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The Dos and Don’ts of Reheating Leftovers

The Dos and Don’ts of Reheating Leftovers

Microwave your leftovers safely with these expert tips.

According to some accounts, in 1953, C.A. Swanson & Sons had more than 500,000 pounds of unsold turkey after Thanksgiving. One employee suggested they cook the leftovers, along with some favorite side dishes, package the meals in compartmented aluminum trays and freeze ’em. That was the first TV dinner.

The impulse to pull something pre-made out of the freezer, heat it up and eat it while watching a favorite show is now a way of life for millions. And these days, microwave technology can make it happen very quickly. But there are potential dangers in the foods’ plastic containers and in under-heated foods.

Dr. Oz did his own investigation at the Good Housekeeping test lab and discovered the plastic packaging stayed intact if the food was zapped when frozen, but if the food was thawed, then microwaved, the plastic melted! That’s toxic. Also, even intact plastics contain potentially harmful chemicals, especially hormone-disrupting BPA/BPS. But thankfully, the microwaved meals the show had tested by an independent lab didn’t have BPA in the food.

Another risk from microwaving frozen precooked meals or uncooked foods: Uneven heating creates hot and cold spots, leaving you exposed to disease-causing bacteria (if they happen to be lurking there) and raising your risk of food poisoning.

The bottom line: Don’t microwave in plastic—transfer the foods to glass. For precooked foods, use a meat thermometer to make sure all areas are at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

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