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Exactly How To Reheat Meatballs – I Test 8 Methods

If you’ve got a serving or two of meatballs leftover, you may be wondering what the best reheating method is to bring them back to their freshly cooked glory.

Reheating meatballs can be a little tricky – if you’re not careful you can dry out your meatballs, leaving them tough and lifeless.

But fear not, I have experimented with more meatball reheating methods than you can shake a stick at.

The goal? To find the method that delivers a tender, moist and light meatball. Just like the moment it was cooked.

Let’s jump right in.

Psst. In a rush? Use these links to jump to specific reheating instructions for sauced and unsauced meatballs.

A note on my experiment

I cooked up a batch of meatballs, some in a tomato sauce and some plain.

After demolishing my dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, I put the leftover meatballs in the fridge.

The following day, I tested three different ways of reheating the sauced meatballs and five different ways of reheating the plain, unsauced meatballs.

For the sauced meatballs, I tested:

  • Reheating them in the microwave
  • Reheating them on the stove
  • Reheating them in the oven

All these methods worked well, so it’s up to you which one makes sense for you. 

The microwave was my favorite method because it was quick and easy, but it’s only suitable for smaller portions. 

The oven was slower and produced a drier meatball with a thicker sauce, but it’s excellent for big portions. 

The stove produced moist meatballs, but you had to keep an eye on the pan while they were heating. The stove is the best option when you have lots of sauce. 

For the plain meatballs, I tested:

  • Reheating them in the microwave
  • Reheating them in the oven
  • Reheating them in a skillet
  • Reheating them in broth
  • Reheating them in an air fryer

Again, all these methods produced good results. There’s none I would avoid.

The microwave and the broth method results in really juicy meatballs.

The air fryer and the skillet gave the meatballs a nice crust.

And the oven was a good in-between.

Reheating meatballs in a sauce

Below, I go through how to reheat meatballs and sauce in the microwave, stove, and oven.

I give detailed instructions on the method and also give you my verdict.

Reheating meatballs and sauce in the microwave

To reheat meatballs and sauce in the microwave, set your microwave to 50% power and put the meatballs in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with pierced plastic wrap and heat the meatballs in 30-second intervals until they’re heated through (around 1-2 minutes). Stir frequently.

The microwave is very convenient and will produce good meatballs. You just need to be careful not to overheat them.

How to reheat meatballs and sauce in the microwave:

  1. Put the meatballs in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Set the microwave to 50% power (if possible).
  3. Cover the bowl with a pierced plastic wrap to keep the moisture in.
  4. Microwave the meatballs in 30 seconds intervals until they’re heated through. Stir the mixture every 30 seconds.
  5. Refrigerated meatballs will need 1-2 minutes, while frozen ones can take up to 5 minutes.

Using 50% power slows down the process and means you’re less likely to go overboard and cook the meatballs instead of just reheating them. 

You want to avoid cooking them because this can result in tough meatballs.

If you don’t have a low power option on your microwave, just check them more often.

If you have frozen meatballs, be aware that they might release a lot of water, which can thin out your sauce.

However, in most cases, your sauce will have congealed and thickened in the fridge, so this can be helpful.

The microwave works best with smaller portions. With bigger portions, the heating can become uneven. 

Verdict

I was impressed with the microwave results. It was quick and hassle-free, and the meatballs were moist and tasted good.

The convenience made this my favorite method. Another thing I really liked about the microwave, is that your meatballs will never be hot on the outside but cold on the inside.

Reheating meatballs and sauce on the stove

To reheat meatballs and sauce on the stove, put them in a pan and heat them on a medium-low heat. Add a few tablespoons of water to loosen the sauce and stir the meatballs constantly as they heat. After around 10 minutes, the meatballs should be heated through. 

The stove is the most traditional way to reheat meatballs and works best if you have a lot of sauce.

How to reheat meatballs and sauce on the stove:

  1. Put your meatballs and sauce in a pan and heat it on a medium-low heat. 
  2. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan to loosen up the sauce.
  3. Bring the sauce to a slow simmer and gently stir it until the meatballs have heated through. It should take around 10 minutes for fresh meatballs and 20 minutes for frozen meatballs.
  4. If the sauce starts to dry out, add some more water.
  5. Check the internal temperature of your meatballs has reached 165°F (74°C) before serving. You can use a cooking thermometer for this.

If you’re worried your meatballs will take too long to heat through, cut them in half. This will reduce the heating time.

Watch the temperature of the sauce and keep it to a low simmer. If you boil the sauce, you risk it drying up or burning before the meatballs are hot enough.

Make sure to pick an appropriately sized pan.

You want the sauce to surround the meatballs rather than spread out. If you only have a big pan and not many meatballs, avoid this method.

Also, if you don’t have much sauce, then the stove isn’t the best option.

A small amount of sauce will dry out quickly, and the meatballs will fry rather than heat with the sauce. 

Verdict

I had to add quite a lot of water to the sauce while my meatballs were heating to stop it from drying out, so don’t be afraid to add what seems like a lot.

The water will quickly evaporate, leaving a nice thick sauce.

This method was the most effort because I had to stand by the pan stirring the meatballs and watching the sauce. 

The meatballs were juicy and flavorsome, but I’m not sure it was worth the extra effort because the results weren’t that different from the microwave. 

Reheating meatballs and sauce in the oven

To reheat meatballs and sauce in the oven, loosen the sauce with a few tablespoons of water before putting the meatballs in a baking tray. Cover the meatballs in foil and heat them in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 15-25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add more water if the meatballs seem dry.

The oven is a good choice for large portions of meatballs. It’s slower than the other methods but makes up for it by being low effort.

How to reheat meatballs and sauce in the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. Mix your meatballs and sauce with a few tablespoons of water to loosen the sauce.
  3. Put your meatballs and sauce in a baking tray.
  4. Cover the meatballs with foil.
  5. Heat the meatballs for 15-25 minutes, checking halfway through to stir. Add more water to the sauce if needed. Frozen meatballs will take 25-35 minutes.
  6. Check the internal temperature of your meatball has reached 165°F (74°C) before serving. You can use a cooking thermometer for this.

For a small portion of meatballs, 15 minutes should be long enough. But the more meatballs you have, or the bigger they are, the longer this method will take. 

The foil helps to keep the moisture in your meatballs, but you may still find you need to add some more water in at the halfway point, depending on your desired sauce consistency.

If the meatballs are taking too long to heat through, cut them in half. This will speed the process up. Or you can up the temperature slightly.

Verdict

The sauce was noticeably thicker using this method, but you can just add more water if that’s a problem.

The meatballs took on a ‘baked flavor’, which I enjoyed, and the method requires minimal effort.

Reheating unsauced meatballs

Below, I go through how to reheat meatballs in the microwave, skillet, stove, air fryer, and oven.

I give detailed instructions on each method and also give you my verdict.

Reheating unsauced meatballs on the stove

To reheat plain meatballs on the stove, fill a pan with some water or stock and submerge the meatballs in the cold water. Slowly heat the water on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Don’t allow the water to boil. A gentle simmer is good. After 8-10 minutes, the meatballs should be heated through.

The stove is a great way to get really moist, flavorsome meatballs. If your meatballs have dried out, I recommend this method.

How to reheat unsauced meatballs on the stove:

  1. Fill a pan with some water or stock.
  2. Add the meatballs.
  3. Heat the pan on a low heat.
  4. Heat the meatballs for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the meatballs are hot all the way through before serving them. Frozen meatballs will take 15-20 minutes.

The water will slowly heat up and transfer this heat to the meatballs. Ideally, the water would cover the meatballs, but if it doesn’t, turn the meatballs every so often. 

This is a great way to get some extra flavor into the meatballs. Any stock you use will seep into the meatballs and enhance their taste.

Don’t allow the water to boil. A low simmer is ideal. Boiling the water will lead to overcooked meatballs.

Verdict

I didn’t include this method in my original plan because it didn’t sound appealing to me. But I decided to try it and was glad I did!

The meatballs were super juicy and tender and had a really lovely flavor. I used chicken stock as my water, but any broth will do.

Of course, there’s no crunch with this method.

Reheating unsauced meatballs in a skillet

To reheat plain meatballs in a skillet, lightly oil a pan and heat it to a medium heat. Add the meatballs and sprinkle over 1-2 tablespoons of water. Put a lid on the pan and heat the meatballs for around 10 minutes. Shake the pan to turn the meatballs.

This method keeps the meatballs moist while also giving them a crispy outside. But the shape of the meatball means it can take a while for the middle to heat.

How to reheat unsauced meatballs in a skillet:

  1. Lightly oil a saucepan and heat it on a medium heat.
  2. Add the meatballs along with 1-2 tablespoons of water.
  3. Put a lid on the pan.
  4. Shake the pan occasionally to turn the meatballs.
  5. Heat the meatballs for around 10 minutes or until heated through. Frozen meatballs will take 15-20 minutes.

The lid traps steam and helps keep moisture in, and the oil crips up the outside of the meatball.

Bigger meatballs can be hard to heat evenly with this method, so I suggest cutting them in half to make sure they heat all the way through. 

You may get a few patches of overdone-ness, but that adds to the flavor.

Verdict

This method took longer than I expected because the shape of the meatballs meant they took a while to get hot in the middle.

But I liked the taste and texture of the crust that formed on the outside of the meatball.

Reheating unsauced meatballs in the oven

To reheat meatballs in the oven, arrange the meatballs in a baking tray and sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of water over them. Cover the meatballs with foil and heat them in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 15-25 minutes. Check on the meatballs halfway through and turn the meatballs.

The oven is a hassle-free way to reheat large portions of meatballs. The meatballs stay moist as long as you remember the foil.

How to reheat unsauced meatballs in the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. Arrange the meatballs in a lipped baking tray (so the juices can’t escape).
  3. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of water over the meatballs (optional).
  4. Cover the meatballs with foil.
  5. Heat the meatballs for 15-25 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Frozen meatballs will take 25-35 minutes.
  6. Check on the meatballs halfway through heating and shake the tray to turn the meatballs.

Without a sauce, meatballs are more prone to drying out. The water prevents this by creating steam, which keeps the meatballs moist.

You can play around with the oven temperature, but I found that 300°F (150°C) creates the perfect balance between speed and even heating.

If you want more of a crust on your meatballs, take the foil off for the last 5 minutes of heating.

Verdict

The meatballs out of the oven were perfectly fine.

They were soft and juicy, with a slight crunch on the outside. I would recommend this method.

Reheating unsauced meatballs in the microwave

To reheat plain meatballs in the microwave, put the meatballs in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle some water over them. Cover the bowl with some pierced plastic wrap. Set your microwave to 50% power and heat the meatballs in 30-second intervals until heated through, around 1-2 minutes.

The microwave is the quickest way to reheat meatballs, and the results are moist and tasty.

How to reheat unsauced meatballs in the microwave:

  1. Arrange the meatballs on a microwave-safe plate or in a bowl.
  2. Set the microwave to 50% power (if possible).
  3. Cover the meatballs with a damp paper towel or a piece of pierced plastic wrap. If you use plastic wrap, sprinkle some water over the meatballs before covering them.
  4. Microwave the meatballs in 30 seconds intervals until they’re heated through.
  5. Refrigerated meatballs will take 1-2 minutes, while frozen ones will take up to 5 minutes.

50% slows down the reheating process but means you’re less likely to go overboard and cook the meatballs instead of just reheating them.

Cooking the meatballs instead of reheating them will result in a tough texture.

If you have frozen meatballs, be aware that they might release a lot of water.

I like to line the plate with a paper towel to soak the water up. This way, you don’t end up with soggy meatballs.

Verdict

The microwaved meatballs were nice and moist. They had a soft texture, and there was no crunch on the outside.

I liked them, and I really liked how speedy the microwave was.

Reheating unsauced meatballs in the air fryer

To reheat plain meatballs in the air fryer, arrange them in a single layer in your air fryer basket and then heat them for 4-6 minutes at 300°F (150°C). Check the meatballs have warmed all the way through before serving them. The internal temperature should be 165°F (74°C).

The air fryer is quick and gives the meatballs a crunchy exterior, but it can be drying.

How to reheat unsauced meatballs in the air fryer:

  1. Heat to air fryer to 300°F (150°C).
  2. Arrange the meatballs in the air fryer basket in a single layer, minimizing touching
  3. Heat the meatballs for 3-5 minutes (7-10 minutes from frozen).
  4. Check the meatballs’ internal temperature before serving them. The middle should reach 165°F (74°C).

The outside of the meatball will get very hot very quickly, but this doesn’t mean the inside is hot yet.

Always check the inside of the meatball before assuming that they’re done.

You can use a meat thermometer for this, or you stick a knife through the meatball and feel how hot it is when it comes out.

Don’t overload the air fryer with meatballs, or they won’t heat properly. If you have lots of meatballs to reheat, it’s best to do them in batches.

Verdict

The air fryer is a quick and convenient method (if you have one), but it’s pretty drying.

My meatballs were on the small side, so they heated through quickly and didn’t dry out too much. 

The outside crisped up nicely, and I enjoyed the crunchy texture.

However, if your meatballs are bigger, they’ll be in the air fryer for longer, so they’ll dry out more. To reduce the heating time, you can cut the meatballs in half.

How to store meatballs

To store meatballs, wait for them to cool to room temperature before putting them in an airtight container in the fridge. The meatballs will last for up to 5 days. You can store meatballs with or without sauce, but sauced meatballs may become a little soggy after a few days.

Never leave your meatballs out at room temperature for more than two hours. After two hours, the meat will enter the danger zone for bacteria. 

How to freeze meatballs

To freeze meatballs, wait for them to cool to room temperature and then transfer the meatballs into a heavy-duty freezer bag. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can before putting it in the freezer. The meatballs will last for up to 6 months, and you can freeze them with or without sauce. 

Tomato sauce is the best sauce for freezing meatballs in. Avoid freezing cream-based sauces because these can split upon thawing. 

Top tip: use a straw to suck the air out of your freezer bag, it’s much more effective than squeezing the air out!

If you have plain meatballs, you can flash freeze them before putting them in the freezer bag.

This will stop the meatballs from sticking together and mean you can take out as many as you need each time. 

To flash freeze the meatballs, lay them out on a baking tray so they’re not touching, and put them in the freezer for 1-2 hours.

How to reheat meatballs from frozen

You can use the microwave, oven, or stove to reheat your frozen meatballs. The microwave is the quickest method, but you need to be careful not to overcook the meatballs. Place the meatballs on a microwave-safe plate and set the microwave to 50% power. Heat the meatballs in 30-second intervals.

To use the oven, put the meatballs in a baking tray and cover them with foil. Heat them in a 300°F (180°C) oven for 25-35 minutes. Check on the meatballs every so often to stir them. Add some water if they’re looking dry. 

To use the stove, heat the meatballs on a low heat. If there’s a sauce, add a few tablespoons of water to loosen up the sauce. If there’s no sauce, then submerge the meatballs in water or stock. The meatballs will reheat in around 20 minutes.

Of course, you can always thaw the meatballs first by leaving them in the fridge overnight.

Then you can reheat them using any of the methods above.

A quicker way to thaw the meatballs is to put them in a waterproof bag and submerge them in water.

Exactly How To Reheat Meatballs

If you’ve got a serving or two of meatballs leftover, you may be wondering what the best reheating method is to bring them back to their freshly cooked glory.
Reheating meatballs can be a little tricky – if you’re not careful you can dry out your meatballs, leaving them tough and lifeless.
But fear not, I have experimented with more meatball reheating methods than you can shake a stick at.
The goal? To find the method that delivers a tender, moist and light meatball. Just like the moment it was cooked.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 0 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1 person
Calories 197 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 1 portion meatballs in sauce
  • 1 portion unsauced meatballs

Instructions
 

Reheating meatballs in a sauce

  • The best way to reheat sauced meatballs is in the microwave. Put the meatballs in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Set the microwave to 50% power.
  • Cover the bowl with a pierced plastic wrap to keep the moisture in.
  • Microwave the meatballs in 30 seconds intervals until they’re heated through. Stir the mixture every 30 seconds.
  • Refrigerated meatballs will need 1-2 minutes, while frozen ones can take up to 5 minutes.

Reheating unsauced meatballs

  • The best way to reheat unsauced meatballs is on the stove in water or broth.
  • Fill a pan with some water or stock.
  • Add the meatballs.
  • Heat the pan on a low heat.
  • Heat the meatballs for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the meatballs are hot all the way through before serving them. Frozen meatballs will take 15-20 minutes.
  • The water will slowly heat up and transfer this heat to the meatballs. Ideally, the water would cover the meatballs, but if it doesn’t, turn the meatballs every so often.
    This is a great way to get some extra flavor into the meatballs. Any stock you use will seep into the meatballs and enhance their taste.
    Don’t allow the water to boil. A low simmer is ideal. Boiling the water will lead to overcooked meatballs.

Nutrition

Serving: 100gCalories: 197kcal
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