In the UK there are approximately a million cases of food poisoning a year, half of which are caused by food eaten at home. For this reason, we all must understand how to properly prepare, cook and reheat our food to protect our health.
In this article, we will provide some general guidance for storing and reheating leftovers, as well as explore some important things to consider when dealing with specific foods.
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Reheating food and eating leftovers is a great way of saving time and preventing food waste. However, it is important that food is always reheated correctly to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
One of the most important things to remember is that food can only be safely reheated if it has been fully cooked, properly stored, and kept away from raw food. Never warm-up or eat food that has been stored at room temperature for a long time, has been defrosted and refrozen, or that you suspect has been contaminated by raw food.
At home, a dish should always be reheated until it is at least 75°C throughout, and the middle is piping hot. This is the case regardless of the food that is being reheated, or the method used to warm it.
This temperature kills nearly all harmful bacteria and helps to avoid food poisoning.
If you are running a food business, you are required by food safety law to ensure that anything you heat reaches a core temperature of at least 75°C in England, and at least 82°C in Scotland.
Frozen food can also be heated up again, and this too must be heated until it reaches at least 75°C before it is safe to eat. With frozen food specifically, remember to thoroughly defrost it first and ensure that it is heated throughout by stirring or turning it as it cooks.
You should only reheat food once, and should never freeze or refreeze reheated food.
To understand why this is the case, let’s look at how bacteria reacts to certain temperatures:
Cooking food to 75°C ensures that the harmful bacteria on it are killed, and storing it below 5°C in a fridge or freezer prevents these bacteria from replicating. However, cooking food causes it to enter the ‘danger zone’ and, if it is not cooked to a high enough temperature throughout, the harmful bacteria on it can multiply rapidly without being killed. This multiplication will then continue as it cools before being refrigerated.
By reheating something multiple times, it creates more opportunities for the harmful bacteria on it to multiply, making it even more dangerous if it is not heated correctly before finally being consumed.
Use the links below to find out more about whether these different types of foods are safe to reheat:
If you are looking for more information on how to reheat foods, and when it is safe to do so, consider taking our Level 2 Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering course.
Yes, you can safely reheat and eat chicken and chicken dishes, as long as it was cooked properly in the first place. This applies to all forms of chicken, including roasted chicken breast, chicken on the bone, and curried chicken.
Chicken can be warmed up using a microwave, oven, frying pan or slow cooker. When reheating chicken, you should ensure that it has reached 75°C or higher, and that it is heated throughout with no cold spots.
Seafood, including prawns, that has been incorrectly prepared and stored can cause severe food poisoning. As a result, any seafood that you are planning to reheat must be refrigerated as soon as possible after cooking, preferably within the hour, and consumed within 1-2 days.
Prawns that are purchased pre-cooked can be eaten hot or cold. If you choose to heat them, ensure that they are piping hot throughout before serving. For your safety, you should avoid warming up a dish made using pre-cooked prawns that have been heated, such as a seafood stir fry.
Raw prawns must be cooked before eating. Dishes made from raw prawns that have been cooked can be reheated as long as the original dish was handled, cooked and stored correctly (which means that it was put in the fridge or freezer within 1 hour of cooking and consumed within 1-2 days).
You can reheat dishes made using raw prawns that have been cooked in the oven, or on the microwave or hob. When doing so, you must ensure they are piping hot before serving and only warmed up once.
Yes, plain pasta can be safely reheated, but it may become dry if you do not add a small amount of water to it before heating it.
If you are reheating a pasta dish that contains a sauce or other items of food, such as spaghetti bolognese, carbonara or lasagna, then it is these that pose a greater safety risk than the pasta itself. As a result, you should always follow the guidance that applies to the food items in the dish, as well as the general information provided at the start of this article, when warming a pasta dish.
For example, when warming up a beef lasagna, you should treat it as if you were reheating minced beef. This means that you must ensure the centre of the dish reaches 75°C or higher, regardless of the reheating method used, and that it is served immediately while it is still piping hot.
Yes, you can safely warm up pork dishes, but be aware that certain dishes, such as roast pork or pork chops, can become tough and dry when reheated.
You can safely heat pork in the microwave, in the oven or on the hob. When doing so, remember to follow the guidance that applies to all other forms of meat, such as ensuring that it has reached 75°C throughout, and that it is served while piping hot.
Yes, salmon can be reheated. However, as with many foods, it is important to understand how the salmon was stored after it was cooked before it is reheated.
If you are planning on keeping your salmon fillet after cooking, it should be cooled down within an hour of cooking, stored in a fridge and eaten within 2-3 days.
A good method of heating salmon up is to wrap it loosely in tin foil then oven bake it, or fry it on the hob. Regardless of the method chosen, the salmon should be heated until the middle reaches 75°C or higher, and then it should be served immediately.
Yes, you can heat sausages again using a microwave, hob, oven or BBQ. Sausages in a sauce (such as a sausage casserole) can also be reheated using a microwave, hob or slow cooker.
As with all reheating, ensure the middle of the sausage reaches 75°C or higher and then serve them immediately while still piping hot.
Yes, you can warm up an omelette. If you pre-cook an omelette to reheat later, then refrigerate it within 2 hours of cooking and heat it again in 1-2 days. Omelettes are best reheated by microwave, but you can use the oven, hob or even the grill.
Reheated omelettes should be served piping hot and only heated once.
It is safe to warm up beef or lamb that has been cooked. However, meat reheated in the oven can become dry and tough, so it is best warmed up using a microwave or hob.
Meats already in a sauce, like a bolognese, are easy to warm up. Just add a little water, heat it and stir it so that all of the dish reaches 75°C or higher, and serve it straight away.
You can warm all types of fish up. For more information, read our section on dealing with salmon.
Yes, you can reheat eggs. However, eggs can be cooked in several different ways and not all types of cooked eggs will warm up well.
Hard-boiled eggs, both in and out of their shell, can be safely reheated. To do so, place them in a bowl, cover them with boiling water and let them stand for several minutes. Never use a microwave to warm up or cook hard-boiled eggs, as they can explode.
If you are pre-cooking hard-boiled eggs, then you should refrigerate them within 2 hours and either consume them cold or heat them within the week.
While reheating fried eggs is safe to do, we do not recommend it because heating them again causes them to become tough and rubbery.
Scrambled eggs and omelettes can be reheated and, for more information, view our section on reheating omelettes.
Yes, soup can usually be reheated. The best way to do so is to place it in a saucepan over a medium heat until it reaches at least 75°C. You may need to add a little water to it while it is heating to prevent it from thickening.
When reheating soup, it is important to be aware of what is in the soup, and whether any special attention needs to be paid to it. For example, if a soup contains pieces of meat then these should be checked to ensure that they have not been reheated previously, and that they have reached 75°C throughout before they are eaten.
Turkey can be reheated, and the guidance for doing so is similar to other meats.
Once cooked, turkey should be stored in the fridge as soon as possible where it will keep for 2-3 days and, after reheating, it should be at least 75°C throughout and served immediately.
Jacket potatoes can be reheated, either in the microwave or the oven. While the microwave is easier, we recommend reheating a jacket potato in the oven because it will make the skin crispier and the inside fluffier.
A jacket potato should be reheated until it is at least 75°C throughout and, once achieved, it should be served immediately while steaming hot. Any fillings that you wish to add should be reheated separately to the potato, and following appropriate guidance.
Yes, couscous can be reheated as long as it has been cooked and stored correctly in the first place. If not, harmful bacteria may have grown on it that can make it unsafe to eat.
Before reheating couscous, you should add a small amount of water to it to prevent it from becoming dry and, while it is heating, be sure to stir it frequently to prevent it from clumping and sticking together. As with all other foods, you should ensure that all of the couscous has reached at least 75°C before serving it.
Reheating chips is safe to do, assuming that they have not already been reheated. If you are planning to reheat some chips, make sure that they are stored in the fridge as soon as possible and, where you can, avoid covering them with any sauces or condiments as this can make them soggy when reheated.
We recommend reheating chips in the oven to help them stay crispy. When reheating, make sure that the chips have reached at least 75°C and serve them immediately.
You can also reheat chips safely in the microwave, but this can cause them to become soggy. If you have no other choice, it may be worth using a clean paper towel to try and remove some of the moisture in the chips before eating them.
Yes, spinach can be safely reheated as long as it is piping hot before being eaten. It is best heated slowly on a low heat to preserve its taste and texture.
Some sites claim that spinach cannot be safely reheated because it contains nitrates that, when reheated, become toxic. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that this is the case.
For those who are concerned, nitrates only break down at very high heats, so ensuring that spinach is not excessively heated or burned will minimise the breakdown of the nitrates in it.
Yes, you can reheat beetroot. As with all other foods, it should be stored correctly, eaten quickly and heated fully before being consumed to ensure that it is safe.
As with spinach, some sites claim that beetroot cannot be reheated because it causes the nitrates in it to break down and become toxic. There is no evidence to suggest that this is the case and, for those who are concerned, leftover beetroot can be eaten cold in salads or on the side of other dishes.
Yes, you can reheat baked beans as long as they have been stored in a sealed container, refrigerated within 2 hours, and are used within 3 days. As with other foods, it must be heated until piping hot throughout, and must never be reheated in their original metal container.
As we have highlighted in this article, there are a range of methods that can be used to reheat food, including some that we have not mentioned such as using a toaster oven or air fryer. You can also reheat foods in ways that differ from the original cooking method.
Regardless of the reheating method chosen, there are several principles that must be followed such as ensuring that food is reheated until it reaches at least 75°C. To help with this, the Food Standards Agency has created a guide that you can refer to when you are reheating food, which you can view here.
At Commodious, we offer several food hygiene and safety courses that explore the safe preparation, cooking, storage and reheating of food in detail. To find out more about them, use the links below: