If you order pizza, it’s likely to be gone in a few hours. Something about that round wheel of dough, the melting cheese, the warm tomato sauce, and the apparently endless topping options is just enticing. If only pizza could always be that way.
Even yet, as you dig in the fridge for food the next day, it’s difficult to resist the temptation of a leftover slice. Perhaps you prefer cold pizza—There’s no shame in that—but you’ll need to know what you’re doing if you want to learn how to reheat pizza in a way that brings back some of the fresh-pizza charm.
So Popular Science’s DIY team went out and bought a lot of pizza to put the most popular tactics to the test. We were on the lookout for the ultimate method—The Way.
To truly understand pizza, you must know how it dies
It’s too hot to eat pizza right out of the oven, and it might not even be done cooking yet. But, like everything else on Earth, it begins its inevitable march toward complete disintegration around 140 degrees Fahrenheit—the temperature experts recommend you delve in to avoid burning your mouth.
If you can’t (or won’t) eat your pizza while it’s still hot, all you’ll be able to do later is try to minimise the damage. Cheese, you know, only likes to be melted once since it loses its consistency. Cheese loses fat and water when exposed to high temperatures, and there’s no way to get it back.
“That water isn’t going up,” explains Francisco Migoya, head chef of Modernist Cuisine and a bread and pizza expert. “Because the dough is like a sponge, it will absorb everything, making it soggier and gummier with time.”
The moisture from the sauce and water, as well as the fat from the cheese (and any meat), seeps into the crust over time, forming what pizza enthusiasts refer to as “the gum line”—that raw dough-like layer between the sauce and crust. The more noticeable the gum line, the thicker the pizza will become, and the longer it stays there uneaten, the thicker it will become. According to Migoya, this permanently alters the crust.
Because of bacteria, you should never leave pizza out on the counter or in the oven overnight, but placing it in the fridge won’t help it. Low temperatures congeal everything the dough has absorbed, speeding up the staling, or retrogradation, process. In a nutshell, the starch in the crust recrystallizes, and all that chewy fresh-pizza texture vanishes.
How we did it
Because PopSci is situated in New York City, we put each method to the test with the thin-crust pizza that the city is known for. Your results may vary depending on whether you’re reheating Chicago-style deep-dish pizza or another type.
The slices we used (both plain cheese and those with varied toppings) were refrigerated for 12 to 48 hours. It’s a different storey when it comes to reheating frozen pizza, which we can’t discuss here.
Top tier ???
This is the /r/pizza subreddit’s official warming method, which involves placing your cold pizza on a nonstick skillet and frying it for two minutes over medium-low heat (or until the bottom of the slice is crispy). Then, as far away from the pizza as possible, add two drops of water (less than a teaspoon) into the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for an additional minute.
You might be tempted to use a cast-iron pan for this, but we found that a regular non-stick pan worked best. The crust was crisp, the cheese melted flawlessly (due to the steam from the water moving beneath the cover), and the slice was at the correct temperature to enjoy right away.
Hot tray in a hot oven
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and place a baking tray inside. You can line the tray with foil if you don’t want to clean it later. Once the oven has achieved the desired temperature, remove the hot tray with an oven mitt and place your slices on it. Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake the tray for five minutes on the centre rack. If your oven is too hot or your ‘za is too crisp, cook it at 450 degrees for the same amount of time.
We had to wait a minute or two for the pizza to cool down before eating it, but once it did, we were rewarded with outstanding crispiness, melty cheese, and a piece that was almost as delicious as new. One author, for what it’s worth, thinks this is the finest method to reheat pizza.
You can experiment with different temperatures, but make sure the tray heats up along with the oven. We baked it for 10 minutes at 375 degrees, and while the initial bite was crispy and delicious, the slice became difficult to chew as we got closer to the end—it was more like a cracker than a pizza. A cheese slice came out dry, but a pepperoni slice was fine—the fat on the meat likely kept the cheese moist. The pepperoni slice’s crust was also better: it was just the proper amount of crisp and didn’t get challenging to chew as it became thicker.
We’ve got you covered if you want to reheat pizza in an air fryer. Place a slice of pizza in a cold air fryer, set the temperature to 400°F, and cook for five minutes. We didn’t use foil and put it directly on the air fryer tray, and it didn’t produce a huge mess. Any excess was also captured in the drip tray. We found that this combination of heat and time worked best for us, but given the wide range of air fryers available, you may discover that your sweet spot is between 360 and 400 degrees, cooked for four to eight minutes.
This is the fastest of the top-tier procedures by a long shot. You won’t have to wait for a pan or an oven to heat up; simply place it in the air fryer and go. After five minutes, you’ll have a crisp, sparkling, and tasty slice. However, there are a few drawbacks: you can only heat one slice at a time, and more delicate items (such as vegetables) may burn after five minutes. Even at 360 degrees, the entire crust was charred after eight minutes. So get it out of the frying and onto your plate as soon as possible.
Middle tier ??
This approach recommended placing the pizza straight on the oven rack, while Migoya cautioned against it. He was shocked and stated, “There is no food I would put in an oven like that.” “The chance of the cheese melting off is too significant, and all that fat in such a heated environment is a certain way to start a fire inside your oven. That’s something you don’t want.”
We went ahead and did it anyway. For the sake of science (with a sheet of aluminium foil on the rack below to catch any drippings and hopefully prevent a fire). However, you should not do so.
This method worked best when the pizza was baked on a sheet of foil (rather than directly on the rack) at 450 degrees for five minutes. The crust was crisp, and the cheese was warm—it was solid all around, but not as excellent as rebaking it on a hot tray. If you like, you may bake it at 350 degrees for 10 minutes for a slightly less crunchy slice. When we used this strategy, we had the worst outcomes when we placed the pizza straight on the oven rack. We didn’t cause a fire (we had a fire extinguisher), but due to the lack of a stable heating surface underneath, the crust was unevenly cooked. In the end, this isn’t the finest method for reheat pizza, but it’s also not the worst.
The microwave + oven combo
We were suspicious about this strategy at first, but we were pleasantly delighted. To begin, heat the pizza for 30 seconds in the microwave. Then, place the pizza on a baking dish in a cold oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Take the pizza out of the oven when it says it’s done preheating—around the time you’d normally put food in.
The pizza was really rubbery after its time in the microwave. It’s not off to a good start. We doubted that the oven’s power could restore it to even a sliver of its former beauty. It did, however. The pizza was crisped up nicely and some rubberiness was removed by baking it. The heavier areas of the crust were a little floppy, but it was still good. Even so, we’re not sure why someone would choose this method over placing it on a hot tray that’s been in the oven, unless it’s slightly faster. But only by a small margin.
Low and slow in the oven
Place cold pizza slices on a baking pan and wrap them in aluminium foil tightly. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and place them on the bottom shelf. Allow 25 to 30 minutes for baking.
The cheese slice we used had a crispy crust, but our pepperoni slice was a little too chewy, likely because to the added fat from the pepp. Both looked bad on the outside: the cheese was soft, but it dried out quickly after coming out of the oven, and the sauce looked like one giant scab. It’s also one of the time-consuming strategies we looked into. However, in terms of overall flavour, it was still enjoyable.
The worst ? A very hot pan
Heat a pan on the stovetop over high heat for a few minutes, or until it’s quite hot. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the pizza. Cook for a total of two to three minutes.
We attempted this procedure with both a porcelain non-stick pan and a cast-iron pan, but both yielded disappointing results. After only a minute and a half, the non-stick pizza had to be removed from the heat. The cheese had started to bubble, and the crust had turned black and clung to the pan. It was a nightmare to clean. We do not advise it.
It was far worse with cast-iron. In a dry pan, the crust began to smoke as soon as it came into contact with heated metal. For hours, the stench of badly burned bread lingered in the air. The pizza was still cold on top for some reason. If Hell ever freezes over and we get a taste of it, it will most likely be like this: scorching, burned, and covered in a covering of cold, congealed fat.
We greased the cast-iron to give this method a second shot, and it took about three minutes for it to start to burn. The crust was improved (maybe too crispy), but the cheese was still at best lukewarm.
Microwaved with a mug of water
Simply place your pizza in the microwave, along with a microwave-safe mug of water, for one minute.
No. Just—no. The pizza had a rubbery flavour, was very heated on the outside, and was still chilly on the interior. Yes, the cheese didn’t look as bad as it did when the pizza was microwaved without a glass of water, but it was still hardly edible.
Simply place your pizza in the microwave, along with a microwave-safe mug of water, for one minute.
This jumble of a title encompasses a number of microwave methods:
- Heat the pizza in the microwave for 45 seconds at 30 or 40 percent power. Check it out and do it as many times as you need to.
- Microwave your pizza for 100 seconds with a moist paper towel on top.
- For 145 seconds, heat it upside down on a plate (2.5 minutes).The outcomes
- The crust was sticky and not at all crispy. The cheese melted, but it was extremely dry, so it didn’t have any flavour and had a rubbery consistency at best. They all tasted like if they had been warmed in the microwave for two minutes, regardless of the topping. A complete waste of delectable food.
- Even though our paper towel was saturated, the pizza was still soaked. Biting into the crust was like biting into an old shoe since the bottom was soggy, the whole thing was limp and floppy, and biting into the crust was like biting into an old shoe. Furthermore, we were unable to pick up our slice for several minutes because it emitted steam and boiling water at the slightest contact.
- If you overlook the fact that a lot of the cheese ended up attached to the plate, this procedure wasn’t too awful for the cheese. But what about the crust? We had to snap the thickest section like a twig since it was leathery and rubbery.