5 Best Ways to Reheat Chinese Food Leftovers


If you recently ordered Chinese takeout, then there is a good chance that you still have some leftover. However, you may be unsure of the best ways to reheat the food without sacrificing the meal’s original quality. 

Here, we will offer several tips on how you can best reheat your Chinese food leftovers to ensure it tastes as great as when you first ordered it!

Best Ways to Reheat Leftover Chinese Food

Usually, when you want to reheat leftovers, the goal is to create a meal out of something in as short of a time as possible. With that said, the method you choose to reheat leftover Chinese food, in particular, will likely be an appliance that allows you to achieve this, such as a microwave, oven, stove, or even air fryer (even a rice cooker in some cases!). 

However, you should also consider the type of food you’re trying to reheat, particularly how it was cooked originally; this is because the method you choose to reheat the meal later—if different from the original cooking method—could affect the food’s intended texture and quality. 

In the below list, we’ll cover the best ways to reheat common Chinese food entrees and sides using various appliances. 

Microwave

The microwave is a quick and perfectly suitable option for many Chinese food items. You need to take caution, though, as certain items do not hold up well in the microwave. 

The microwave can be notorious for ruining the texture of popular Chinese food picks like General Tso Chicken. If you try to reheat breaded meat using a microwave, you may notice the outer layers getting gooey and falling off if it has been in the microwave for an extended period. 

Still, several items are more likely to keep their form if they are microwaved for a short time. Items suitable for the microwave include basic foods like:

  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Vegetables
  • Soups/Stews

How to Reheat Chinese Food Leftovers in the Microwave

If you are using a microwave, you should be reheating your leftovers in short bursts of 30-60 seconds, periodically checking to see that the item has been sufficiently heated. 

Items like vegetables can become soggy if they are overdone in the microwave. To avoid this, you should place the items in a microwave-safe plastic container and then cover the container with a paper towel to avoid making a mess in your microwave.

Stovetop

The burners of your stove are an excellent resource for reheating items that are either completely or nearly thawed. With the stove, you shouldn’t have to worry so much about ruining the quality of your Chinese takeout. Even a few minutes over medium-to-high heat can bring reasonable quantities of soups and stews to an enjoyable temperature.

There is an abundance of Chinese leftovers that can be reheated on the stove:

  • Vegetables
  • Soups/Stews
  • Stir Frys
  • Asian Noodles

If you haven’t done so already, you should consider getting yourself a good stir-fry pan or wok. Your stove will become much more versatile with this addition, as you will be able to breathe new life into your leftover Chinese food. 

A good wok will also allow you plenty of opportunities to give your leftovers a new spin (and avoid leftover burnout) with the ingredients that you have on hand. (For help with ideas for recipes and cooking instructions, you are encouraged to continue to the sections below!)

How to Reheat Chinese Food Leftovers on the Stove

Asian noodles are best served after being heated on a stove, rather than a microwave; this is because noodles tend to congeal after being refrigerated, and a microwave won’t necessarily do an excellent job of reversing this process. 

Try this instead: heat noodles over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. You can add condiments like oyster sauce or stock to rehydrate the noodles. Adding fresh vegetables will accent the noodles nicely.

But what if you have soup or stew items like Egg Drop Soup? This particular soup is a little more difficult to reheat and achieve the same quality since it’s best served and eaten the day it’s prepared. Although Egg Drop Soup can last up to three to four days, it can easily be ruined if it is not stored away in an airtight container in the fridge or reheated incorrectly.

With that said, if you want to reheat leftover soup or stew from your favorite Chinese restaurant on the stove, make sure you keep it on medium-low heat and frequently stir. If the soup is reheated too quickly and at too high of a temperature, it could decrease the overall quality. 

Oven

The oven is perhaps the most versatile option for returning leftover Chinese food items to their original glory. This is a great way to reheat items that you expect a crispy texture from, like egg rolls and breaded chicken. The oven also a safe way to reheat items like meats and seafood that often need to meet an internal temperature per food safety guidelines.

Leftovers that can be reheated in the oven include:

  • Egg Rolls
  • Breaded Chicken
  • Mongolian Beef 
  • Orange Chicken
  • Pot Stickers

Generally, the oven is a better place to reheat leftovers than the microwave. Microwaves heat items unevenly; they can also cause the sauces to separate in some dishes. If you are looking for a quick meal, it is undoubtedly hard to beat a microwave. However, you are encouraged to always go with the oven if you happen to have a minute or two to spare.

How to Reheat Chinese Food Leftovers in the Oven

Here is a neat trick for getting egg rolls, wontons, or other small fried items to crisp back up: 

  1. Place the foods on a foil-lined baking sheet and then transfer the sheet into a preheated 350-degree oven. 
  2. Watch for the exterior of the food items to crisp back up. This should take about 5-7 minutes for small items like egg rolls and 15-25 minutes for large pieces of chicken or other fried meats.

If you need to reheat seafood, you’ll need to take caution as you leave it in the oven; seafood items are far too easy to overheat in the right conditions, resulting in a rubbery texture. To avoid wasting a tasty dish, reheat the seafood in the oven at a low temperature until it’s heated all the way through; this may require you to periodically check on the food to ensure it’s warm enough to eat. 

Air Fryer

Another quick way to reheat Chinese leftovers is via an air fryer. This is another good way to crisp up leftover fried or breaded items like egg rolls or chicken. (You have probably heard your friends and family raving about air fryers. They are surprisingly affordable pieces of equipment; take, for example, this GoWISE Digital Air Fryer.)

How to Reheat Chinese Food Leftovers in an Air Fryer

If you want to get your leftover egg rolls back to being crispy, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure that the egg rolls have been brought to room temperature. If you take them out of the fridge, the air fryer alone will not be enough to warm their centers.
  2. Set the air fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For the best results, allow the air fryer to warm up for a couple of minutes before adding the egg rolls to the basket.
  3. Leave the egg rolls in the air fryer for 1 minute.
  4. Flip the egg rolls over.
  5. Leave them in for another minute on the other side.

You will also find plenty of recipes online for making fresh egg rolls in the air fryer, like the recipe on this page. The instructions above have been adapted from recipes for homemade egg rolls but work just as well for leftover egg rolls. 

You can also use the same instructions above to reheat breaded meat items like orange chicken in your air fryer. Just make sure that you do not keep the chicken (or any other item) in the air fryer for too long. All you really need is a few minutes to heat items that have previously been cooked. 

What Can You Do with Leftover Rice?

Did you know that there is a right and wrong way to store and reheat leftover rice? Storing and reheating rice incorrectly can actually lead to food poisoning. This is because grains of rice contain a bacterium (called Bacillus cereus) that can survive the initial rice-cooking process of boiling water. The bacterium can cause people to experience a flu-like illness after eating leftover rice.

There is a misconception that reheating rice is what causes food poisoning, but this is not correct. What actually causes the food poisoning to occur is that the leftover rice has not been cooled properly before storage, thereby allowing the bacterium’s spores an opportunity to produce a toxin. This happens to many other food items as well.  

How to Properly Store Leftover Rice

If you want to store leftover rice from a Chinese food meal properly, follow these tips: 

  • Keep the leftover rice in a closed storage container that is no more than 3 inches deep, like the shallow food container found here.
  • Make sure that you put rice in your refrigerator within one hour of preparation.
  • Eat the leftover rice within 3-5 days; letting the rice sit in the fridge for any longer than this can cause it to become spoiled.

How to Reheat Leftover Rice

Leftover rice can be a bit fussy when it comes to reheating. If you simply put the rice in the microwave for a few minutes, you may notice a deterioration in the meal’s overall quality, and nobody wants to eat mushy rice! 

Below you will find some tips on how to keep leftover rice fluffy and tasting just as good as when you first ordered it. 

Use the Microwave

One popular way to reheat leftover rice is to use a microwave. It’s easy, convenient, and gets food to the necessary internal temperature in mere seconds. Leftovers of any kind should be heated to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, or “piping hot” in layman’s terms. You are encouraged to take caution not to overdo it, though, as this could cause the rice to lose its desirable texture.

Here is how to correctly microwave leftover rice:

  • Put the rice in a microwaveable bowl, like these microwave-safe bowls
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of water for each cup of cooked rice.
  • Place a damp paper towel on top of the bowl.
  • Heat the rice in 30-second intervals until it is warm.

You should keep the heating intervals short so that the rice can retain its fluffy texture. Microwaves do have a reputation for destroying the texture of food items, but short bursts of heating should enable you to make the rice just hot enough so that it is safe to eat while also not compromising the enjoyability of the food.

Make Fried Rice

If you are less concerned about convenience, you can forego the microwave and breathe new life into your leftover rice by frying it. Recipes can vary, but the combination of fresh vegetables and a source of protein will really bring the whole meal together. 

Vegetables commonly paired with fried rice include onions, bok choy, green onion, and carrots. Popular sources of protein include eggs, chicken, pork, and tofu.

Here is how to prepare fried rice from leftovers:

  1. Place the leftover rice in a Ziploc bag and break it down into individual grains. (It will likely be stuck together in clumps after being refrigerated.)
  2. Chop up all the vegetables that you would like to include in the meal.
  3. Beat some eggs (if you would like to add eggs to the meal).
  4. Heat up a wok or large frying pan and drizzle in either olive oil or vegetable oil. This would also be an excellent time to introduce some pieces of chopped up garlic into the mix.
  5. Then comes the time to add the eggs.
  6. Add in all the chopped vegetables/meat.
  7. Add in the rice and any condiments. Popular choices include soy sauce, salt, and sesame seed oil.

You are encouraged to search “fried leftover rice recipes” on your internet browser for many unique recipes. A proven recipe will also include more specific guidance on the proper measurements and temperatures. Frying leftover rice is sure to unlock many flavors and textures that make well-prepared rice so enjoyable.   

Use a Rice Cooker/Pot

A rice cooker is a useful addition to any kitchen. You can use this piece of equipment to both prepare new rice and to repurpose leftover rice. 

One favorite Asian dish for leftover rice is Chinese congee, or a type of porridge: 

  1. You will start by breaking down the rice into individual grains, just as you would if you were trying to make fried rice
  2. Then combine the broken-down rice and chicken stock in a pot or rice cooker. 
  3. Add in some chopped vegetables and a source of protein like pork and eggs (optional). 
  4. As the congee cooks, you will need to constantly stir the rice, so the ingredients are well-blended. Stirring consistently also prevents the rice from sticking to the sides and bottom of the pot. 

Once the rice becomes very soft, like a porridge, then you will know that it is finished. This dish can take quite some time to prepare, as even a basic congee recipe comes with a time estimate of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Still, this remains an excellent way to repurpose leftover rice without having to sacrifice its quality.  

How to Keep Leftover Chinese Food Warm

Finally, if you’re putting together a mosh posh of leftover items, then you are liable to run into the age-old problem of one dish becoming lukewarm while you are still busy prepping the rest of your meal. Fortunately, this dilemma is a simple one to resolve by following these tips:

  • You can place finished items within an oven-safe baking dish (like these casserole dishes) and keep the dish covered.
  • Wrap plated items in aluminum foil while you finish reheating the rest of your meal.
  • Transfer heated foods to the oven while you are preparing a stir-fry.
  • Take advantage of any slow cookers, toaster ovens, or preheated warming trays that you may have on hand already.

In Summary

Chinese food leftovers will typically last 3-5 days in the fridge. Thus, it is certainly plausible to stretch your Chinese food order into many meals over several days—as long as it is stored correctly and reheated in the right way. 

The best ways to reheat leftover Chinese food include using a microwave, stovetop, oven, rice cooker, or air fryer. A good rule-of-thumb is to avoid the microwave entirely when trying to reheat most items, although rice and vegetables can typically hold up just fine in the microwave. If you are trying to keep a fried item, like an egg roll, crispy, then the air fryer or oven will be your best bet.

 

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