To make leftover pizza taste almost as good as it did when the pie was fresh, you'll need to reheat it. That often results in a soggy, lukewarm slice that's sorely disappointing. Fortunately, you don't have to choose between cold or soggy pizza because there are a few methods to successfully reheating it.
You can choose the oven, stovetop, or microwave to warm up cold pizza. Which you pick will depend on how much pizza you have leftover and how quickly you want to eat. There is a solution for every scenario, though some produce better pizza than others.
The oven is the best way to reheat day-old pizza. It will taste almost exactly as it did the night before: warm with a perfectly crispy crust, gooey cheese, and sizzling pepperoni. The downside is that it will warm up your kitchen (which you may want to avoid during the summer) and it takes the longest.
It can also be terribly inefficient to heat up an entire oven for a single slice of pizza. The efficiency increases with the more slices you have to heat up, however. If you want to reheat half a pizza or more, you're pretty much limited to reheating it in the oven.
The ideal temperature for reheating pizza is 350 F and there are several ways to get your pizza into eating shape:
- Place the pizza directly on the oven rack. This can be messy but will allow for even heating of both the top and bottom.
- A sheet of foil placed on the oven rack will prevent the mess and produce a crispier crust.
- Use a sheet pan for a less crispy crust.
- On the flip side, if you want it extra crispy, let the sheet pan heat up in the oven before placing the pizza on it.
- If you have a pizza stone and want to go all out, go for it. The issue is that it takes a pizza stone a long time to heat up and the wait may not be worth it for just a few slices.
No matter what you set the pizza on, bake it for about 10 minutes at 350 F, or until it reaches your desired doneness.
A Skillet on the Stovetop
Reheating pizza in a skillet on the stovetop is a great method, especially if you only have a slice or two and want to keep your kitchen cooler. Doing it this way retains the crispiness of the bottom crust while melting the cheese and heating the toppings all the way through.
There is a trick to reheating pizza in a skillet. By adding a little water to the pan, then covering it, you're creating a steamer that will ensure the toppings get hot, too.
- Heat the skillet over medium heat.
- Add the pizza slices and cook for a couple of minutes.
- On the side of the pan (not on the pizza), add a few drops of water.
- Immediately cover the pan with a lid and cook the pizza for a few more minutes.
As with so many things, a cast-iron skillet is wonderful for this, but it takes a long time to heat up, and it stays hot for a long time. This may conflict with your goal of keeping your kitchen as cool as possible. A stainless steel skillet is perfectly fine, too.
For most people, reheating food usually means zapping it in the microwave for a minute or two. After all, it's quick, easy, and doesn't heat up your entire kitchen. While it's true that this method will indeed reheat any food, anyone who's tried reheating a slice of pizza in the microwave has found that the result leaves something to be desired.
If you've tried this technique before, you've probably noticed that the crust feels quite soft when first removed from the microwave. Within a few seconds, that warm pillow turns hard and brittle. What happened? The answer is, well, science.
Flour (the primary ingredient in pizza crust) consists of protein (called gluten) and starch. Starch, in turn, is comprised of a pair of sugar molecules. Microwaving the pizza causes those sugar molecules to melt when it reaches 212 F. This is why your microwaved pizza initially felt so soft and fluffy. But when it cools, those sugar molecules recrystallize and harden, causing the crust to become chewy at first and then hard and brittle. The effect will be greater or lesser depending on the makeup of the particular dough, but in general, it's the same for all pizza.
It also varies depending on how long you heat it for or what power setting you use. The power setting is just another way of describing how long you heat it. In other words, microwaving something at 50 percent power means the oven is only emitting energy for half the time the food is in there.
The power setting is also the key to the fact that it is possible to reheat pizza in the microwave and have it turn out edible. It's simply a matter of keeping the power low and not leaving it in for too long.
Since the melting point of the sugar molecule is 212 F, your goal is to heat the pizza without it reaching that temperature. Microwaves vary but try setting yours to 30 or 40 percent power and heating the pizza for 45 seconds. Check and repeat as necessary. The bottom crust won't get crispy. But since cheese melts at around 120 F, your pizza will warm up and the cheese will be gooey and the crust won't become brittle.
You can also heat pizza partially in the microwave and then finish it in a toaster oven. This is a great technique for dorms and office kitchens when you don't have access to an oven or stovetop.