To make leftover pizza taste almost as good as it did when the pie was fresh, you'll need to reheat it. You can choose the oven, stovetop, or microwave to warm up cold pizza, but it will likely depend on how much pizza you have left over and how quickly you want to eat. There is a solution for every scenario, though some methods produce better results than others.
Watch Now: The Absolute Best Ways to Reheat Pizza
Reheat Pizza in the Oven
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 longer to cook than the stovetop or microwave method.
It can also be inefficient to heat 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 at one time, the oven is the best option. For heating up just a single slice or two, use a toaster oven, if you have access to one. This is the favorite method of Nik Sharma, food scientist turned cookbook author. “I use a toaster oven when I'm just wanting to heat a slice up and I don't need to heat up the whole oven. This makes the process faster, and you get a fantastic texture that’s crisp and not soggy, because the toaster oven uses infrared heat.”
Follow these steps to reheat pizza in the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Place the pizza on a piece of foil and put it directly on the rack for even heating on the top and bottom. Alternatively, preheat a sheet pan as the oven heats up for a crisp crust. Add the pizza to the hot pan.
- Bake for about 10 minutes or until warmed through and the cheese is melted. If you'd like your pizza crispier, bake for longer. Note that if you’re using a toaster oven, you’ll only need to heat the slice for 3 to 4 minutes.
If you like a softer crust, add the pizza to an unheated sheet pan and place in the preheated oven. You can also use a pizza stone, but they take a long time to heat up, and the wait may not be worth it for just a few slices.
Reheat Pizza 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 don't want to preheat the oven. 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, uncovered.
- 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, or until the cheese is melted and the pizza is heated through.
A cast-iron skillet is wonderful for this, but it takes a long time to heat up. A stainless steel skillet is perfectly fine, too.
Reheat Pizza in the Microwave
Reheating pizza in the microwave may be fast, but it can leave much to be desired. The pie itself gets soggy, and by the time you get to eating the crust, it’s rock hard and virtually inedible. The reason, says food scientist Nick Sharma, comes down to how microwaves actually work. The waves produced in a microwave are absorbed by water molecules.The vibration of the water molecules as they absorb that energy is what heats up the food.
“Because the water molecules have been absorbing higher energy, they start to evaporate out quickly,” says Sharma. The microwave cooks food from the inside out, and as the water molecules in the sauce are heated and evaporate, they steam the pizza, which is why the slice will be soggy. Because the crust portion doesn’t have sauce on it, the evaporation takes its toll, the crust loses most of its moisture, and you end up with a rock hard crust.
You don’t have this same issue in the oven, which uses infrared heat that cooks food from the outside in, heating up your toppings and cooking the starch, protein and water molecules evenly.
So what’s the solution?
Well, don’t heat up your pizza in the microwave. But when you don’t have an option, try this hack:
1) Put the pizza slice on a plate in the microwave.
2) Next to it, place a microwave-safe mug or cup of water. This serves as sort of a decoy, and will absorb some of the microwaves, allowing the pizza to heat up slightly more evenly so the cheese re-melts before the crust loses all of its moisture.
3) Heat on high for 30 to 45 seconds, and keep a watchful eye on it to check on the progress
You still won’t achieve the crispness that comes with the oven or skillet, but at least you’ll end up with something edible.
Note that you can also heat pizza partially in the microwave and then finish it in a toaster oven for a crisp crust. This is an excellent technique for dorms and office kitchens when you don't have access to an oven or stovetop.