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April 7, 2009

How to reheat seafood

We just finished a gourmet-to-go meal, a seafood pasta that I paid too much for but tasted good. However, I'm not very good at reheating gourmet-to-go. The microwave is dangerous, especially if it involves seafood. It's too easy to make the shellfish rubbery. This time the man behind the counter gave me very specific directions, which I followed to the letter.

And they didn't work. ...

I totally get the concept. I hate overcooked seafood, and this he assured me would avoid that. The food would heat but not cook any further.

He told me to preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it was heating, take the seafood pasta (lobster, shrimp and scallops in garlic butter with linguine, yum) out of its plastic clam shell and put it in a covered dish. Then turn the oven off and stick the pasta dish in. Leave it in there with the oven off for 15 minutes.

I was a little skeptical, but he insisted this technique worked. He called it "dead heat."

So I followed the directions to the letter, and when the pasta came out, it wasn't hot. It wasn't even lukewarm.

I ended up heating our plates very carefully in the microwave, but I think I could make it work next time. I would either a) heat the casserole dish before I put the pasta in it or b) just leave the oven on and cook the dish at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

But if anyone has any better suggestions, I'm open to them. I need a chart that says, "Microwave the gourmet-to-go creamed spinach for 30 seconds and the pork loin with fruit for 45 seconds per plate" or whatever.

I wouldn't be so obsessive about it, but this gourmet-to-go stuff is expensive.


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:46 PM | | Comments (20)


So I followed the directions to the letter, and when the pasta came out, it wasn't hot. It wasn't even lukewarm.

Ah...but it wasn't rubbery, was it? He thought his task was to help you avoid overcooked seafood. Shazam! It wasn't overcooked.

I don't know the answer to the reheating question, but I have to throw in a plug for my favorite kitchen appliance: the warming drawer! No matter what time dear husband gets home, dinner is hot, but not overcooked. And here he comes now.

This is what I do. I microwave the bigger stuff for like 30 seconds and heat the pasta in a pot, stirring constantly, then add the big pieces of seafood (chicken, beef -whatever) and quickly mix until the whole thing is heated which is like an extra minute. It involves much hovering over the stove like you are involved in a medical procedure but it works.

Everytime I just nuke something it turns out half steaming burn your mouth hot and half cold, everytime I try to reheat in the oven, it takes all of eternity, so I hit upon this hybrid and it works pretty well.

A variation on Joyce W's theme: I dump everything in a saute pan, stir a lot. It's not perfect, but its the best method I've found thus far.

I'll do that next time. It wouldn't dirty any more pans than his method. EL

The Asian way is to steam it. That's pretty safe. Make sure just the steam, not the water, makes contact with the food.

Stiring a lot is the trick with nukes, too. Of course, I have no patience for that kind of nitpicking, so I just stir at the end and pretend that the cold and the boiling bits average out.

I'll bet heating the casserole in the oven and then adding the food would have worked. I'll have to try that sometime.

Most things I reheat in the microwave, I cover with a paper towel that I wet and then wring out. The towel gets hot and emits steam, which continues to steam the food gently as it rests.

To avoid cold spots from the microwave, I push the food around so that there's much less, or even none, in the center of the plate.

Lizzy, LIzzy, Lizzy. Microwaves? Ovens at 350? Stovetops at 400-600 degrees? Ach du liebe!

Only one thing is safe – steam it. Steam never goes above 212 F. Get with it.

Microwaves should never be used to cook or heat protein because it destroys the cellular structure of proteinn.

Steam baby steam.

Steam? What are you, Mark Twain?
Throw it in the saute pan, stir a lot, and in five minutes you're tucking into a passably reheated gourmet-to-go, or whatever. Meanwhile, Stanley's at the stove starvin', waiting for his steam to ripen.
Steam. Ha! Good one Owl.

Try your double boiler. Food gets hot, but not overcooked.

Steam...haven't you had rubbery food off a steam heated buffet, Owlie?

I've recently start rewarming all my leftovers in the microwave on the medium setting for a longer time. It seems to help with the boiling/freezing problem. (though, like Lissa, I then stir it up so any temperature variations that do happen average out) But I can't swear to how it would work with seafood.

Lots of good tips and laughs in this post.

I do what Kristin does, and nuke stuff for like 3:30 at the 60% power setting. Works real well most of the time.

If you are patient and have the time, you can microwave on low to below medium power in a tightly covered microwave-safe dish, stopping every five minutes or so to stir and check the temperature. This works for seafood marianara -- the mussels, shrimp and scallops warm through gently and are still tender and juicy, and the pasta is still saucy.

I just place the container in a 200 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Everything is hot but hasn't hit the boiling point so textures are unchanged. Of course my wife has a fit when I do this; she's afraid the container will catch fire. I don't think that 's possible at 200.

I like to divide before reheating -- the pasta and sauce get one treatment, the shellfish another.

Depending on what I'm bringing home, I can sometimes get away with having things packaged separately, to be combined later.

Leftovers? I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about.

Long time reader but my first comment --- agree with the recommendation to throw everything in a saute pan w/ medium heat and stir a lot -- not perfect but does a very acceptable job when I'm reheating my favorite leftover Penne La Rosa from Amicci's (big shrimp, creamy sauce) --the creamy sauce doesn't separate much and the shrimp doesn't get rubbery. Good luck.

Woo-woo, woo-woo. Nobody can do it like a steam train

Patch's Dad, you're clearly insightful and wise.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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