickly reheat food to safe temperatures in a matter of minutes with minimal effort.
One of the reasons that microwaves are so convenient for meal prep is because most meal prep containers are microwave-safe, including many plastic options, like these Promoze containers (seen below). This means that if you use plastic containers to store your meal prep, you can quickly go from fridge to microwave without needing to waste dishes. And if you have glass meal prep containers, they’re an even better option for microwaving prepped meals.
Although the microwave is the easiest and quickest way to reheat your meals, one downside is that it can sometimes change the texture of your food. For example, food can sometimes become soggy or overcooked in the microwave, especially at higher temperatures.
Here’s how to reheat meal prep in the microwave:
- remove the lid from the container and make sure to spread your food out evenly
- if the food is steam-friendly, you can add a little water to the bottom of the container
- cover the container loosely, either with a damp paper towel or a microwave-safe lid
- place the container in the center of the microwave and cook on high for 1-2 minutes
- if reheating food directly from frozen, cook for 3-4 minutes at 50-75% power first
- stir the food and continue to cook in 30-60 second intervals until fully reheated
2. Reheating meal prep in the oven
If you’re planning to reheat your meals at home and don’t want to risk soggy, overcooked food, using the oven is the best way to reheat meal prep. However, as you can imagine, this method is not only location-dependent, but also requires more effort than the microwave.
One of the benefits of reheating meal prep in the oven is that your food (especially meat) is more likely to retain moisture than if you reheat it in the microwave. And if you’re reheating fried foods, you can easily keep your food crispy by using the oven, especially if you utilize the broiler.
One of the biggest downsides of using an oven to reheat your prepped food is that it takes more time. It’s also not something you can easily do at work, unless your work has an oven for personal use. Not to mention, if you want to save on dishes by reheating your food directly in the containers, you’ll have to invest in a set of oven-safe glass meal prep containers first.
Speaking of containers, the most important thing to remember when using an oven to reheat meal prep is that you should only use oven-safe containers. Plastic meal prep containers are almost never oven-safe, so that means you have two options: transfer your food to an oven-safe container, or invest in a set of oven-safe glass meal prep containers (these Ello containers shown below are my favorite oven-safe set!).
Here’s how to reheat meal prep in the oven:
- set your oven temperature to 325-350 degrees F, or 375 degrees F for crispy food
- for non-crispy food, cover the oven-safe container with tinfoil or an oven-safe lid
- place the container on the center rack of the oven and cook for 10-20 minutes
- if reheating food directly from frozen, add more time and stir food halfway through
3. Reheating meal prep on the stovetop
Another option for reheating food outside of the microwave and oven is by using a pan on the stovetop. As far as reheating methods go, this method is probably the most inconvenient one, in my opinion. But, if you’re someone who doesn’t like to use a microwave or doesn’t have any oven-safe containers, this option can work quite well.
Obviously, this method does require that you have two things: access to a stove or electric burner, and a pan big enough to reheat your food in. And when it comes to choosing the right pan for the job, you’ll want to consider what type of food you’re reheating. For example, crispy food reheats best in a shallow sauté pan, while moist or soupy meals reheat better in a deep saucepan or pot.
One of the reasons that stovetop reheating is inconvenient is that it usually results in more dishes — and most people meal prep to save themselves from having to do extra dishes during the week. But, similar to cooking food in the oven, reheating food slowly on the stove is less likely to result in soggy or overcooked meal prep.
Here’s how to reheat meal prep on the stovetop:
- remove your food from the container and place it in a pan of your choice
- if reheating food that should be crispy, add a little oil to the pan with the food
- reheat over medium to medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
- if reheating food directly from frozen, you may need additional cooking time
- for non-crispy food, you can use a fitted lid to help keep your food moist
Do you need to reheat meal prep?
One of the best parts about meal prep is that there are plenty of recipes that don’t require reheating. So, if you’re someone who frequently eats your meals outside of the home and doesn’t have access to a microwave or stove, no-reheat recipes are a great option to include in your weekly meal plan.
However, whether you use a microwave, oven, stove, or other appliance to reheat your meals, you should still follow these food safety guidelines — always store your meal prep below 40 degrees F, and always reheat your food to at least 165 degrees F, per the USDA.
Reheating meal prep FAQ
Now that you know a few different ways you can reheat your weekly meal prep, you can easily find the method that works for you. And if you’re still relatively new to this whole meal prep thing, below are a few more beginner-friendly tips to keep in mind when you’re reheating food.
How long should I heat up meal prep?
In the microwave, most food takes at least 1-3 minutes to reheat at full power, or longer if the food is frozen. In the oven, meal prep generally takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes to fully reheat at around 350 degrees F. And on the stovetop, food usually reheats in about 5-10 minutes over medium or medium-high heat.
What is the best container to reheat food in the microwave?
Even though most plastic meal prep containers are marketed as microwave-safe, the best type of containers for reheating food in the microwave are glass meal prep containers. Almost all glass containers are not only microwave-safe but oven-safe, too — plus some even have lids that you can safely use in the microwave.
Can you microwave meal prep containers with the lid on?
Although most plastic and glass meal prep containers are microwave-safe, the majority of meal prep container lids are not microwave-safe. If you want to cover your food in the microwave while you’re reheating it, you can use a dry or damp paper towel (usually safe for shorter cook times) or a microwave-safe cover.
How do you reheat meal prep without a microwave?
In addition to using the oven and stovetop to reheat food without a microwave, there are a few other methods you can use to reheat your meals — especially if you have food that needs to stay crispy. If you want to keep crispy food tasting as good as the day you cooked it, the best way to reheat meal prep is in an air fryer or toaster oven.
Eleesha Lockett is a nutrition professional, meal prep expert, and freelance writer who specializes in crafting empathetic and inclusive health and wellness content. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Psych Central, SELF, Shape, Verywell Health, and Well+Good. She holds a master’s in Human Nutrition from The University of Bridgeport, which she uses to share her passion of nutrition (especially meal prep) with others.