For indecisive diners ordering takeout for one, there’s bound to be leftovers that slowly dominate your fridge: a multi-use development of quart containers, unlabeled boxes, and tiny cups of soy sauce or chimichurri waiting for the right moment to fall and explode on your floor. In these moments, figuring out the right move can be tricky — microwaves are prone to zapping tenderness or breaking sauces, and reheating day-old rice can be tough for those uninterested in fried rice. While eating the same meal twice is fine, sometimes mixing things up and making something new can work underworked creative muscles, while also preventing the dreaded leftover fatigue.
Here, we’ve broken down some strategies to handle takeout from a number of different Portland standbys, whether it’s a breakfast taco or a bowl of lentils.
Those takeout aficionados have probably figured out that there are a few tips and tricks that apply to a number of different dishes. Before we get into specifics, here are just a few rules of thumb to keep in mind:
- Leftover rice is best for fried rice, porridge, or arancini: Leftover rice is tough to reheat; if you’re set on a warm bowl of tender rice, it’s probably going to be made from scratch. However, leftover rice has a ton of potential uses — but some take some planning. For fried rice, be sure to take the leftover kernels, dump them in a Ziploc or on a tray, and store them flat in the fridge — this will help them dry out and prevent clumping (I also store rice this way in the freezer). Leftover sushi rice or sticky rice works well in porridges like Korean dak juk. And leftover risotto has been turned into arancini, or fried risotto balls, for centuries.
- Store noodles separately from broth: Takeout pho, ramen, and other noodle soups are often packaged with noodles separate from the broth. If you know you’re going to want to stretch this into two meals, make yourself a bowl with half the ingredients and cook it that way. Noodles in broth are really hard to salvage, because the noodles bloat or disintegrate; it’s much easier to reheat if they’re kept separately.
- Pasta reheats best on the stove: Microwaving pasta — especially pasta in a cream-based sauce — never goes well. It’s best to use a skillet on the stove, add a few tablespoons of water, and reheat it slowly there. The water will help the pasta re-heat without drying out.
- An air fryer is your friend: For re-heating things that are crispy, like fries or lumpia or fish and chips, an air fryer works really well. It also works wonders on pizza (we’ll get into that below).
Matt’s BBQ or Holy Trinity BBQ Brisket: Tacos
Barbecued meats — especially Texas barbecue — lend themselves to breakfast preparations, whether it’s quickly reheated on a skillet for a breakfast taco or chopped into a hash (see above). Places like Matt’s BBQ and Holy Trinity absolutely nail things like brisket, and it’s a super satisfying second meal folded into a tortilla: the tradition of using leftover barbecue for tacos is absolutely treasured in the South. Here in Portland, we often head to places like Matt’s BBQ Tacos for such things, but it’s just as easy to make them yourself. If you’re not much of a cook, lean on the Portland-based chefs who really know their stuff: Get out your bottles of Secret Aardvark or Grandpa Guero’s hot sauce, a jar of Hot Mama Salsa, your leftover pickled onions from the takeout tray, some fresh chopped onions and cilantro, maybe even a jar of Choi’s Kimchi (Choi’s is really delicious with barbecue, y’all). Start with a dry skillet on medium heat. Add your brisket and let them come up to heat; then, set those meats aside. Add a corn tortilla from Three Sisters or a flour tortilla from La Reinita to that skillet, which has probably gathered some of the fat from the meat, and heat those tortillas until they’re soft and pliable (better yet, add a little shredded cheddar to that tortilla as it warms). Once the tortillas are warm, add some oil to that skillet and fry or scramble some eggs while you prepare your tacos, adding the meat to the warm tortillas. Add the eggs, your sauce of choice, and the leftover pickled onions or accoutrement. Devour.
I need a real recipe: The Wrangler Breakfast Taco, Food Republic
Get the takeout: Matt’s BBQ [Official], Holy Trinity BBQ [Official]
GrindWitTryz Kalua Pig: Hash
Alberta Hawaiian spot GrindWitTryz does not play around when it comes to serving size, which can mean you’re stuck with serious leftovers (there are bigger problems to have, let me tell you). When I’m staring down at a mountain of kalua pig, I like to make a hash, combining the leftover meat with vegetables cooked in the oven, in a skillet, even in an air fryer (I did this recently and do not regret it for a second). The tricky thing about a hash is that generally, vegetables cook at different times. My most successful breakfast hash involved me air-frying chopped potatoes and sweet potatoes tossed in gochugaru (this method works just as well in an oven) while I sautéed onions, kimchi, and kale in the rendered fat from the kalua pig, and then adding in the potatoes near the end. My one thing: It feels just criminal to me to overcook already perfect slow-cooked meats, so I like to separate the rendered fat from the kalua pig when I initially store the leftovers, use that fat to cook stovetop vegetables, and then add the meat to heat up with the cooked potatoes or as you begin to fry an egg to plop on top.
I need a real recipe: Copycat Kalua Pork Hash, Clean Eating With Katie
Get the takeout: GrindWitTryz [Official]
Ranch Pizza: Breakfast Sandwiches
The first time I put together that Ranch Pizza makes for one hell of a breakfast sandwich, I felt like I struck gold. In general, Portland’s square slices are tough as leftovers — pizza is famously difficult to reheat, but square pies are downright impossible. Using an air fryer to reheat pizza, however, works pretty dang well; in fact, you can even dig out a little trench in the center of the slice, add an egg, and make something like a baked egg focaccia or a breakfast pizza. The other option, which I sometimes find easier, is to fry two eggs, reheat two slices of pizza, and add those eggs sandwiched between the two slices, with a big handful of arugula in the middle. This breakfast sandwich works best with the restaurant’s #4, which comes with mozzarella, sausage, and ricotta. I do my slices at 350 for five to eight minutes if they’re egg-ified; if you’re doing the eggs separately, you can usually get away with a shorter cook.
I need a real recipe: How to Reheat Pizza in an Air Fryer, Everyday Family Cooking
Get the takeout: Ranch Pizza [Official]
Hat Yai Fried Chicken and Curry: Fried Chicken Salad and Lentils
Now, if you have leftovers of all three components of Hat Yai’s best combo — shallot fried chicken, roti, and Malayu-style curry — my go-to is to cook down the curry until it reduces to a thicker consistency, heat up the roti in a skillet, and make something like a wrap with the chopped leftover chicken, pickled veggies, and a slathering of the curry. But I rarely have all of these components at once: Either I’ve eaten all the chicken and I’m left with the roti and curry, or I have leftover chicken and the curry and roti are gone. I never let that curry go to waste — I find it works really well tossed into a pot of lentils, which end up sort of stew-adjacent (and very tasty). When I have leftover chicken, however, I chop it off the bone, add my spicy pickled daikon and shallots from the plate, and make a salad with greens like mizuna or red kale. That sweet and tangy sauce that comes with the chicken works really well as a makeshift salad dressing, though it runs a little sweet on its own; temper that sweetness with a little bit of Golden Mountain soy sauce and rice vinegar.
I need a real recipe: Parippu Curry, 196 Flavors (Add the Malayu curry as you add the coconut milk — the flavors won’t clash, promise. You can also just cook lentils the way you normally do, and then add the curry right at the end.)
Get the takeout: Hat Yai [Official]