The only thing sadder than leftover pizza is leftover pizza reheated poorly.
Okay, that and the 2000 Frankie Muniz movie, My Dog Skip.
Look, I can’t bring Skip back from the dead (spoiler!), but I can help you revive a lifeless slice from the doldrums of next-day pizza eating.
I can help you restore the pizza’s crust to just-out-of-the-pizza-oven crispiness. I can help you re-goo-ify the pizza’s cheese. I can even help you heat through the pizza’s burlier toppings, such as sausage or meatballs, toppings that too often come out cold in the center due to substandard pizza-heating methods.
What the heck makes me an expert? Well, apart from being the food and nutrition editor of Men’s Health magazine, I also wrote a cookbook called A Man, A Pan, A Plan, in which I believe I’ve discovered the ultimate way to make incredible pizza at home. (That debate is for a different day.) I’ve reheated countless slices of pizza over the course of my life—and, unfortunately, too many tasted flat, bland, and lukewarm. That is, until I discovered that there’s only one right way to eat pizza.
Why reheat leftover pizza at all?
Well, everyone knows hot pizza is better than cold pizza. If you really looooooove cold pizza, then why didn’t you order it that way in the first place, huh?
Now that we’re all being honest with ourselves, here’s the best way to reheat leftover pizza. After implementing this technique your pizza—and you—will be forever changed.
1. Do NOT use a microwave.
Personally, I think these things are pretty much useless. Microwaves heat unevenly, and this is especially true when applied to pizza. Either the cheese heats and the sauce doesn’t. Or the front part of the slice is fiery hot and the crust is pathetically cool. Pizza reheated in the microwave is flabby and gummy and grotesque and leaves you feeling like less of a human.
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2. DO use a cast-iron pan.
Unlike a microwave, cast-iron pans are useful.
They can heat to high temperatures and they hold heat well—both factors of which are needed to pull off a perfectly reheated slice of pizza. Could you use a non-stick pan? Sure. Will it work as well? No. Will it work better than a microwave? GOOD GOD YES DIDN’T YOU READ STEP 1?
3. DO use medium-high heat.
One of the things that makes a slice of pizza great is when the underside of the crust has a slightly crisp texture. Cold pizza does not have this texture. It is limp. Poorly reheated pizza does not have this texture. It is cardboard-like. But a hot pan can resuscitate this crispness and, in the best circumstances, can even add a little extra char. Don’t put any oil in the pan for this reason. A dry pan will encourage char.
4. DO use a lid.
Okay, so your pan has preheated to medium-high, right? And maybe it’s sending up a few wisps of smoke letting you know it’s ready for a pizza party? Great. Add that slice and immediately throw a lid on top of it.
This lid will do two very important things for your formerly sad slice. One, it will trap heat in the pan, helping to gently melt the cheese. Two, it will trap any smoke in the pan, imbuing the entire slice with a faint flavor. I’m not saying it replicates a wood-fired oven, but it’s nice.
5. Poke it.
How will you know when it’s done? After about three minutes, lift the lid and poke the slice in two or three places. Is it warm enough to eat? Then eat it. Is it cold? Put the lid back on and poke it again after another minute. Won’t poking the pizza transfer some weird disease from finger to food? Well, I guess maybe there’s a very slim chance. And that would be a sad way to go.
Still not as sad as My Dog Skip, though.
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