It’s happened to every pitmaster — you hosted a BBQ and now you’re left with some leftover meats and side dishes.
It’s not a problem, really. You’ll have tasty food for days. However, you’ll want to make sure that you understand how to maintain the fresh taste of your extra pulled pork or chicken breast. Reheating your BBQ isn’t a task to take lightly.
Let’s look at some of the best ways to store your leftovers and how to reheat BBQ, chicken and everything else so it’s not soggy or disappointing when you’re ready to dig in again.
When you have leftover barbecue, you have two main options — use it right away or store it to use at a later date. If you don’t have much left and have a dish in mind that you can use it in, it’s worth putting it in your refrigerator. As long as you make the recipe or finish it up within a few days, your meat should keep well without any food waste.
For optimal meat safety, be sure to refrigerate within two hours of its temperature dropping below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Things like pulled pork, chicken, brisket and ribs will keep better in shallow containers. They allow the meat to cool off faster, reaching the safe refrigeration point of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. The recommended time span to use your refrigerated leftovers within is three or four days.
If you’re not planning on using your leftovers within that period, it’s important to store them correctly. Your best option is to freeze the extras within the same two hour time frame. Freezing will allow you to keep your extra meat longer. Vacuum sealing your barbecue is the best option, though, as it can keep for two or three years without losing any flavor quality.
If you don’t have access to a vacuum sealer, plan to double-wrap your BBQ. First, cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Then, pop the foil-covered meat into heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags. Be sure to press out as much of the air as you can before sealing. You’ll notice a difference when reheating BBQ if you keep the surface of the meat away from too much air during the storage process.
Depending on how much BBQ you have, you can even do a little of both. Find a recipe you can make in the next day or two or enjoy a second helping as is and freeze the rest. That way you can satisfy your second-day cravings without having to thaw the rest of your meat right away. You may also want to consider freezing several portions in separate containers if you have a lot to use so that you can pull out one container without having to thaw all of the meat.
Once you’ve refrigerated or frozen your leftovers, you can let them sit until you’re ready to use them. But when you do find the perfect recipe or you have a major hankering for barbecue, you should reheat them properly for the best results. If you put your meat in the fridge, the process shouldn’t take long, but if you stored it in the freezer, you’ll need to think ahead.
Putting your leftovers in the freezer will help them last much longer, but they’ll also need ample time to thaw out before you try to reheat anything. That being said, you should plan your meal well in advance so you can take the meat out of the freezer early enough.
If you want to thaw the meat out slowly, you can keep it in the refrigerator for a day or so. The amount of time will depend on the size of your cut of meat. For example, ribs can take anywhere from six to eight hours to thaw fully, but a dense roast may take much longer. For faster thawing, you can leave them in a room temperature area or in a small container of cool water. Make sure the meat is completely unfrozen before trying to cook it.
Be sure to use any thawed meat within a couple of days, though. And please note that you can’t refreeze thawed BBQ. So if you change your mind about reheating BBQ chicken or you forget it for a week in the fridge, you’ll have to say goodbye to it.
Once you’ve thawed your meat — or if you’ve simply taken it out of the fridge — it’s time to move on to reheating. The best method to use for barbecue is low and slow. If you try to cook the meat too fast or with hot, dry heat, there’s a good chance it’ll lose its tenderness and moisture. You can also add BBQ sauce, stock or your liquid of choice to be sure it doesn’t turn out dry. It’ll also help bump up the flavor after freezing.
There are several methods you can use to go about reheating shredded, sliced or smaller cuts of meat:
Regardless of what method you choose, be sure to check the internal temperature with a thermometer. You’ll want the meat to hit a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be sure it’s safe to eat.
While shredded meats will heat up rather quickly, other cuts of meat will take time. For instance, reheating BBQ ribs requires some babysitting. You’ll have to wait for the internal level of doneness to rise. Be sure to probe the meat constantly and brush the ribs with liquid or give them a spritz of apple juice once in a while. The last thing you want is to reheat your meat at too high a temperature for too long. The meat will shrink, become tough and taste overdone.
Here’s the not-so-secret-secret of how to reheat ribs without drying them out: Wrap the ribs in foil with plenty of sauce or stock to keep them moist and put them in an oven or grill at about 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Then uncover to finish.
Barbecue is always best when it’s fresh from the grill or smoker. You know the feeling of pulling something from the coals and how good that first bite always tastes. But leftover BBQ makes an excellent addition to or subject for new recipes. Regardless of what you have leftover, you can repurpose it in something just as delicious. It also saves a lot of time, as half your cooking is already taken care of.
Pork is not only versatile meat, but there are also plenty of cuts to work with. Whether you’re holding on to the last half-rack of ribs or saving that pulled pork barbecue, you can use your leftovers to make countless dishes. There are plenty of leftover BBQ pork recipes to try.
Reheating plain cuts of pork can be unexciting, but by adding new flavors and sauces, you can make your pork roast or chops into a dish you’ve never tackled in your kitchen. For those who love the classic street truck Gyro, you can make a similar dish at home.
Reheat your pork meat and cut it into small chunks or long, thin slices — whichever style you prefer. Then, warm up a flat pita, add the pork, diced tomato, onion, lettuce and tzatziki sauce for that delicious Greek flavor. You can use storebought tzatziki or make it yourself, as it’s essentially a yogurt dip base with cucumber and dill. If you want to make them slightly more authentic, you can season the pork with sumac, which adds a slightly sour taste.
Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? It’s a dish that almost anyone can make well, and it takes little time and preparation. But with tender pulled pork on top, it’s on a whole new level. Take your noodle shape of choice, boil it until it’s al dente and drain the water. To create your cheese sauce, melt butter in a pan and incorporate flour, milk and your shredded cheese.
Once it’s well combined, you can take it off the heat and toss your pasta into it. Then, put the macaroni in a shallow baking pan, top it with your leftover pulled pork and panko breadcrumbs if you so desire, and let it bake. It’s fast, simple and a dish anyone will enjoy.
If you want to incorporate your leftover pork into a dish with a little more Asian flavor, chop suey is the way to go. It’s also a relatively healthy alternative packed with vegetables. You’ll essentially cook this like a stir fry, leaving a little crunch to the veggies but ensuring they’re cooked through.
For the best flavor, use mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bok choy and bell pepper. If you’re not a big fan of bok choy, you can easily use broccoli instead. Stir fry your vegetables in a pan, add in your reheated pork and make a pot of rice — and you’ve got a filling meal.
Chicken in any form is delicious and super versatile. With a few grilled breasts or legs, sauced or rubbed, you can create a new and delicious dish to serve your family or keep to yourself. The best part about chicken? You don’t even need to reheat it for it to be tasty. If you’re deciding what to do with leftover BBQ chicken, you have a countless number of options.
It’s a classic any grilled chicken fan has likely encountered before — the caesar salad. It’s crisp, light and might be refreshing during the summer or to switch things up after a meat-centric barbecue party. It’s a great way to get in your daily servings of vegetables without sacrificing flavor. Plus, it’s super easy to put together.
Rinse and chop your lettuce into a forkable size and place it in a big bowl. You can add dressing and stop there or toss it with anchovies and grated parmesan. Depending on how much time you want to devote to it, you can also make your own caesar dressing. Once you’ve given it a good toss, add your croutons and sliced chicken to the top. If you leave the chicken cold, you can put it on at any time, but if you heat it, put it on right before serving.
Your grilled chicken is too good to waste on boring leftover sandwiches. But there’s nothing boring about well-made chicken salad — especially when you have grilled leftovers to use. First, shred or chop your meat and mix-ins. Celery is a classic staple of chicken salad, but you can also add green onion, grapes and dill to amp up the flavor.
Put all your chopped items into a bowl and dress them with a mixture of mayonnaise and sour cream or plain yogurt. Season the blend with a healthy amount of salt and pepper, and add any other spices you want, such as cumin, cilantro or cayenne. Once you’ve given it all a good stir, you can pile it on your favorite bread or eat it with a spoon — there’s no judgment from us.
Want to add a little more variety to your dinner plans? You can make an excellent tandoori-spiced chicken dish. First, you’ll have to create the spice paste for your chicken. Tandoori seasoning calls for salt, onion, garlic powder, ground ginger, coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric and white pepper, all combined with vegetable oil. Spread the paste on your chicken prior to reheating.
Once you’ve got the chicken spiced and hot, you can put it on a warm pita and eat it as is, or you can add tomato jam and herbed yogurt. The latter is easy to make — mix a cup of Greek yogurt with chopped mint and cilantro leaves and salt and pepper to taste. The tomato jam may take a bit longer, but it’s a flavorful addition to the meal.
Second-day steak isn’t as good plain as it is fresh off the grill, and cooking it can be tricky if you want to keep the same level of doneness. It’s all about choosing the right recipe and pairing the meat with the right flavors. You can also use many beef dishes as leftover barbecued ribs recipes, as long as you cut the meat off the bone.
Steak sandwiches are easy, delicious, filling and only take one pan to make. They’re also very customizable, so you can easily cater to the tastes of multiple guests. Cut your steak into strips and toss them in a pan to fry them. Be careful not to overcook because you still want the meat to be moist. To add more flavor and stretch the steak further, you can sautee mushrooms, peppers or onions in the same pan.
Once it’s almost fully cooked, you can add cheese and cover it to melt if you so desire. If you think your meat might be a little dry, you can heat it with barbecue or tomato sauce to provide more moisture. Portion out your mix into rolls and you’ve got an excellent steak sandwich worth sharing. You can amp up the flavor with recipes that include Dijon mustard, horseradish, arugula and parmesan, but there’s nothing wrong with the classics.
Taco night is a classic and a great way to use up that leftover barbecue. While steak is an excellent choice of meat, you can also make the same meal with pork or chicken — or a little of each. It’s a fun food with versatility and no shortage of flavor. Slice or shred your beef cut and toss it in a bowl with taco or fajita seasonings and a little oil to help it stick. You can either use your own blend of spices or use the pre-blended spice packets. If you do purchase the packets, follow the directions listed, as they may have you use water.
Then, fry up your taco or fajita meat in a pan and serve it with plenty of toppings and hard shells or soft tortillas. Put out plenty of cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, beans, sauteed peppers, sauces and avocado. Having a taco party is an easy way to follow up any barbecue get together and use your leftovers in the process.
Leftover beef gives you plenty of options to work with in terms of recipes. There’s even a use for those leftover hamburgers. Making meat sauce is an easy way to reuse that cooked ground beef without drying it out or simply reheating it as a burger. All you have to do is chop up your patties into bits, toss them in your favorite tomato-based sauce and simmer. At the same time, boil your noodles and drain them. You’ll have a nice pasta dinner ready in minutes.
It’s true that BBQ won’t have the same flavor the second time around. But with the right approach, it will still taste pretty amazing whether you’re eating it the next day or even the next month.
The next time you’re left with leftovers, don’t look at them with a frown. Instead, smile at your good fortune. With a bit of creativity, you can learn how to reheat BBQ and make the most of every smoke.
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