How to safely reheat leftovers – and the food you should avoid cooking twice

How to safely reheat leftovers - and food you should avoid cooking twice

Food experts have given their top tips on the best methods to follow when reheating your leftovers or takeaways to help you avoid food poisoning.


During lockdown many of us have spent our time attempting to hone our cooking skills in the kitchen – or simply ordering more takeaways.


Either way, in our excitement we usually cook too much or order too much, leaving us with plenty of leftovers.

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Everyone wants to reduce food waste and reheating food is a great way to save money, but we also don’t want to put ourselves at risk of food poisoning by getting it wrong.


Here’s some advice from the experts to help you along the way and ensure you avoid an upset stomach.


Can you reheat leftovers?
Lydia Buchtmann, spokesperson for the Food Safety Information Council, told SBS you can reheat most leftovers “as many times as you like” as long as you make sure it’s piping hot all the way through.

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To do this, you need to ensure the food reaches at least 82C in the centre, and the only reliable way to do so is to use a food themometre.

Push it into the centre of the dish and ensure you don’t go all the way through to the hot tray underneath to maintain an accurate reading.


When do leftovers become unsafe to reheat?
Although Lydia says you can reheat most food as many times as you like, there’s still an expiry date for doing so.

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“You can keep leftovers for two to three days in your fridge, as long as that fridge is at 5 degrees Celsius,” she says. After that, bin it.

Lydia added the exceptions to the two to three days rule are pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, as they may be more susceptible to food-related illnesses – so stick to 24 hour at the most.


Sticking leftovers in the freezer will buy you more time, but it won’t keep forever – so label your frozen food with the date to ensure you’re not leaving it too long.

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Best method to reheat leftovers
Science journalist and television presenter Michael Mosley says although microwaves are the most convenient way to reheat leftovers, it can heat food unevenly. If you do use a microwave, he advised to heat and stir, repeating a few times to ensure it’s piping hot all the way through.


You can also reheat in the oven, using a the good thermometer to check the temperature before eating.


If you use a stove, Dorothy Richmond, an accredited practising dietitian and food safety trainer, saying don’t just bring it up to simmer and serve – advising: “It should be sitting on the stove for 10 to 20 minutes bubbling away.”

Which foods are dangerous to reheat?
Reheating food to a high enough temperature kills most bacteria which can cause food poisoning – but one it leaves behind bacillus cereus found in rice.


It forms when rice is allowed to cool slowly and once it is produced, no amount of reheating will kill it off and eating it can make you ill.


Dorothy added it’s not just rice that carries the risk but anything ‘starchy’, which can include leftover pasta, noodles and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

The danger comes from allowing the food to cool slowly, so Lydia says one method to keep it safe is to divide it into small containers to cool quickly, before putting it straight into the fridge of freezer.




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