Meal prepping is one of the most convenient ways to be able to plan your meals ahead of time, making it easy to throw something together after having done most of the legwork.
If you’re tired after a busy day, you can make sure that you don’t have to spend ages in the kitchen. However, you might have some ideas about heating ready-made food that could make you wary.
You don’t want to get sick, so here, we’re looking at how to reheat frozen meal prep safely and effectively, so you end up with delicious ready-made meals.
Understanding Meal Prep
Meal prep is the process of preparing and cooking your meals ahead of time. Typically, you choose a time to make your meals, doing all of the cutting, chopping, and even cooking your meals days before you’re going to eat them.
Then, you put that food either in the fridge if you’re going to eat it within a day or two, or in the freezer for later in the week. Proper freezing and reheating are critical to meal-prepping success, so be sure that you know how to best preserve every type of food you eat.
While we will look at how to reheat frozen meal prep in detail, it’s worth keeping in mind the benefits of meal prep, as well, including the following:
- It saves time allowing you to make use of free time to get all of your meals ready so that you don’t end up spending your time after a busy day thinking about what to make.
- It encourages healthier eating, by making sure that you have home-cooked meals that are ready for you to heat up and make for yourself. Otherwise, it can be easy to come in after work and order a takeout or opt for other, unhealthier options.
- It can save you money, as you can plan ahead for all of your meals, buy ingredients in bulk, freeze food so it doesn’t get wasted, and avoid paying for takeout meals.
- You’ll appreciate food more, by better managing your own portion sizes and making meals that have a lot more nutrition by doing the work in advance.
Tested Reheating Methods For Perfectly Warm Meals
If you’re looking for how to reheat meal prep, then you might also be thinking about the different methods that you can use to reheat it. There are, primarily, three different methods to do it, be it by microwave, by oven, or on a stovetop. For some, the rule of thumb is that you should use the same method you used to originally cook the food to reheat it, in order to get the same level of consistency, but here we will look at each option in a little more detail.
In the microwave
When you’re reheating food in the microwave, you want to make sure that you have the right container to keep the food in, and a lid to keep the steam that evaporates from the food in, so that the food doesn’t lose moisture.
Even a damp paper towel works well. In general, you want to make sure that food is in small pieces, so you might need to chop your meat and vegetables, as the smaller the surface area, the easier is it to reheat. You might want to stop the microwave halfway through to stir and cover again, just to make sure it all heats up evenly.
In the oven
When you’re reheating food in the oven, it’s important to make sure that all of it has been reheated all of the way through, so you may want to make use of a meat thermometer. Otherwise, don’t set the heat to any lover that 325 F.
For roast meats, casseroles, or other foods that might dry out, use some aluminum foil over the top. Just like with the microwave, you might want to stir the food halfway through heating it to make sure that everything heats up evenly.
On the stovetop
If you’re reheating on the stope stop, then the method is fairly simple. You simply need to put the food in the pan, heat thoroughly, and stir to make sure that the food heats evenly. If the food is at risk of drying out while cooking, then you should keep the pan or pot lid on top when you’re not stirring.
Reheating Different Types of Meals
The specifics of how to reheat meal prep, exactly, is going to depend on the type of food that it is. As mentioned, the rule of thumb many use is that you use the same method you cooked the food to reheat it. But there are a few additional tips to keep in mind for different meals, too, if you want to keep their flavor and texture as best as possible.
- Soups, stews, chillis, and other foods with a lot of moisture in them are best done on the stovetop, with a lid on top of the saucepan or lid, so that you can keep the moisture locked in them. A microwave will work as well, but you want to ensure you’re using a microwave-safe container with a lid.
- Pizza can be heated on a frying pan (plus lid) with a little drizzle of oil to get it back to it back to form. An oven works too, but it might be a little dryer.
- Roasted and grilled meats are best cooked in the oven, where the heating is more even and won’t dry the food out. If you have a cast iron pan, however, you can reheat food on high heat, making sure you turn it frequently.
- Stir fries and reheat very well in a shallow or frying pan over low heat, as you don’t want to dry them out by heating them up too quickly. A microwave works for them, as well.
- Pasta, rice, and noodles heat best on a stove, with some water or stock to help them retain their moisture. However, if they were previously frozen, the results won’t retain as much of their flavor or texture.
Common Reheating Mistakes to Avoid
You want to make sure that when you’re learning the best way to reheat meal prep, you’re heating your foods up as safely and healthily as possible. However, there are a few mistakes that people commonly make that can either impact the safety of their food or just make them not quite as nice to eat anymore.
- Letting food sit out for too long: Always follow the two-hour rule. If a food has been sitting at room temperature for longer than two hours after cooking, then it’s not safe to eat. If it’s a hot day, over 90 F, then it changes to a one-hour. Otherwise, bacteria is going to start spreading rapidly over your food, and freezing and reheating isn’t enough to make it safe again.
- Not storing food in airtight containers: Leaving your food open to the air, even when you’re putting it in the fridge or the freezer, can result in spreading bacteria, moisture buildup, and bad smells attaching to the food.
- Not stirring your food as you reheat: You want to ensure that your food heats evenly, all throughout it. This means that you need to stir it and move it around so that there’s no surface that doesn’t heat up.
- Reheating foods more than once: If you have accidentally reheated more food than you’re able to eat, or you change your mind after reheating, you should not try freezing or frigerating again. Bacteria is more likely to spread and some foods can become potentially dangerous when reheated multiple times.
Meal prep is an excellent way to save time and ensure that you’re getting the best out of your food, and learning how to reheat frozen meal prep can make it a lot easier. Just make sure that you know how, specifically, to reheat the foods that you prep in order to get the best taste, texture, and nutrition from your meals.
Can you microwave a frozen meal prep?
You can use a microwave to defrost and cook your frozen meal prep. If you have cooked and frozen a meal on the same day, the defrost feature on a microwave can help you thaw it quickly, and then you can heat it up in the microwave as normal.
Can I reheat meals directly from the freezer?
It is safe to reheat meals that have been kept in the freezer. If you let it thaw, or defrost in the microwave, it takes less time to heat back up. Whether you reheat in the saucepan, microwave, or oven depends on the type of food.
What’s the best way to reheat meals to preserve nutrients?
A microwave is typically the best way to preserve the nutritional value of a meal when reheating it. Prolonged exposure to heat or moisture reduces nutritional content, and a microwave uses neither. There are some differences depending on the type of food, however.
Are there any foods that don’t freeze and reheat well?
Some foods that do not freeze and reheat well include rice, potatoes, noodles, some dairy products like block cheese and cream cheese, raw eggs, dressings, condiments, full vegetables, and fried foods. Some of them will lose some of their consistency and texture, which may make theme less enjoyable to eat.