The Ultimate Guide on How to Reheat Ready Meals & leftovers like a Pro!

Huma Khurshid: Consultant Nutritionist and Qualified Health & Fitness Writer
The Ultimate Guide on How to Reheat Ready Meals & leftovers like a Pro! - The Meal Prep Market

We’ve listed below some guidelines on how to reheat pre made meals to maximise nutrition, flavour, texture, food safety and more! From setting the right temperature to choosing the right appliance for all five food groups. We’ve got you covered!

How Long Do Pre Made Meals and Leftovers Last In The Fridge?

Before going into reheating meals, you need to make sure that the meal itself is safe to consume. If you purchase meals, they will have an expiration date, however if you make your own meals this paragraph will help you figure out whether the meal is safe or not to consume. Every food ingredient has its own expiration date - as pre made meals and leftovers are likely to have been cooked, they are considered a high-risk food item which means that they usually have a 'use by' rather than a 'best by' date.

However, most meals last easily for around 3 – 6 days in the fridge. Some foods lose their taste, colour, and fragrance after a day or two, however carefully designed meals even without any nasty preservatives can keep up their nutrients and freshness even after a week.

According to Harvard Health, hard-boiled eggs and chopped vegetables retain their quality for a week if stored in an air-tight container. Moreover, dairy, fruit juices, milkshakes, and smoothies can last only for a day or two. Moreover, proteins such as pork, sausages, beef burgers, turkey, and minced beef also don't have a long lifetime (3 to 4 days only) in the fridge, although they can stay safe when kept in the freezer.

Companies preparing ready meals and pre made meals use various techniques to stretch these days by a few more days, such as by blast chilling their meals or by using special packaging.

Tips for re-heating ready meals

Here's a bit of a cheat sheet, continue below for more tips & guidance!

Tips To Reheat Pre Made Meals and Leftovers:

Some quick wins:

  • Meals which are sealed need to be pierced.

You can use a fork or a knife or anything pointy and sharp you have about. Don't make the opening to large or else the hot energy will come out

  • Usually 3 minutes in the microwave is a good starting point - triple that if frozen

Reheating time will depend of course on size, texture, ingredients and of course whether you'd like the meal piping hot or simply warm

  • Avoid inserting metallic objects in the microwave as that's a huge safety hazard

This should go without saying, but better to say it

According to the USDA, the foods that are pre-cooked and then cooled shall be reheated at about 165 °F (or about 74 °C). However, if you have ordered vacuum-sealed packages, you can reheat to at least 140°F(or to 60°C).

meal prep plate
Flat dishes reheat best in the microwave
due to better heat distribution

Choose The Best Heating Method:

The most crucial step to having great pre-made meals is to determine the best reheating method. An effective reheating strategy allows you to get the best out of the meals every single time.

Either you pre-cook your meals at home, or you order pre-made diet meals that are delivered at your doorstep in the UK - the best strategy is to reheat all foods in the same way as they were cooked in the first place. For instance, if you bake lasagna in the oven, heat it in the same way for a couple of minutes in the oven. This one is the easiest method to remember!

Apart from this easy-peasy method, we have some more strategies to reheat your pre-made meals! Following are some ways described for how to reheat pre made meals.

1. Toaster Oven:

A toaster oven is best for reheating dried and crispy foods as it circulates warm air around each ingredient of the food and helps retain the original crispiness of the food. You can toast pizzas, burritos, crispy bread, tacos, seafood, quesadillas, grilled sandwiches, and other fried foods.

The reheat time of pre-made meals is 5-10 minutes at around 350 degrees.

2. Microwave:

We all own a microwave by now, don't we?

Microwave heating is the most used reheating method all over the UK. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), when microwaves are used correctly, your food is safe from radiation. However, remove any plastic before reheating pre-made meals in the microwave. Another research published in the Centre for Food Safety demonstrates that microwave heated foods result in the same safety and nutrient quality as those heated/cooked by other conventional methods. If you want to be safer with your microwave, try covering your food with a microwave-safe lid!

Tips For Microwaving Food:

When heating foods in the microwave, ensure that the food has some sort of moisture, such as liquid foods, curries, soups, stews, sauces, and oatmeal. Moreover, cover the pre-made meal so that the moisture remains in the food.

The average reheat time for a portion of food is around 3 minutes while stirring halfway through.

3. Stove:

Stoves have been used for centuries to cook and reheat pre-made meals. Most food items such as rice, curries, sauces, meats, pasta, and stir-fried items are made on the stove. Reheating the same pre-made meal on the stove can bring back the original taste, texture, and aroma. You may sometimes need a little bit of water/oil/butter to manage moisture levels as the direct heat of the stove can sometimes let moisture fly away.

4. Oven:

Similar to the stovetop directions, anything cooked in the oven can easily be reheated in the oven. Yet, only foods initially made/cooked in the oven should be reheated. Foods that can reheat thoroughly in the oven are baked pasta, bread, meat, biscuits, pork belly, pizza, etc. The time for reheating meal prep recipes in UK ovens is mostly 5 –10 minutes. According to the USDA, set the oven to 325 °F minimum (or to roughly 165 °C). However, keep checking the meal halfway; flip side or stir if needed.

heating meal prep in the oven

Tips for Reheating Pre Made Meals in Oven:

Before preheating your pre-made meals, ensure to take them out of the meal prep bags used to store food. Plate the food in an appropriate dish/container, then place it in the oven.

Moreover, cover the food with the help of aluminum foil to keep the moisture and prevent the meat from drying out.

Easy Guide To Reheat The Five Food Groups:

To wrap up your thoughts, we’ve enlisted some essential appliances and ways that you can use to reheat the following five good groups.


Pre-made grains can be of multiple types, such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, etc. if you are to reheat rice and cereals, we would recommend you to use the microwave. However, pasta, noodles, or meals that are covered in a sauce or gravy can be heated efficiently on the stove.


Fruits are mostly used fresh. However, you can make several fruits recipes, such as pies and fruit cakes. These food items can be reheated pretty well in the oven. Make sure to cover them with aluminium foil to avoid any burns.


Veggies are versatile food items and can be used in a thousand ways. When reheating your pre-made vegetables, observe the type of food first. If it’s liquid like soup and stew, go for the stove. However, if the veggies are dry, like roasted or stir-fried, use a toaster oven or oven.


Lean meats, poultry, and seafood are the type of foods most likely to run out of moisture when reheated. It’s recommended to use an oven or microwave while covering the protein completely.

Some people even fear that reheating protein foods can lower the nutritional value of that food. However, proposes that no changes are detected in digestibility or nutritional content of the protein when compared to heating before and after.


Dairy foods can be a bit tricky. According to CDP online college, dairy can be risky to reheat as it can quickly develop harmful bacteria. However, if you reheat dairy in the right way, you’ll dodge the bacteria by reaching higher temperatures for a sustained amount of time! Observe the type of food and use reheating methods accordingly.

Use the stove for reheating dairy foods such as mac n cheese, a toaster oven for bread, an oven for cakes, or you can simply microwave a pre-boiled egg.

Bonus Tip: Undercook Your Pre Made Meals:

It usually is a good idea to, when preparing meals to be consumed another day, slightly undercook the meals. Let's say you're cooking pasta, boil the pasta 2/3 minutes less than what the packaging says so when you reheat it at the time of eating, it will not become soggy or mushy. The same goes for rice and vegetables.

However, in the case of meat and poultry, try following the 212-degrees rule. Use a thermometer to wait till the food reaches about 212 °F (or 100 °C). This temperature is safe for killing all the bacteria that may multiply if the meat is left undercooked.

man eating meal prep

FAQ: Should I add water?

Sometimes, when you cook over the stove or oven on other appliances, there are a lot of chances for moisture to evaporate.

Another problem that can arise is the meal sticking together, such as rice, sauce, and pasta.

When you feel the food might be drying or thickening, add water or other water-rich ingredients such as sauces or fatty ingredients such as butter or oil.


Busy people such as working professional do find it convenient to order meals instead of cooking. This growing trend is making life easier however it is important to reheat meals correctly.

If you’d be interested in ordering healthy and delicious pre-made meals and meal prep meals.

Order now from The Meal Prep Market – the UK’s first marketplace for ordering from meal prep companies!

Get in touch with us at The Meal Prep Market or download our app for iOS or Android for easy navigation towards ordering your next pre-made meal.

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