Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Leftover Chili -- reheated from a frozen state


Chili brought back to life from a frozen state and smothered with gobs of Mexican-blend cheese.   Presentation is a little sloppy, but c'mon, we just heated frozen chili.  I'd have slow-roasted a chicken or something if we weren't starving.

A few months ago, I made chili and said that leftover chili can be frozen and reheated later for a fast dinner. It's true! I'm gonna prove it.

Leftover chili, frozen in a 1.75 qt Pyrex bowl, straight from the freezer.

There are essentially two steps to get this job done, thaw and reheat, each step with options:
  1. Thaw
    1. in the refrigerator over a couple days -- this is the best option, in my humble opinion
    2. by using the defrost capability of your microwave, like we did tonight (I'll talk about that shortly)
    3. by soaking the frozen bowl in cold water, changing water occasionally (if your bowl is air-tight)
    4. using a chisel and forcing the hunk of chili out of the frozen dish into a saucepan and thaw/reheat in one step -- I don't recommend this method as you might break your dish and pierce a hand, possibly resulting in bloody chili.  And your hand will hurt.
  2. Reheat
    1. turn thawed chili into saucepan and reheat over medium heat about 15 minutes until heated through and steamy hot
    2. reheat in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl
    3. reheat in a slow-cooker
The method outlined below is how we opted to do our chili.  Time was of the essence, so thawing in the refrigerator was immediately ruled out:
  1. Loosen the lid from the bowl.
  2. Defrost in microwave:
    1. Rodney assumed this was 2 lbs and told the microwave so.  (The defrost is essentially designed to use really low power over a "long" period to thaw meat.  Chances are, when you push the "defrost" button, your microwave will wait for you to type in the weight of the meat you want to defrost.  Simply type those digits in and press "Cook" or "Start".  After a couple/few minutes, the microwave will beep and wait for you to do something.  That's when you turn/flip the meat, er, chili.) 
  3. Rodney turned the chili brick inside the bowl when the microwave beeped at it's regular intervals.
    1. If you want to get anal, you can scrape the thawed parts from the chili brick into a saucepan, expediting thawing overall and minimizing the chances of "hot spots" in your chili. 
  4. Add more defrost time if the total weight was underestimated and the chili is still a brick.
  5. Turn thawed chili into a saucepan and reheat over medium heat until piping hot, stirring occasionally.

Chili placed in saucepan, lid on, ready to be brought back to life.


The thing about reheating the chili is that the spicy-heat is diminished especially if it's been in the freezer for oh, say, 6 months. If you want as much, or more, spice-level as the chili had when it first prepared, I'd recommend an addition of chili powder or peppers, whether powder, dry or fresh during the reheating part.

When reheating our chili, it was a lot thicker than when prepared initially. I'm not sure if that's because Rodney and I eat all the "juice" the first time around, or it somehow dissipated during freezing/thawing/reheating. If you like juicier chili, maybe an addition 1/3 cup of water/tomato juice/V8 will do the trick. Personally, I like it thicker. It sticks to tortilla chips better that way.

What's nice is that there is no chili waste and dinner tonight is essentially zero effort, fairly quick, and best of all, FREE!!!   

So tell me, how do you reheat chili?  Or if you haven't done it before, tell me which method you'll try and how it turned out!

Click here for a printable
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For updates on reheating frozen chili, check out Part 2, the latest installment.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for the great information

The Cook said...

No problem. Hopefully it helps out!
What I should have mentioned is that this is pretty much how I'd reheat ANY frozen soup or stew.

Anonymous said...

great information! time is also of the essence for me so i will be trying the microwave and reheat on the stove. i like how the instructions were very detailed...great work! :)

The Cook said...

Thanks for the feedback, it's much appreciated! Hope your chili is just as good as it was day one -- or better. ;)

Anonymous said...

Just another suggestion... If you do want to put frozen chili from the bowl into the pot for stovetop heating and you don't want to break your bowl or stab your hand, just put the bowl into the sink and fill up the sink (I just fill it up til the water has reached the height of the chili in the bowl) - don't put the water IN the bowl, but just have it surround the bowl. This will "loosen" up the frozen chili on the sides where the warm water has touched it, causing it to slide right out and into the pot/sauce pan. This was the method i used! Thank you for the tips!

The Cook said...

Absolutely! Thanks, Anon, for an eloquent description.

Anonymous said...

The way my family does it is that we let the frozen chili soak in warm water until it loosens from the container and while there is still a lot of it frozen we pour it into a pot and heat to desired temp.

The Cook said...

Do you use any special containers or will anything with a decent lid work?

Anonymous said...

Store chili in a freezer bag. Then boil some water and add in freezer bag

The Cook said...

That's just genius! I never would've thought of that! Trying to limit how much plastic I use, I wouldn't make it my first option, but definitely a good idea. Thanks!