The Urgent Reason You Need To Stir Leftovers While Reheating

It's very tempting to toss a container of leftovers in the microwave, press a button and walk away until the timer beeps to signal the food is hot and ready to be eaten. (This is, in fact, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when reheating food.) But doing so leaves you vulnerable to illness.

By not taking a few seconds to stir the container's contents, cold spots could remain where bacteria could be left to grow. If that doesn't make you want to take more time heating up your leftovers, maybe just know that stirring them during the reheating process will help them to heat more evenly.

No matter what food you are reheating in the microwave, cold spots can occur in food as a result of the waves not having consistent contact with the food. If frozen, the leftovers should first be thawed in the refrigerator or in the microwave for safer reheating. Thawing the container with leftovers in cold water also can work. Now, you are ready to reheat the leftover spaghetti or chili.

Tips for safely reheating leftovers

There are a few ways to make sure your leftovers are heating correctly in the microwave. First, it can be as simple as hitting the pause button, grabbing a spoon, and giving the food a good stir. The best time to do this is halfway through the reheating time.

However, some foods are simply not suited for stirring — think a sausage. In those situations, rotate the sausage for more even heating. Or, with large food such as pork schnitzel, use tongs to flip it over so all sides get more exposure to the heat.

It's also important to know that leftovers should have an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safely eaten. Additionally, allow the food to rest for a minute before eating, which will allow the heat to spread throughout the food.

Now that you know the hazards of not stirring food as it is reheated in the microwave, make sure to use that pause button to guarantee tasty and safe-to-eat leftovers.