Meatballs are a popular dish that originated in Italy. They consist of ground meat mixed with various spices and were traditionally eaten with bread, separate from pasta dishes.
Nowadays, meatballs are most frequently enjoyed with sauce as part of a pasta dish. It is easy to eat more than your weight in meatballs, especially if they’re paired with a delicious sauce. However, this is not always the case and one day you may come home with leftover meatballs that you’ll need to reheat.
The best methods for reheating meatballs include:
- The stovetop
- The oven
- The microwave
- The air fryer
Each of these methods has its pros and cons and will work for different meatball recipes. Some should never be used with sauce whereas others are only good for a few meatballs at a time.
Is it Safe to Reheat Meatballs?
As long as you do so in the correct way and use all necessary safety precautions, it is safe to reheat meatballs. All of the reheating methods will in no way affect the quality or safety of your meatballs.
The only thing that would make it potentially unsafe to reheat meatballs is if they were stored incorrectly before reheating. To stay fresh, meatballs should never be kept between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
If they are kept at this temperature for more than two hours, bacteria will begin to grow on the meatballs very quickly. If they are consumed after this point, the bacteria buildup could become dangerous and could make you sick.
As long as it has been stored correctly, this shouldn’t be a concern and you are good to heat your meatballs whenever you want to.
How Long Does It Take to Reheat Meatballs?
The exact length of time that it takes to reheat meatballs depends on the method that you use. Microwaves are usually the fastest, followed by air fryers and the stovetop.
Generally speaking, the oven is the slowest way to reheat meatballs or any other food and should be reserved for large batches of food.
How Do You Reheat Meatballs
There are multiple ways to reheat meatballs, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most popular methods for reheating meatballs are the stovetop, oven, microwave, and air fryer.
The stovetop is one of the fastest and simplest ways to reheat meatballs. You won’t need any fancy equipment, all you’ll need is a pan that’s large enough to fit all the meatballs and a stovetop.
The benefit of this method is that it will preserve a lot of the original flavor and texture without the risk of drying out the meatballs as much as some other methods.
It is also one of the best methods when you are reheating meatballs with a lot of sauce, like a hearty marinara sauce. The depth of the pan allows you to heat the sauce without splattering it everywhere.
- Add Sauce and Meatballs to Pan
The very first step is adding your sauce (optional) and meatballs to the pan. You want to let the pan heat up once the meatballs are sauce are already inside. If you add the sauce once the pan is already hot this could result in the sauce splattering everywhere and making a mess.
- Heat Pan
Now that the pan has the sauce and meatballs it is time to heat the pan up. You should do this over medium to medium-low heat. This will prevent the meatballs from scorching against the bottom of the pan.
- Heat Meatballs
Once the pan is hot and the sauce has started to boil you can turn the heat down to low and let the meatballs simmer away. Make sure to keep stirring the entire time you’re doing this or the meatballs and sauce could burn.
You’ll want to heat the meatballs for around 10 minutes. After 10 minutes check one of the meatballs in half to make sure it is hot all the way through.
If the meatballs are hot, you’re good to go and can serve them up however you choose.
The next method that you can use to reheat your meatballs is the oven. This method is best when you’re not in a rush and have a lot of meatballs to reheat at the same time.
The danger of using this method is that it could cause your meatballs to dry out, especially if you’re reheating them without sauce.
- Preheat the Oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
- Add Water
Adding water is an important part of ensuring that your meatballs don’t dry out when reheating them in the microwave.
If you are cooking meatballs with sauce, this could consist of adding a few extra tablespoons of water to the sauce to thin it out and help it coat the meatballs better.
If you are cooking them without sauce, you can either add a small amount of water to the pan, spray the meatballs with water, or place a small bowl of water in the oven with the meatballs. All of these methods will help to prevent moisture loss, resulting in dry meatballs.
- Lay Meatballs in Pan
Now it’s time to add the meatballs to the pan, you’ll want to spread them out in a single layer. This will help the meatballs to heat evenly and prevent them from becoming burned.
- Cover Baking Tray with Foil
After you’ve spread your meatballs out you should cover the pan in foil. This will help to trap the moisture and heat inside the baking tray with the meatballs and prevent them from drying out.
- Heat for 15-25 Minutes
After the tray is covered you will place it in the oven where you will heat the meatballs for 15-25 minutes depending on how large the meatballs are and how many you’re reheating.
Around halfway, through the heating time you should remove the baking tray and stir the meatballs. This will help to make sure any sauce is still coating the meatballs and makes sure that no meatballs are sticking together or to the pan.
If you are reheating frozen meatballs, it may take anywhere from 25-35 minutes to reheat them. Refer to the package for instructions on how to reheat the frozen meatballs.
By far the most popular method for reheating meatballs is the microwave. This method is quick, easy, and a great option when you only want to reheat a few meatballs.
It also has the benefit of limiting the number of dishes that you dirty. All you’ll need is a microwave-safe bowl or plate and a fork or spoon to eat the meatballs with.
- Add Water
Just like with the oven, you’ll want to add water to your meatballs before adding them to the microwave. Meatballs are very prone to drying out when reheated in the microwave and it takes some extra care and attention to prevent that from happening.
If your meatballs have a sauce you can simply add a few spoons of water to the sauce to thin it out. That way the sauce will keep the meatballs moist and you won’t have dry, crumbly meatballs once you’re done reheating them.
If they don’t have a sauce you can either spray them lightly with water or add a moist paper towel to the microwave with the meatballs. As the microwave heats up, it will become humid due to the added water and won’t dry the meatballs as much.
- Heat in 30 Second Intervals
Now that the meatballs are nice and moist, it’s time to start heating them. Make sure that they are in a microwave-safe container before you start heating them up.
Start heating the meatballs in 30 second intervals, making sure to stir them between each interval. This will help them to heat evenly and make sure that they stay coated in the sauce if there is any.
If you can, try and change your microwave settings so you are microwaving at 50% power. This will ensure that your meatballs heat up slowly and don’t become burnt while they’re reheating.
- Remove and Enjoy!
You’ll know that your meatballs are fully reheated once they are hot all the way through. To check this you can break one meatball apart using a fork or a knife and make sure it is warm all the way through. If it is still cold you’ll need to microwave it for 1-2 intervals more.
If you are having trouble getting your meatballs hot all the way through you can try cutting them in half before heating them. This will also keep them moister as the sauce will cover a greater surface area of the meatball.
4. Air Fryer
Air fryers have boomed in popularity in the last several years and for good reason. They provide a way to heat your food up super quickly without some of the negative effects that a microwave can have. They are also versatile and can be used for everything from fried chicken to baking brownies.
The one downside to using an air fryer is that they aren’t ideal for reheating meatballs with sauce. Reheating meatballs with sauce can create a big mess that will drip between your grate and result in having to deep clean your air fryer.
- Preheat the Air Fryer to 250 degrees Fahrenheit
- Add Moisture
Just like with the other methods, it is important to add moisture to prevent your meatballs from drying out. Some of the easiest ways to do this are by placing a small bowl of water in the air fryer or by spraying the meatballs with water before heating them. This will keep them as moist as possible and ensure they don’t crumble apart.
- Place on the Rack
Now you’ll place the meatballs on the rack. The size of everyone’s air fryer rack is different so there isn’t a set number of meatballs that will fit in your air fryer. Just make sure that they’re spread out enough that the sides aren’t touching. This will ensure that the hot air can circulate between the meatballs and heat them evenly.
- Heat for the Meatballs
Now that they’re inside the air fryer you’ll want to heat them for around 5 minutes. This should be enough time for the meatballs to heat all the way through. As long as they are spread out evenly on the rack, there’s no need to flip the meatballs during their cooking time.
What’s the Best Way to Reheat Leftover Meatballs?
Out of all of these methods, the best way to reheat leftover meatballs is on the stovetop. Yes, this method isn’t the quickest and requires the most involvement. However, it gives a good flavor and texture to the meatballs that is difficult to match using the other methods.
Reheating leftover meatballs using the stove is the best method if you are reheating them with a lot of sauce. The high sides of the pan can prevent the sauce from splattering everywhere and prevent the sauce from burning the same way it would in the oven.
Even if you aren’t reheating with sauce, the stovetop can be a great method. If you don’t use sauce, you can use the pan and some oil to create a nice sear on the meatballs that will impart them with extra flavor and a delicious texture that you can’t create using the other methods.
No matter how you decide to reheat your meatballs, the most important thing to remember is to add extra moisture. Meatballs are prone to drying out, especially after they’ve been stored in the refrigerator and reheated. By adding extra moisture you will prevent this from happening and ensure a moist, flavorful meatball.
The other thing to remember is to never overcook your meatballs. Since your meatballs are already pre-cooked, all you need to do is reheat them. Don’t overdo it or your meatballs could develop a burnt flavor.