We’ve all done it. We’ve all brought a little too much fast food home and not been able to eat it all. Maybe someone didn’t show for the evening meet up, or you simply felt far hungrier when you ordered than you were when it showed up at the door.
Either way, you’ve ended up with a pile of food that you’d feel bad throwing away, but you’re not going to eat right now.
So you’re thinking to yourself. Can I store this and reheat it? What’s the best way to do that, so it doesn’t end up gross and rubbery? Is it worth it, and how should I do so?
That’s why you’re here, and lucky for you, we’ve got a whole article on how best to store fast food.
For navigational purposes, this article is subdivided into all the big brands and generic types of fast food. It’s pretty comprehensive, so let’s get started.
How to Reheat McDonald’s Fast Food
We’re going to start with McDonald’s. McDonald’s is the undisputed fast food megachain, and those familiar golden arches are recognized all around the world.
But can you reheat McDonald’s fast food?
Yes, you can. McDonald’s food is generally pretty great when it comes to reheating, too, with methods that retain the distinct flavors and textures of their food that we’ve all come to know and love.
Big Macs or Any Other Burger
The single best tool to reheat any burger is your standard kitchen oven. The steady heat of an oven ensures an even reheating, and won’t scorch the outside layer of the burger or leave you with a soggy, fat drenched patty.
It’s also recommended to deconstruct the burger if possible, heating it in its component parts. This gives you a nice, even heat through and through, and preserves as much of the original flavor as is possible.
- Store your burger in a quality airtight container in the refrigerator until it’s needed, and take it out 10 minutes before you want to reheat it so it can sit at room temperature.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Lay the disassembled burger on a tray lined with greaseproof paper.
- Remove the salad and as much sauce as you can. Put them somewhere safe, for later, or if you’ve got equivalents, feel free to replace lettuce and tomatoes with fresh.
- Heat the burger and buns for around 6 – 7 minutes.
- If it’s still not done to your liking after 7 minutes, check every 30s after.
- Rebuild the burger and enjoy.
Reheating a cheeseburger or burger is the same no matter where it’s from. Just follow these steps and you can have a burger that’s just as good as when you bought it. Delish.
Reheating McDonald’s fries is deceptively simple.
Generally, we’ve seen recommendations for using a microwave. However, this ends up as a pile of soggy fries that don’t have any of the crispiness or crunch we look for in a good fry.
Instead, recreate how they were cooked. Use a fryer (this inexpensive one from Amazon is completely amazing), or if you don’t have a fryer, a pan with oil and medium heat is also suitable.
It should only take 3 to 5 minutes to cook the fries. You’re really only looking to heat them through and give them the same crispness and bite they had when they came out of the fryer for the first time.
A precaution. Be careful with hot oil on your stove. It’s volatile and should be handled with care.
McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets
While McNuggets can also be reheated in the microwave, they tend to end up a bit rubbery and chewy.
The oven is your best bet.
- Set to 350, place the nuggets on a tray with space around them.
- They should only take around 10 minutes to cook.
McDonald’s Muffins can simply be thrown in the oven on a tray for around 10 minutes on a 350-degree heat until they’re toasty warm through and through.
A sausage egg McMuffin is a different beast. If you’re in a hurry, blasting it with the reheat setting is an option, but might end up with soggy bread and rubbery egg.
If possible, use the same oven method.
- 350-degree heat for around 15 minutes. Be sure to deconstruct the muffin first, and place every ingredient on a tray with a little bit of space around it so it can breathe.
- Once hot, reassemble and enjoy.
McDonald’s Hash Browns
Thankfully, hash browns are as easy to reheat as they are delicious.
- Start by warming a pan on the stove with medium heat. Add butter.
- While this is warming up, throw the hash browns onto a reheat cycle in the microwave for 30 seconds.
- Once they’re warm, drop them straight into the pan and cook for around 3 minutes on both sides.
McDonald’s Apple Pies
Again, while you can reheat an apple pie using your microwave, it’s not recommended. Not, this time, because it spoils the food. Apple pies in the microwave are actually pretty good.
Instead, it’s actually a health hazard. The way a microwave heats food and an apple pie don’t mix, and it’s common for the apple mixture in the center of the pie to be a temperature significantly higher than the rest of the pie. That means you could bite into a pie that’s actually only lukewarm on the outside, and burn the inside of your mouth on the contents.
- Instead, preheat your oven to 200 degrees, then cook the apple pie for around 10 minutes.
- Leave for a few minutes after cooking for it to cool down a little. It’s going to be hot, and you’ve waited this long after all.
How to Reheat KFC or Any Other Fried Chicken
If you’re like me, when you hear chicken, you’re thinking KFC. (It’s right there in the name. C’mon.)
The ubiquitous fast food meal. Even if your hometown doesn’t have a KFC, it’s definitely got one or two own-brand chicken shops. That’s why it’s important to know how to reheat fried chicken, as chicken is a dish that can be pretty finicky.
Reheating crispy fried chicken, like the chicken you get from KFC, without it drying out, can be surprisingly tricky.
The single best method is to cook it in the oven, preserving the moistness of the chicken by tenting it with aluminum foil.
(Tenting literally means creating a little tent out of the foil and placing it over the tray the chicken is placed on. It helps to retain the moisture and prevents the skin from dying out from overheating.)
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
- Take the chicken from the oven and leave for a few minutes so the temperatures can equalise
- Once the oven is heated, place the chicken on a tray and tent with foil
- Cook for around 10 minutes, at 300 degrees
- Check your chicken every few minutes, as different pieces might cook at different speeds
In general, thicker pieces of chicken will take longer to cook than thinner pieces, but it’s easy to check if they’re done. Simply break a thicker piece of chicken open and make sure it’s warmed through, and if so, you’re ready to eat.
While you can reheat your chicken in the microwave, like most fast food it’s not an ideal solution.
If you’ve got no other choice, there’s a way to make it kind of work, without ending up with a soggy, miserable meal.
- First, take the chicken out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 5, preferably 10 minutes. This lets the temperature equalize and minimizes the amount of moisture loss from the otherwise rapid temperature change.
- Loosely wrap the chicken in a paper towel, to stop the chicken from soaking up ambient moisture in the microwave and getting soggy.
- Reheat the chicken for 30 seconds at a time, checking between sessions, until it’s warm but not too hot. Heating it like this allows you to hit the sweet spot between lukewarm and blasted into oblivion.
3. Toaster Oven
Amazingly, yes, fried chicken has a third method that can be used to reheat it successfully.
If you’re lucky enough to have a toaster oven, it’s actually just as good, if not better than a regular oven for reheating fried chicken.
(If you don’t know what a toaster oven is, it’s basically a tiny oven, generally electrically powered, that only takes a small amount of food. Like the name suggests, it’s normally used for toast, but can be used for anything a standard over can cook.)
Reheating fried chicken in a toaster oven takes a little more work than using normal oven, but it is far faster, and you’ll generally end up with a great result.
- Start by preheating the toaster oven to 400 degrees.
- To get the chicken up to a better temperature, microwave for between 60 and 90 seconds.
- As soon as the chicken comes from the microwave, place on the toaster oven baking tray and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes.
- Once cooked, let it stand for a few more minutes until it’s comfortable to touch.
- As a toaster oven cooks small amounts of food better, it’s fine to cook fried chicken in batches. Because it reheats so much faster in a toaster oven, this is generally a method that yields better results.
How to Reheat Pizza
Unlike a lot of fast food, it’s pretty socially acceptable to eat leftover pizza cold. We’re pretty sure anyone who’s lived through their twenties has woken feeling a little sore from the night before and gone straight to the half-open box.
But reheating your pizza is incredibly simple and makes the whole experience so much better. Imagine, that cold slice in your hand right now deliciously hot, the cheese bubbling like it’s just come straight out of the oven, toppings steaming up the air with their scent.
You can recreate that in your own home. Every day if you really want. Here’s how.
1. Pan or Skillet
The first method you can use to reheat your pizza is something you might not have considered. Using a pan or skillet.
This method is ideal if you’re only reheating a slice or two, and it’s great because you end up with a nice, crispy slice, fast.
- Start by heating a non-stick pan to 450 degrees for a minute or two.
- Reduce the temperature to medium, then add your pizza.
- Cook for just a couple of minutes, then serve straight from the pan.
- There’s a trick you can do if you like melted cheese. Covering the skillet allows it to steam up inside and helps it melt the cheese sitting on top of the pizza. Delicious.
If you’ve got more leftovers, the best option is to use the oven, like when it was first cooked.
- Again, bring the oven to 450 degrees and preheat.
- Use a flat baking tray or cookie sheet, and line with foil.
- Place the slices on the sheet, and cook for around 10 minutes.
- Check the pizza. A sure sign that it’s ready to remove is when the cheese starts bubbling, but you can happily remove it before then if you’d prefer.
There’s one method which is absolutely perfect for reheating pizza, which has also been vindicated by science, but there are two issues. It takes a griddle with a cover or a skillet with a cover, tools which some of us might not have.
- It takes upwards of 30 minutes to reheat using this method. But you’ll end up with an absolutely delicious end result. In our opinion, it’s worth it.
- The first step, and this is important, is to place your pizza slices on your griddle or skillet before you turn the heat on. This helps to stop the slices from drying out as they cook.
- Turn the heat up, somewhere around 200 degrees.
- Cover the slices, and leave for around 30 minutes.
- When it’s time to serve, be careful. There’s going to be a surprising amount of steam under the cover.
This method is ideal for several reasons.
- The fact that the pizza is reheated from cold rather than placed into a hot skillet prevents it from burning on the outside and ending up crusty and dry.
- There’s a process called retrogradation, which is the scientific term for staling. This is the reason you keep your temperature below 200 degrees. This is below the boiling point of water (212F) which prevents the water from leaving the dough as it evaporates, keeping it moist and delicious.
- The water that does evaporate stays under the cover you provided, which works to moisten the cheese and toppings. Plus, a little water actually helps the crust stay, well, crusty, as it cooks.
All of this put together means that your pizza is going to be (almost) as delicious as when it was first cooked.
While there’s no law against reheating your pizzas in the microwave, we wouldn’t recommend it.
Microwaving a pizza to reheat it might be fast, but the composition of pizza dough means that what comes out the other side will be a chewy, unappetizing mess.
Dry and Crusty Pizza—What to Do
Even if you’ve left that pizza a little bit too long, there might be something you can do to save it.
If you’ve got a mister bottle, a quick spritz of water across the top of the pizza is all you need to revitalize it.
Don’t worry about hitting the crust, either. A light dusting of water across the top of the crust will actually help it to crisp up when you throw it back in the oven.
How to Reheat British-Style Fish and Chips
Reheating your fish and chips is actually pretty easy if you do it right. Because the dish is so simple, you can follow our instructions and have near-perfect fish and chip leftovers the day after.
If you’ve ever tried to reheat British chips, or any sort of fry, you might have ended up with a pile of sad looking, soggy excuses for fries.
This happens because of excess moisture, so bear that in mind when you’re choosing how to reheat your chips.
For this reason, you should avoid the oven, and especially the microwave. There are three ways to reheat fried fish, the oven, and the skillet. Both end up with good results, so it’s down to you which you choose.
The best way to reheat your chips is to use a fryer, or if you don’t have a fryer, you can use a deep pan with a small amount of oil.
Bring it to high heat, and whilst it heats up, dry off your chips so there’s almost no moisture on them. You can do this with a kitchen towel or simply drain them down for a few minutes and leave them to air for a few minutes.
Once the oil is hot, place the chips in the oil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, moving and turning them occasionally so they don’t clump or stick together.
Serve them near immediately after taking them out of the pan, for best results.
Using your oven is the simplest method to reheat battered fish, but it does take a little longer. However, once you’ve set it up, this method takes no monitoring, so you can get on with other things.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- Take your fish from the fridge and leave it to air and come to room temperature for several minutes as the oven heats up
- Place the fish centrally on a baking tray. Using foil is absolutely fine and doesn’t affect the end result
- Leave to cook for around 10 minutes. Check it every minute after that until the batter is crispy and the fish is hot through
- If you have a food thermometer, an internal temperature of 145 degrees means it’s ready to serve
- When it exits the oven, the fish will be hot, so leave to cool for a minute before serving
How to Reheat Fried Fish
Using a skillet reheats your fish significantly faster than using the oven, but requires a lot more attention. Plus, because it’s exposed to the air, you might end up with your kitchen smelling like fish. Depending on who you are, that could be an upside or a downside.
- Bring the stove to a high heat.
- Take the fish from the fridge and leave at room temperature for several minutes before cooking.
- Add a few drops of oil, then add the fish.
- Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turning every 30 seconds to a minute. Try to cook both sides equally.
- Again, if you have a food thermometer, an internal temperature of 145 degrees is what you should be looking for.
- Once cooked, leave to cool for a minute or two before serving.
Reheating Taco Bell
Still got leftovers from Taco Bell? There are probably two things you’re looking to reheat. Tacos and Burritos. Luckily, there are awesome ways to reheat both of them to preserve the flavor and texture you’re looking for.
How to Reheat Tacos
If you’ve got soft tacos, you can instead use the second method, which is significantly simpler.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Remove salad and toppings from the tacos, storing them to one side.
- Leaving the tacos in their foil, place them on a baking tray, keeping at least a finger’s width of space between them.
- Cook directly in their wrappers for 10 to 15 minutes, or until hot in the center.
- Serve directly, adding toppings and salad as desired.
How to Reheat Burritos
Not only is a burrito a simple, wholesome and most importantly delicious option for dinner, but they’re also incredibly easy both to store and reheat.
Safe to leave chilled for a couple of days, when it’s time to eat, all you have to do is this.
- Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.
- Remove the from the refrigerator, wrap in foil and place straight into the oven.
- Cook for around 30 minutes. Burritos don’t need to be touched once they’re in, so feel free to check occasionally, but it should be fine.
- When it’s time to remove it, check to make sure it’s cooked through. If you have a food thermometer, you should be looking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Serve once it’s cool enough to eat.
That’s literally it. Mexican food is so simple to reheat and cook, it’s almost rude not to treat yourself to it a little more often. At least, that’s the excuse we’re using.
Reheating Subway and Other Sub Sandwiches
Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Buying a 12-inch sub, eating half and tossing the other in the refrigerator ‘for later.’ Then, by the time you come to eat it, it’s nowhere near as nice as when you first bought it.
Sadly, unlike almost every other kind of fast food, there’s no good way to reheat a sub.
The reason for this is because the structure of a sub is completely different from a lot of other fast food.
When you store it, the contents of a sub soak into the bread, making it soggy. Even if the filling is pretty dry, residual moisture will cause the bread to get soggy and doughy, which spoils the whole experience.
You can’t really reheat it, either. Any significant amount of heat will start to cook the bread further, basically changing it into a different meal.
If you’re desperate for the same experience, you’ve got two choices.
One is to go back to the store and buy it again.
The other is to have a stock of subs in your house and transfer the filling across to fresh bread. But you’re still going to end up with a slightly dissatisfying sandwich because the filling will have lost some freshness.
Honestly, when it comes to sandwiches, you’re better off eating it all in one go.
Can You Eat Fast Food Cold?
We know a lot of people eat fast food cold, and there are some that actually taste better cold, but for the majority of fast food leftovers, it’s not something we recommend.
In general, pizza is fine if eaten cold because of the cooking method and the fact that the meat on pizza tends to be cured in some way, reducing the risk of food poisoning.
However, if your dish contains any of the following:
- Beef (burger meat)
- Chicken, fried or otherwise
Then it’s not recommended to eat it cold. Especially not when reheating it takes barely any time and is incredibly easy to do. Take our advice, reheat your fast food before you eat it. Your stomach will thank you.