Why do re-heating instructions on the label not always work the same way?

11570d45080f4c6ecea583a065287d08_f1lwOn all of our packaged food My Chef Lara places a sticker with food specific re-heating instructions for microwave and for the oven. We do recommend using the oven for re-heating but sometimes there are some difficulties with the re-heating instructions to consider.

When the label states to re-heat in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes this statement always assumes that:

  • The food is packaged in a container of MEDIUM size
  • The package is approximately 3/4 filled up
  • The content of the container was thawed properly and does not have any frozen sections left
  • That the oven temperature really is 350 degrees when you place the container into the oven

Most of these influences you have under control and can easily be checked:

My Chef Lara uses three different container sizes made from recyclable paper press-ware. All of the containers can be re-heated inside a microwave OR the oven. There is no need to re-package after thawing. For re-heating inside an oven we recommend for a large container a 20% longer time and for a small container an approximate 10% shorter time. So if the re-heating time states 25 minutes on the label then the new re-heating times would be 30 minutes for a large and approximately 22 minutes for a small container.

pan sizes

  • Same thing for the filling percentage of the container. As a rule of thumb consider that the fuller the container is the longer it will take to re-heat the content.
  • One of the mayor influences on the re-heating time is the state of thawing of the previously frozen food. Please thaw the food in the fridge and NEVER in the kitchen sink or outside the fridge at room temperature. All pre-cooked food exposed to the “food danger zone” of above 40 degrees to 140 degrees WILL develop unwanted bacteria and -as a general rule- should not be consumed if exposed for more than 2 hours to that temperature zone.
  • Please allow the food to thaw inside the fridge for 24-36 hours, depending on the container size and fill amount.
  • If you still have frozen sections in the package you may use the microwave to thaw the food inside the package before re-heating for immediate consumption.

Now to the oven temperatures……. 

Are you sure when the oven tells you that it is 350 degrees that it really is? You will be surprised what we found!

  • When we do our initial client interviews we always do a quick check of the temperatures of all of our client’s ovens and guess what……. 95% of all of the ovens do NOT have the correct temperature. The biggest problem we found out is the “confirmation point” (either a “bing” or a lamp) after the warm-up phase of the oven. We found that when the oven tells you that it has reached a certain temperature it actually did not. In almost all of the cases the actual temperature was a minimum of 25 up to 100 degrees lower than the pre-set temperature and it took another 5-15 minutes after the confirmation to actually reach the pre-set temperature.
  • In approximately 40% of all cases the actual temperature of the oven after reaching and holding a pre-set temperature was off by a minimum of 5 up to 75 degrees in either direction (too hot or too cold). If the calibration of your oven is off by that much you do not have to wonder why the quiche is always burnt or never cooks at all. In these cases we do recommended re-calibrating the oven settings and get it right.
  • So far we only found ONE oven which did have 350 degrees when it said it did and which held the temperature exactly at the pre-set temperature.

Yes, there are lots of influences to consider getting your food re-heated correctly; the easiest and the simplest however is to make sure that the interior temperature of the food inside the container has reached 145 degrees. If that is the case you are sure the food is hot and ready for consumption and enjoyment. It might be worth to invest in a thermometer to measure the temperature rather than estimating or setting a timer. It will help you staying healthy and enjoying the food.