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Microwave . . .

A Few Hot Tips About Reheating Your Favorites

June 26, 1988|DIANA HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

Reheating foods is the most common use for microwave ovens. Not only is this convenient, but reheating by microwave also fits with nutrition research. Studies have shown that foods reheated by microwave retain Vitamin B better than foods cooked and then kept warm an extended time until eaten.

Most grilled and then frozen meats can easily be reheated from the freezer. Place the meat in a pan in a single layer covered with wax paper and microwave at HIGH (100% power) about 5 minutes per serving. Steak, which is tender and must be microwaved at lower power levels, and shrimp, which needs shorter microwave time, do not follow this rule of thumb.

For a single serving of steak, reheat about 10 minutes, using DEFROST (30% power on most microwaves) for half the time. Switch the power to MEDIUM (50% power) for the last 5 minutes or so. For shrimp, use HIGH power, but cut the time to 1/2 to 1 minute per serving.

From Fridge to Oven

Here are some tips for reheating cooked refrigerated or frozen foods:

--When cooking a recipe that makes more than you need, separate and immediately chill or freeze the unneeded food. This will help to maintain nutrients and quality.

--Package precooked foods for the freezer in flat microwave-safe containers in small amounts. They will freeze more quickly and reheat more evenly than will large portions.

--When reheating chilled leftovers or deli food, spread food thin whenever possible. This creates the greatest surface area through which energy can be absorbed. When reheating small pieces of food, arrange them in a circle. When reheating pieces of various sizes, place the smaller pieces in the center, the largest pieces around the edges.

--Cover food correctly. Use a tight cover (plastic wrap if cover is unavailable) for foods that need to retain moisture. Crispy foods should be covered with wax paper to allow steam to escape. Covering encourages faster, more even reheating.

--Stir foods or turn them over after partial cooking to distribute heat. Rotate solid or frozen food if it seems to be cooking more in one area than another.

--Reheat bread at MEDIUM (50% power) or LOW (30% power) to avoid drying. Wrap individual rolls or sandwiches in paper towels to absorb outer moisture and prevent sogginess.

--Moisture can help speed reheating. Dot leftover mashed potatoes with butter. Add a spoonful of water to macaroni and cheese before reheating.

--Buy plastic microwave cookware designed especially for storage and heating of leftovers. Many companies offer storage containers with two lids; one for the refrigerator or freezer and another for the microwave.

--Be sure food is heated through before removing it from the oven. One of the most frequent complaints from consumers is that microwave-reheated food cools down too fast. It may simply have been underheated. The appearance of steam can be deceiving, so check heating in the interior areas by stirring and/or testing--even tasting the center. With microwave-safe pottery or china plates or bowls you can test warmth by feeling the underside of the dish in the center. If warm to the touch, the food is probably hot enough to eat.

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