You’re either a cold pizza person, or you’re not, and there’s really no in-between. Cold pizza fans, for one, like that the dish requires zero effort: You simply take a pizza slice out of the refrigerator and eat it straight up. What’s more, a leftover slice for breakfast just hits different. Per a survey conducted by Slice, cold pizza is the go-to choice of breakfast for 53% of Americans (via Delish).
For those who aren’t cold-pizza converts, reheating leftover pizza is, well, frustrating. The most obvious and convenient method is putting your pizza in a microwave, but that can be a gamble. Your pizza could either turn out perfectly with a crispy crust, melty cheese, and hot toppings. Or, the crust could be hard and tough, with the cheese like rubber and the toppings cold.
Popular Science calls this microwave method a disastrous waste of good food, explaining that a lot of science goes into reheating pizza. When exposed to heat, the cheese oozes out much of its fat and water, which then get absorbed by the dough. The longer you let the pizza sit, the more the crust will absorb all that moisture, turning it into a soggy and gummy mess. Plus, cheese does not fare well when melted multiple times. To nail the art of reheating cold pizza, all you need to do is understand the science.
When you only have a couple of pizza slices to reheat, an easy way to do so is to heat the pizza on the stove. A skillet is super handy and doesn’t take too long to heat up. There are two ways to go about this method. The Kitchn recommends finding a pan large enough to fit an entire slice of pizza. Then, cover the pan with either a lid or a piece of foil, and heat the pizza on a medium flame. After six minutes, the crust will be crispy and the cheese will melt from the steam that gets trapped inside the pan.
Food52 adds another step to this method. Once you’ve placed the pizza over medium heat and crisped up the crust for a couple of minutes, you should add a few drops of water to the pan before covering the slice with a lid. Reduce the heat to low, and just a minute or two later, you’ll have yourself a moist and fluffy pizza crust with gooey cheese and hot toppings that will seem fresh out of the oven. The tip comes from the head pizza maker at famed Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s, so you know it’s good advice.
To reheat pizza on the stovetop, heat pizza slices in a skillet over medium heat until the crust is crispy, about two minutes. Next, add a few drops of water to the pan, cover it with a lid, and let the pizza steam on low heat for another minute or two.
2. Air Fryer
You may have bought an air fryer thinking of all the crispy fries, crunchy fried chicken, and gooey mozzarella sticks that you would whip up in the handy kitchen gadget. What you probably didn’t expect it to be able to do, though, is reheat leftover pizza. Considering that an air fryer is basically a mini version of a convection oven, you can absolutely use one to reheat pizza.
Popular Science recommends placing your pizza into your cold air fryer before setting the temperature to somewhere between 360 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit; the exact temperature and cook time will vary based on different brands of air fryers and the toppings on your pizza. Let the cold pizza heat along with the air fryer for about five minutes, and it should come out with a crispy crust and melted cheese. Since there’s no preheating required, this is one of the quickest ways to get a hot slice of pizza in your hand. The only downside of this method, the site notes, is that air fryers are small and can likely only reheat one slice of pizza at a time.
To reheat pizza in the air fryer, set the temperature of your air fryer to roughly 400 degrees Fahrenheit after placing the slice inside. Let the pizza heat up along with the air fryer for about five minutes.
3. Hot Oven
Considering that pizza is baked in an oven in the first place, the most obvious way to reheat it is to pop it back in the oven. Plus, it’s one of the few appliances that can actually fit an entire pie inside — if you manage to have that much pizza leftover. Per Popular Science, you should preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (or 450 if you don’t like your pizza too crispy) with a baking tray inside. Once the oven is hot, place the cold pizza slices onto the sizzling-hot baking tray and heat it on the middle rack for five minutes. The result should be the perfect balance of crispy crust and soft cheese. Once you’ve used this method a few times, you can experiment with the temperature and cook time based on your desired crust texture.
Insider reports that the oven works better than other methods, such as the microwave, because an oven allows the pizza to heat up gradually as opposed to being suddenly blasted by hot air. The oven helps soften the starch that’s present in the dough, making the pizza nice and moist on the inside, too.
To use an oven to reheat your pizza, preheat the oven with a baking tray inside to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pizza, placed on the hot baking tray in the middle rack of the oven, for about five minutes.
4. Cold Oven
Reheating cold pizza in a preheated oven is a no-brainer. What you can also do, however, is put the pizza in a cold oven and let it heat as the oven does. According to Cook’s Illustrated, the downside of reheating leftover pizza in a preheated oven is that the hot temperature can dry out the dough. When bread items like pizza are stored away for later use, they go through a process known as retrogradation. The starch present in the dough crystallizes and soaks up all the moisture from the cheese and pizza sauce — and these crystals won’t break down until they reach a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why cold pizza is often tough, dry, and hard to bite into. But when you place leftover pizza in a cold oven, it heats up gradually with the oven, allowing moisture to break down in the dough so your pizza becomes the soft, moist, crisp, and chewy bit of goodness that it should be.
The site recommends placing the cold pizza in a baking tray covered with aluminum foil. Doing so will allow the moisture to get trapped within the pizza and prevent it from drying up. You should also place the tray on the lowest possible rack in the oven so there’s enough heat directed to the bottom of the crust to make it crispy without burning the toppings.
To reheat pizza in a cold oven, place the cold pizza onto a baking tray covered with aluminum foil. Place the tray on the lowest rack of a cold oven and heat at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes.
If you already have a grill fired up, you’re in luck — you can reheat cold pizza there, too. Per Art of Manliness, you can throw a cold slice of pizza (or the entire pie) directly onto a hot grate without any oil, butter, or grease. You will not only get the crispest pizza ever, but you’ll also get lovely char marks on the crust. This method may only be good, however, if you already have the grill fired up or are planning to use the grill beyond just reheating pizza. Otherwise, it may not be worth the hassle of going through the entire warming process.
The Kitchn found that while the grill gave the pizza crust a lovely crunch, it was a disappointment when it came down to heating the cheese, which wasn’t very bubbly in their test. Plus, the direct-fire heat from a grill isn’t even, which can make it difficult to control the reheating process. If your favorite thing about pizza is the gooey cheese rather than the crispy crust, this may not be the best method for you.
To reheat pizza on a grill, warm the grill at medium heat and let the pizza cook directly on the grates for about six minutes.
6. Microwave with water
Despite the fair warnings against using a microwave to reheat pizza, which some claim is the worst thing you could ever do to a poor piece of ‘za, there’s no denying that it is the quickest and most convenient method. After all, you may be living in a college dorm that doesn’t have a grill, oven, stove, or fancy-schmancy air fryer. Whatever your kitchen situation may be, the microwave is a savior: It is a gadget whose purpose is to heat food, after all.
If you have no option but to use a microwave, there’s a way to lessen the damage while doing so: Place a mug of water next to the plate of pizza in the microwave to help the pizza heat more evenly, suggests The Spruce Eats. The idea is that the water absorbs some of the heat so the cheese can warm up without fully dehydrating the crust in the process. Popular Science says this trick still doesn’t result in the best reheated pizza — but it’s a step up from microwaving without any water, so that’s something.
To reheat pizza in the microwave with a mug of water, put a cup of water next to the plate of pizza in the microwave and heat it on high for 30 to 45 seconds.