Resurrection of the Pizza & Fries, Part 2

(Last updated on: May 31, 2018)

reheat pizza - pizza sliceScience Fact: In yesterday’s post we stored a delicious bit of leftovers, but we did not reheat pizza. Today, we’re going to bring out the pizza, reheat it and eat it!

Pizza is healthy food, and a flexible food. Some people eat pizza cold, for breakfast or a snack, and swear by it. But most of us prefer an approximation of its original state, piping hot. Let’s address the difficult problem: how to suitably reheat pizza.

We might consider three generic types of food leftovers:

  • Food that’s as good as or even better than when it was first served. I put stews and chili into this class – things that gain from cooking a long time.
  • Food that we should eat freshly cooked and not reheat: certainly eggs and perhaps also fish.
  • The “in-betweens”: foods that lose something overnight but which (depending on your fastidiousness) can be revived to make a great lunch or a light dinner. Pizza is one of the in-betweens. We can store it, and most people can reheat pizza and eat it with pleasure.

Proposed Ways to Reheat Pizza

So exactly how should we reheat pizza? The literature on this important question is passionate but contradictory. You would think that a subject of such vital interest would have attracted extensive research and given us well-accepted answers, but such is not the case. As a scientist, I am tempted to spend the next month – or would it be a year? – in an intensive exploratory program to reheat pizza.

However, that cannot be. My research in how to reheat pizza has been limited. Therefore, for this post I consulted the myriad of contributors on the Internet, including:

  • The Chicago Pizza Club (April 2008, Chicago). After extensive testing, it advocates the approach of Recommendation #3 below. It might be described as using a “preheated hot platform.” Note added 4/6/2018: Chicago Pizza Club’s website has disappeared (and no, Pizza Club Chicago is not the same thing). Therefore, I have appended their article as a PDF, HERE.
  • SeriousEats.com (June 2010, Boston). They advocate that you reheat pizza with a microwave oven followed by toaster oven. However they obliterated this advice with a later post.
  • SeriousEats.com (March 2011, Boston). Here, they recommend a tightly covered griddle or skillet at very low (under 200°F) temperature.
  • LifeHacker.com (Nov 2011, South Carolina). This website wants to reheat pizza using a skillet with medium heat and an aluminum foil cover.
  • The Dallas Observer (October 2013, Dallas). It calls for a heavy pan, low to medium heat, uncovered, then watch for the oil to bubble up.
  • Bon Appetit (January 2014, New York). This magazine recomments a skillet over medium heat 3-4 minutes covered, then 2-3 minutes uncovered to crisp the crust.
  • WikiHow (undated). Here, 14 authors (!) from who-knows-where team up to give contradictory advice on how to reheat pizza. Their advice ranges widely: a preheated 400°F oven, a toaster oven, a skillet and even (O horrors! But not recommended) a microwave.

Ways to Reheat Pizza, Analyzed

Each of these sources brought something to the table, so to speak. All bloggers save their most uncomplimentary adjectives for the microwave approach to reheat pizza. Once you throw that out, you can find those who love each of the other approaches. With Hamlet we might muse: To cover or not to cover? Whether ‘tis nobler in the kitchen to apply low heat, medium heat, or heat that might melt steel?

Because pizza varies so widely across the U.S., I would like to believe that many, perhaps all of these writers are correct, as to good ways to reheat pizza from their own region. And that’s why I supplied both dates and (so far as I can decode them) locations for the above references.

The New York and Boston correspondents are presumably consuming thin-crust pizzas with little topping. With a light topping, their pizzas have no moisture to spare, therefore these writers advocate partial or complete coverage of the cooking pan to keep the pizza from drying out. In contrast, the Chicago blogger presumably plans to reheat pizza with considerably more topping. Therefore, he could ignore trapping the moisture and concentrate instead on crisping the crust beneath.

Recommendation: How to Reheat Pizza

My reading of this scholarly literature plus my own experience leads me to my next recommendation on how to reheat pizza: [Recommendations #1 and #2 appeared in the previous blog]

Recommendation #3: Reheat Pizza (“Preheated Hot Platform”).

I most often reheat pizza with a medium quantity of toppings, and for me the Chicago technique seems to work best, as follows:

  • Choose a flat heatable surface such as a broiler pan, jelly roll pan, pizza pan or (for the truly dedicated) a pizza stone. The pan should be as thick and heavy as possible to retain its heat. It should not have a nonstick coating or soft handgrips because the high temperatures recommended might melt those features and perhaps poison you with their fumes.
  • Place the pan in the center of the oven so that it’s not too near the heat source (which could cause scorching). Crank the oven up to the highest temperature you feel comfortable with: I usually use 450°F.
  • As the oven approaches its target temperature, unwrap the frozen or refrigerated pizza slices and lay them out on a piece of parchment paper. The paper should be only slightly larger than the array of slices, since the exposed edges of paper will curl up, brown and conceivably catch fire.
  • Open the oven, pick up the pizza by the edges of the paper, deliver the pizza onto the pan and close the oven door.
  • Turn on the oven light and watch through the window. A frozen pizza needs to be heated only for 4 to 6 minutes, just until it’s hot, as shown by cheese melting and/or oil bubbling to the surface. A pizza that is not frozen should reheat more quickly. If the surface begins to brown you have missed the turnoff to culinary Paradise: remove it from the oven immediately.

There’s a bonus to learning this way to reheat pizza: it works extremely well for French fries, fried onion rings and in fact just about any fried food including fish and chips. In fact, fried fish reheats so well that the advice given not to reheat fish should admit this case as an exception. Fried food can be healthy food, and when you reheat it this way, tasty food as well.

Which leads to my next and final recommendation:

Recommendation #4: Reheating French Fries & Other Fried Foods.

Follow the “Reheat Pizza” instructions above with the following changes:

  • It’s not necessary to have as hot an oven, 400 to 450°F is plenty.
  • Reheating times will vary considerably: about 8 minutes for medium-thick French fries; 3 to 5 minutes for fried onion rings; only 1 minute for thin fried onions (“onion strings”). For fish and chips, keep them separated on the parchment paper so you can rescue each component as it reaches perfection: the optimum times may well be different.
  • The signal that your food is done is that oil comes to the surface; at that point you must immediately remove it from the oven or it will begin to brown and burn.

Buon appetito!

Do you reheat leftover pizza? Do you have a technique that works well for you? If so, please comment, telling us not only how you reheat it, but what kind of pizza you most often reheat, in case different pizza styles have different best approaches.

Drawing Credit: micro_giraffe, on openclipart.org

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