How to reheat leftover rice for the best texture and flavor
- Cooked rice can be safely reheated in the microwave, on the stove, or in the oven.
- Always add 1 tablespoon of water per cup of cooked rice to prevent overdrying.
- Reheated rice can be used for sides or in dishes like fried rice and stuffed peppers.
The beauty of leftovers, whether from homemade meals or restaurant eats, rests on their convenience. It's easy to reheat these foods and repurpose them into new meals, saving you from planning out a whole new menu.
Of course, some foods are simpler to reheat than others, and if you're determined to maintain a high quality of flavor and texture, then a bit of extra guidance can't hurt.
One prime example of challenging leftovers is cooked rice, which has a tendency to dry out when saved after
Quick Tip: Tang says that to make sure that your cooked rice is safe to eat the next day, thoroughly cool it down, put it in the fridge within an hour of cooking, and either use the leftover rice within three days or freeze it for up to three months.
How to reheat rice in the microwave
According to Tang, the microwave is the quickest way to reheat rice. First, put your cooked rice in a microwave-safe bowl or container. Tang recommends adding one tablespoon of water for each cup of cooked rice in the container, which provides moisture that re-steams the rice.
Use a fork to break up any rice clumps. Cover the container with a clean damp kitchen towel and reheat the rice on high for 1 minute. When the microwave goes off, take the towel off of the container and give the rice a thorough stir. Finally, put the towel back over the top of the container and microwave for 1-2 minutes longer to ensure that the rice is fully heated through.
Quick tip: You can also reheat rice in the microwave by putting an ice cube on top of the rice. It works the same as Tang's process by giving the rice a chance to steam and retain moisture. Cover with a damp towel and heat in the microwave for 1 minute.
How to reheat rice on the stovetop
If you'd rather steam your rice on the stovetop than in the microwave, follow Tang's method by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter or oil into a saucepan, followed by the leftover rice. Then, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water for every cup of rice. Use a fork to stir and break up any rice clumps and put the saucepan on the stovetop and cover with a lid.
Turn the stove on to a low heat setting and simmer the rice for 3 to 4 minutes, removing the lid every now and then to give the rice a stir. The rice is ready when it's moist but not wet and the grains are heated all the way through.
How to reheat rice in the oven
Cover the tray with aluminum foil—the foil tent keeps the steam enclosed, which helps the rice retain moisture — then put it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the tray, discard the foil, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.
Quick Tip: If you have a rice cooker, you can use it to reheat your leftovers. Put the rice in the cooker, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water per cup of rice, then press the "Reheat" or "Keep Warm" button. The rice should reheat in about 1 hour.
How to repurpose leftover rice
Rice's greatest appeal as a leftover involves its versatility. Though it can be reheated easily for sides, you can also throw it into various dishes with no prep-work involved. When you want to get creative with your leftovers, try one of these ideas:
- Fried Rice: Tang says that fried rice is his favorite "second act" for his leftover grains. "There's something special about dehydrated rice grains that takes the fried rice texture to the next level," Tang explains. To make fried rice, heat vegetable oil or canola oil in a wok or large frying pan, then add the leftover rice and cook until it takes on a toasty color. Then, you're free to customize it with your choice of mix-ins, from vegetables to egg to cooked pork to soy sauce.
- Stuffed Peppers: This beloved retro treat calls for seasoned cooked rice to serve as the pepper filling, and it serves as the perfect vehicle for your grain leftovers. Use your choice of spices to flavor the cooked rice, add cooked ground beef, sausage, or chopped vegetables, then scoop the mixture into hollowed-out bell peppers and bake for 30 to 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pao Fan: Cooked rice can be used for congee, a porridge made from rice, but Tang prefers to make a spin on congee known as Pao Fan. "In Mandarin, Paofan means 'rice soaked in water.' To make Pao Fan, you just need to pour hot water into a bowl of cold rice." The water (or broth, if you prefer) soaks into the steamed rice and loosens it up, creating a soup-like dish that can be supplemented by cooked meat, seafood, or "pickled vegetables like kimchi or radish," Tang says.
Giving new life to leftover rice is easy with a microwave, a stovetop, an oven, or a rice cooker. Just add a tablespoon of water per cup of rice and either microwave for 2 minutes, cook over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, heat in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or warm through in the rice cooker for 1 hour. Your reheated rice can then be enjoyed as-is or transformed into various dishes like fried rice, stuffed-pepper filling, or congee.
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