The most consistent element of my lazy meal plan is a genre of food I call “stuff on rice.” Even a single fried egg or a bowl of beans becomes a full meal when served with rice, which means I can stretch out any leftovers so I don’t have to worry about tomorrow’s lunch.
There is one downside to stuff on rice: It can be annoying to reheat, especially in the microwave. By the time the rice in the centre heats up even a little, the stuff on top is way overdone. This is both annoying and predictable: Microwaves work by making water molecules vibrate. If the water molecules in a substance are distributed unevenly — like they are in a pile of cold, dry rice covered with equally cold sauce — it will heat unevenly. Nothing about this is news to me, but I didn’t put two and two together until I had the bright idea to preheat a bowl of rice before putting leftover gumbo on top.
You know that awkward moment in your fridge, when it still has food in it, but it’s all 1/2-cup portions of various leftovers and like, one carrot? That moment is annoying because you still have food that can and should be eaten, just nothing that fits together in a cohesive...Read more
It worked flawlessly. Heating the rice by itself first, just for a minute, ensured that my lunch was hot all the way through — finally, no half-scorching, half-cold bites. And since bacillus cereus flourishes at room temperature, reheating leftover rice first is probably way safer than piling stuff on top and hoping the middle makes it out of the danger zone.
Even though the food safety angle mostly applies to rice, any combination of starch and sauce will reheat more evenly if you microwave the starch first, and I think that’s pretty neat. (I guess that figuring out a better way to microwave leftovers is more exciting when they account for half your meals and will continue to do so for an unspecified amount of time.)
I can’t say that this little hack gets me all fired up about the magic of microwaved leftovers — that would be preposterous — but it has made my reheated meals more enjoyable, which at this point in 2020 is a minor miracle.
This article was originally published in December 2020.