Chili with beans
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How to Reheat Frozen Chili

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Chili is a great dish that can be served as a light soup during the warm summers, a hearty meal during the cold winters, or spilled on the floor by Kevin Malone at Dunder Mifflin. Chili can also be made in huge batches and frozen for enjoying later on. While there are several methods to reheat frozen chili, some are better than others.    

The greatest way to reheat frozen chili is to thaw it and put it on the stove. Pour thawed chili into a cold pan with medium heat and stir frequently. You can add water if the chili is too thick or dry. Depending on the portion size, the chili should be reheated within 5 to 10 minutes.

I found the stove method to be the most effective. It gets the job done quickly without altering the texture or taste of the chili. However, it may not be convenient enough for everyone. Let’s dive deeper and check out other methods of reheating frozen chili. 

How to freeze and store chili?

The best way to freeze and store chili is to put it inside freezer bags and get rid of most of the air inside the bag. After that, you need to spread it into an even layer and store it inside the freezer for 4 to 6 months.

While leftover chili stored in the fridge won’t last you more than 3 to 4 days, frozen chili can be stored inside the freezer for up to 6 months. While chili can be stored in containers and put inside the freezer, it’s not very optimal. Containers with various shapes waste a lot of space. That’s why I prefer freezer bags. They are dirt cheap and make storing frozen chili as easy as it gets. 

To freeze and store chili:

  • Allow the cooked chili to cool down to room temperature. 
  • Transfer a standard portion into a freezer bag and zip it up with a small gap at the end. 
  • Now put the bag down on the counter and push the air out from the corner till you almost reach the small gap at the top. 
  • Once most of the air is out and the chili is about to go out of that gap, seal the zip and spread the chili into an even layer along with the bag. 
  • Next, label the bag with the date, portion size, chili recipe, and other relevant information. 
  • Keep doing this with more freezer bags till you run out of chili.  
  • Now, you can stack those bags in the freezer easily without wasting any space. 

What is the best way to reheat chili?

The best way to reheat chili is undoubtedly on the stove. Thaw some frozen chili in a medium pot and put it on the stove over medium heat. Keep stirring and add water if necessary. When the internal temperature reaches around 165 F, it’s ready to be served. 

As mentioned above, I prefer the stove since there are no risks of ruining the texture of the chili and the taste is also preserved unless you add too much water and no extra seasonings to account for the increased volume.   

To reheat chili on the stove:

  • Thaw the frozen chili and transfer it to a cold pan.  
  • Add a bit of water or stock, set the stove on medium heat, and keep stirring. 
  • You can add a bit more water or stock if the chili is too thick. 
  • Make sure to be careful while adding stock or water. Overdoing it will ruin the consistency and texture of the chili. 
  • Heat it till you see the chili bubbling for a few seconds and turn off the stove. 

The chili is ready to be served. If you’ve reheated a big portion for a lot of people, you can transfer it to a slow cooker and use the “keep warm” setting to make sure it’s warm for your guests. Don’t leave the chili unattended on the stove. You need to stir it consistently so that nothing sticks and burns at the bottom of the pan. 

Sometimes, I like to taste the chili while it’s being reheated and add a few seasonings or even grated cheese to switch up its flavor. I absolutely love the stove method since it allows me to reheat any portion size, just for me or for the whole family. It’s also reliable and faster than other methods. 

How do you reheat chili in the microwave?

Transfer the thawed chili to a microwave-safe dish and add a few tablespoons of water or stock. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and heat it on high power for a minute. Bring the dish out, stir the chili, and heat it again for half a minute. Repeat this till the chili is hot and ready to be served.

I avoid the microwave method when I need to reheat a large batch of frozen chili. The results are just too unreliable. There have been too many times when the meat inside the chili turned into soggy crumbs and other times a portion of the chili got burnt at the bottom. However, when I’m heating a portion just for myself, I often choose the microwave method since I can reheat and eat in the same dish. 

To reheat chili in the microwave oven:

  • Put thawed chili into a microwave-safe dish. 
  • Add a bit of stock or water to the chili to add moisture and loosen the sauce. 
  • Cover the dish with plastic wrap and heat it on high power for an entire minute. 
  • Next, bring out the dish, stir the chili and reheat it at the same settings for around 30 seconds. 
  • Repeat that process till the chili is hot and ready to be served. 
  • Don’t try to skip the stirring process at 30-second intervals. Otherwise, the chili may get burnt at the bottom and the meat would toughen up.  

Can you heat frozen chili in the crockpot?

Crockpots or slow cookers aren’t safe for reheating frozen chili since they take several hours to heat up the chili. When frozen yet old chili sits inside the slow cooker for too long, it can be very unsafe. Bacteria can grow and spoil the food before the heat permeates the entire chili. 

Crockpots or slow cookers are the best options for cooking chili. Slow cooking does wonder for mixing all the ingredients and creating a stronger flavor. With low and consistent heat, the flavors from the spices and peppers blend incredibly well with the meat, beans, and sauce. 

However, reheating frozen chili in the crockpot is the worst thing you could do. If old chili sits around at room temperature for a long time, it allows nasty bacteria to grow inside the chili. If you eat frozen chili that has been reheated at low temperatures in the crockpot for several hours, you may get sick. 

Instead, I like to use slow cookers to keep reheated chili warm when I have a lot of guests over. I reheat a big batch of frozen chili on the stove and transfer it all into the crockpot with the warming settings. That keeps the chili hot for at least 2 hours or more. 

How do you heat chili in the oven?

Preheat the oven to around 350 F. Transfer the thawed chili to an oven-safe dish with a few tablespoons of stock or water. Cover the lid with foil and set it in the center of the oven. Heat it for around 20 to 30 minutes and occasionally stir till it’s heated inside out.  

To reheat chili in the oven:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  • Allow the frozen chili to thaw and transfer it to an oven-safe dish. 
  • If the chili looks too dry, you can add a couple of tablespoons of water or stock for each serving. 
  • Cover it tightly with foil and heat it at the center of the oven. 
  • Bring it out and stir occasionally until it’s heated through. 
  • For small portions, the chili can be heated within 15 minutes. Large batches may require an hour or more. 

While the chili comes out nice and sometimes I also make a crispy cheesy top by grating and broiling cheese at the end, the entire process takes too long. The stove is just more convenient and quick. 

Why does chili taste better reheated?

Chili often tastes better reheated since the collagen released by meat gelatinizes when they cool down and traps in the volatile oils from aromatics like chiles, spices, garlic, and onion. On the other hand, freshly cooked chili loses a lot of those volatile oils as it is kept warm. 

While chili often tastes great when reheated, you need to keep a few things in mind. Over time, chili loses some of its moisture, and spices like cumin lose their punch. That’s why I prefer to taste my chili as it is reheated and add a few extra spices or seasonings if necessary. Moreover, if you’re trying to make a vegan or vegetarian chili, it won’t taste as great when reheated. That’s because it lacks collagen from the meat to intensify the flavor.

Conclusion

While there are several ways of reheating chili, I found the stove method to be the best option. It takes less than 10 minutes and you don’t need to do a lot to preserve the taste and texture of the chili. Just make sure to freeze the chili in sealable freezer bags so that you aren’t greeted by a nasty surprise when you reach out for the frozen chili.

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