Many of us are well-versed in smoking food by now, but reheating it without it becoming dry can be another feat. There are several ways to reheat food, but is there an effective way to reheat smoked food so that you can still get the delicious flavor prolonged for more than one day?
To reheat smoked food, first, you must store your food properly using a vacuum seal. Then, either reheat on a smoker, in the oven, on a stovetop, in the microwave, or over an open fire. Ensuring that you seal the food properly will allow for the greatest flavor retention.
There are so many different ways to get your food piping hot without sacrificing flavor. No matter your resources, there is at least one route that you can take to get your food from chilled to steamy in no time. Let’s take a closer look at how to store your smoked food so that it is ready to be reheated and then the best ways to reheat your smoked food.
How Do You Store Smoked Food Before Reheating It?
There are a few different ways to store your smoked food before you attempt to reheat it, but storage is a key player when it comes to good taste when reheating. You have got to store it properly to ensure that flavor is not lost and the structure of your food does not deteriorate. Trust me, plastic bags might be the easiest, but they will not always be the best when you are counting on your tastebuds being blown away.
To store smoked food before reheating it, it is recommended to use a vacuum sealer. Vacuum sealers eliminate the extra oxygen that can wreak havoc on your smoked food. By eliminating the oxygen from your containers, your smoked food will retain its flavor without becoming overdry or contaminated.
If you are going to invest in a smoker, you need to invest in the hard work that beast of a machine is going to come out with. No one eats ten pounds of juicy pulled pork at a time (well, most of us do not). Inevitably, there are going to be leftovers and the best way to keep them at the top of their flavor game is to vacuum seal them.
I know, this is not a super common piece of equipment you have laying around your house. However, they are relatively inexpensive and you will likely start using them to keep other items which will save you cost if you were already purchasing plastic storage bags.
Why do you need to use a vacuum sealer to store your smoked food before reheating it? Oxygen is bad news for any food as it leaves the door open for bacterial and mold to grow. If you find this on any of your smoked foods, it will be a quick trip to the trash can rather than into your belly.
Vacuum sealing deprives your food of oxygen in the most effective way because there is absolutely no room for air to sneak its way through it. It is like a plastic body glove for your food, nice and cozy. It also does an amazing job at keeping away freezer burn because no moisture is able to accumulate below its surface.
What are the 5 Best Ways to Reheat Smoked Food?
Using a smoker, it is so often that you find yourself at the table reveling over a meal that is cooked to absolute perfection. It is tender, it is packed with flavor, and juices are in abundance. Smokers make it so easy to take almost anything from average to astounding. Sometimes though, you find yourself with leftovers.
It’s horror, really, after taking all that time and effort to prepare something that not only cost you time in preparation but also money. Does this mean that you have to settle for mediocre leftovers? Absolutely not.
There are plenty of ways you can get that smoked food dish back to its glory days when it comes to flavor. All it takes is a little time, creativity, and a bit of patience to ensure that all your work has not gone to waste.
Without further adieu, the top 5 best ways to reheat smoked food include the following:
1. Reheat on a Smoker
The main goal when reheating is to retain the moisture and the flavor of the food that you have prepared. Of course, this seems like a big feat when you are putting heat back onto the item that you are reheating, after all, heat is a drying agent.
Even with this being the case, it is completely feasible to use your smoker to get your product as good as it was the day you threw it on the smoker. If you know how to use your smoker to make something great, then you have the skills to master a reheat.
In general, most things that are going to be reheated are some sort of smoked meat. So when it comes to meat, reheating on the smoker is going to be one of your best bets.
First and foremost, you want to ensure that there is enough moisture to be absorbed during the reheating process. To make sure this happens, spritz your meat with either apple juice, beef broth, or chicken broth. If it has already been seasoned, opt for something that is low sodium.
If you have not frozen it and there is still juice leftover from the first smoke, take the liquid that remains and coat the meat with what it previously produced – this will help to maintain the most genuine flavor.
Once it is nice and coated, cover the entire piece with foil. This is an essential step to ensure that all that good moisture stays in and works to keep the meat juicy. Wrap it up and make sure that there are no areas where air can escape.
When you have it wrapped up well, go ahead and set it to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. You want a lower temperature on the smoker to make sure that you are not further cooking the meat with too high of a heat.
Check the internal temperature of your meat and once it has reached your desired level of warmth (remember, this item should already be cooked so the internal temperature is not a huge concern), it is ready to be served up once more.
2. Reheat in the Oven
There are a handful of different reasons as to why someone would not want to reheat their previously smoked food in the smoker itself: weather could be terrible, it may be only a small piece that is not worth the trouble of preheating and getting the smoker set up, or they may not want any additional smokiness added.
If this is the case for you, consider reheating your dish in the oven. Instead of firing up the smoker, you can reheat from the comfort of your kitchen. However, just as it is with a smoker, the biggest concern is keeping all of that moisture nice and locked in.
No one wants a dried out piece of meat to hit their plate and ovens are completely capable of drying your dish to the point of it being inedible (trust me, been there done that). The meat should be coated in either juice remaining from the smoke or with some type of beef or chicken broth. This can be done through spritzing to ensure that the liquid does not just runoff.
Once the liquid is in place, be sure to wrap the piece nice and tight to avoid letting any moisture escape. For the oven, you can even put a dash of liquid in the bottom of the aluminum foil wrap to really make sure that your meat stays juicy.
If you are wanting to maintain more of a crust on the outside of your dish, do not go for this step as it can cause the bottom to get very tender and lose any outer crisp.
Once you have it wrapped up tight, pop it in the oven at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, the dish should already be cooked, so how long you want to reheat it is totally up to you. The longer you reheat though, the more likely it is that your dish will dry out.
Once you are happy with the temperature of the meat, you can pull it from the oven and serve it up.
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3. Reheat on the Stovetop
Sometimes you find yourself with only a bit of leftovers that need to be reheated. Not all of us are cooking 15-pound briskets, but tend to smoke smaller items like a piece of salmon or a couple of pork chops. There is no shame in your small dish game, people!
If you find yourself with just a bit of this or that leftover, consider reheating it on the stovetop. This method is super quick and if done right, can save you a good amount of time while also getting the job done well.
Depending on what you are reheating, grab a nonstick skillet (for items such as fish or vegetables) or a cast iron skillet (for items like steak bits or even pork chops) and turn your burner on a low/medium heat.
Stick a pad of butter or a dash of oil in the pan and get it nice and warm. Once the pan is warmed up, simply place whatever item it is that you intend to heat and warm it slowly.
You want to avoid getting the pan to a high heat as it can cause the outside of your dish to scorch while the middle remains cold. Think of it like a smoked grilled cheese: you want the bread to toast at a slow enough rate that the cheese is able to melt rather than your bread ending up burnt and your cheese in the same state it was when you pulled it from the fridge.
Once you have given one side enough time to get good and warm, go ahead and flip it over. Do the same with the other side of the item and heat it to the temperature you desire.
Be sure not to leave it on for too long as it can cause meats to dry out and turn vegetables to mush. It is best to stay near your pan during the reheating process just to make sure that you do not let things go too far – a responsible cook always wins the reheat game!
4. Reheat in the Microwave
If you are in a serious rush or simply do not feel like taking the time or using the pans to reheat your smoked food on the smoker, in the oven, or on the stove, your next best bet is to reheat in the microwave. This might not seem incredibly promising, but you should have done much of the work in sealing in the flavor by the use of a vacuum sealer as described at the beginning of this article. So, using a microwave will not kill your food’s flavor.
Microwaves are able to reheat your smoked food just as well and they can do it in a matter of seconds. If you choose to use a microwave and you are reheating meat, consider this little tip before getting started: wrap your meat in a damp paper towel. I know, this sounds insane, but let me tell you, it works wonders.
Microwaves are notorious for drying out food and your smoked items are no exception. Because of this, it’s your job to ensure that doesn’t happen. By wrapping the meat in a damp cloth, you are able to create steam within the cloth during the heating process which helps to keep moisture in, giving you a nice and juicy cut just as the day you made it.
Another option is to place a small glass of water in the microwave to be heated along with your dish. As you cook your food in the microwave, the water will heat to steam and help to provide moisture for your smoked food rather than drying it out.
As you reheat your smoked food in the microwave, be sure to reheat it in small increments so that you can turn and move the item around so there is no uneven heating that happens. If you have a larger piece of meat, consider cutting it into smaller sections so that the heat can more evenly reach each part.
I will say, using the microwave is not the absolute best way to reheat your smoked food, but it still does come with advantages of speed and efficiency. Plus, with the use of a few microwave hacks, you can reincorporate moisture that many fear losing when using this type of kitchen device.
5. Reheat on an Open Fire
I know, reheating smoked food on an open fire sounds insane to the person who has only ever used modern appliances for reheating. As crazy as it may sound though, there are plenty of people out there who eat among the stars after a long day of hiking, like to roast a pig over an open fire pit, or grab a few hotdogs every now and then for a little backyard roast. If you are one of these people or are a newbie and want to give it a go for the first time, then try this method!
To reheat your smoked food on an open fire, you first need either wood or charcoal, whichever your preference is. Once you have a smaller fire lit, you need to place either a grate or a large thin rock right above the fire (the rock will get you added points for creativity).
Place a pan on the grates or reheat straight on the rocks, but be sure that each surface is warm before you place your smoked food on it.
Once you have your item on either the pan or the rock, be sure to watch it carefully as the temperature is going to be much more inconsistent than if you were using a stovetop, an oven, or a smoker.
Once you have it heated on one side, flip it over and get the other side good and warm. Be sure to keep a close eye on your item during the warming process and temperatures can rapidly increase with an open fire.
Again, you will want to make sure that you are watching your food the most intently when using this method. Considering its less stable (yet still entirely functional) capacity, monitoring the temperature as well as the setup will allow you to embrace the deliciousness that can come from reheating your smoked food over an open fire.
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Scot has loved smoking food in his free time for the last few years. Each major holiday or off-weekend, Scot spends days testing and prepping new recipes for perfection.