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How to Store Leftover Pizza

Here are the various effective ways to properly store your leftover pizza showcasing the science behind it and the different ways to reheat these stored pizza pieces.

These are pieces of leftover pizzas in the box.

I know it’s not just me… Pizza tastes better the next day, right? Even if you don’t feel it quite as strongly as I do about this, I’m pretty sure you have had leftover pizza at some point, and that means the question has crossed your mind: How to store leftover pizza.

Luckily for you, I am somewhat of an expert in this field, and I am here to share my pizza storing wisdom with you.

Pizza is classed as perishable and so needs to be refrigerated overnight. There are various methods for storing pizza in a way that maintains the integrity of the meal. Most methods include stacking the slices between a dividing layer.

Did you know that if you store your leftover pizza correctly, it will be good for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and up to 2 months in the freezer? Storing leftover pizza can become tricky when you have various toppings and tastes to consider, but fear not! Here is the best advice for freezing your delicious delivery.

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Does Pizza Need To Be Refrigerated?

This is a woman putting a piece of leftover pizza in the fridge.

Yes. Pizza needs to be refrigerated if you are keeping it overnight or longer. 

Before I knew better, I thought that the best way to store pizza was to leave it in the box on my kitchen counter. This is not a great idea for a few reasons, the most important being that pizza is considered a perishable food. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it needs to be refrigerated overnight.  

Another reason to put your leftover pizza in the refrigerator is that you aren’t the only one who thinks it’s delicious.  Leaving it out will attract wildlife of all kinds. Think of those pesky bugs, rodents, and even stray roommates, all helping themselves to tomorrow’s lunch! 

Foodborne bacteria have a love affair with cheese. Since pizza is usually dripping in cheese, it is a prime target for contamination by these microscopic fiends. If you need to keep your pizza out of the refrigerator, keep it to an hour or 2 max, and try to keep the room below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Storing your leftover pizza in the refrigerator ensures that your snack will be not only super tasty but also as healthy as possible when you enjoy it again.

The Best Way To Store Pizza In The Refrigerator

These are pizza pieces stacked on a plate.

There is a school of thought that believes in dumping leftover pizza in a container and throwing it in the refrigerator.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I have been known to dabble in this dark art myself, from time to time, but I am here to tell you that you don’t need to eat pizza that has bits of topping on the bottom of the slice, and that has become a motley mix of all the toppings you ordered, all mushed into one. There is a better way.

The best possible way to refrigerate leftover pizza is to stack it. This is almost as easy as it sounds, and here is your step-by-step guide to it:

  1. Select a large dinner plate
  2. Place one layer of pizza on the plate
  3. Cover the first layer with a sheet of wax paper or aluminium foil
  4. Place another layer of pizza on top of the first layer and paper or foil
  5. Continue to stack until you run out of leftover pizza
  6. Once you have finished your stacking project, you will need to wrap it up. Use plastic wrap and seal it off to avoid letting any air get to your pizza.
  7. Lastly, clear some room on your favorite shelf and place your pizza safely in its cool new home.

How Long Can I Keep Leftover Pizza?

This is a frozen piece of pizza wrapped in plastic.

Leftover pizza can be kept for different amounts of time, depending on the temperature of the environment.

If you plan on eating your leftover pizza within an hour or 2, you can feel free to leave it out at room temperature.  The best temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but the pizza will probably be okay at a little warmer. The maximum temperature that it is safe to leave pizza out in is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  

If the room is particularly hot, you may want to consider putting the leftover pizza in the refrigerator until you want to eat from it again. Alternatively, you can cool down the room. If the room is hot, and there is nothing you can do about it, the pizza will be safe to eat for about an hour.

If you have refrigerated your leftover pizza, having wrapped it or placed it in an airtight container, it will be safe to eat for 3 to 4 days. It’s best not to take chances after 4 days, as pizza toppings are perishable and could cause illness from bacteria after this amount of time.

Pizza that has been stored in a freezer can be eaten up to 2 months later. I’m not sure I would have the willpower to keep a pizza in my freezer for that long, but each to his, or her, own. As with refrigeration, be sure to seal the pizza before freezing it to avoid having toppings leak out. Sealing the pizza well will also prevent it from getting freezer burn.

How To Reheat Leftover Pizza

There are a few ways to reheat pizza once it’s been frozen or refrigerated.  

If you have stored your leftover pizza in the freezer, you will need to let it thaw for around an hour before you begin heating it. 

Here are, by far, the best 3 ways to reheat your leftover pizza:

1.      Reheating Leftover Pizza In The Oven

This is a frozen pizza in an electric oven.

The oven is definitely the most efficient way to reheat a large amount of leftover pizza. If you have half or more of a pizza to heat up, it’s worth the effort and energy of powering up the oven, which is large enough to do all the heating in one go. 

If you are only heating a slice or two, it may be a little overkill to use. In that case, either use a toaster oven or check out our number 2 and 3 best ways to heat leftover pizza.

For the best way to reheat pizza in the oven, follow these fool-proof steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Place the pizza, crust down, on a piece of foil or a baking tray
  • Put the foil or tray on the middle rack
  • Bake your pizza for around 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melting

Note: For a crispier crust, bake for a little longer!

2.      Reheating Leftover Pizza In The Microwave

A woman putting a frozen pizza in the microwave.

Okay, this is not a popular option. Soggy pizza is not what we consider good food. However, there is actually a way to microwave leftover pizza and still have it taste pretty good.

Since microwaves heat food from the inside out and use water particles to raise the temperature, the moist sauce tends to get the hottest, effectively steaming the slice. This leaves the pie part soggy and the crust so hard you can barely eat it.

The trick is to fool the microwave into redirecting some of its energy elsewhere in the oven, resulting in a more evenly spread heating effect and a better-tasting piece of pizza.

Here is your guide to heating leftover pizza in the microwave:

  • Place your slice of pizza on a plate
  • Add a microwave-safe cup or mug of water to the plate to distract the microwave
  • Heat your slice on high for 30-40 seconds, while watching it does not overheat
  • If all goes well, the microwave will heat up the water, leaving some of the moisture in your pizza. The cheese should begin to get melted, and the crust should be left edible

Note: If you are after the speed of a microwave but still want a crispy crust, you can place the slice in a toaster oven once it’s heated.

3.      Reheating Leftover Pizza In A Skillet

This is a piece of small pizza on a large skillet.

Reheating pizza in a skillet on the stovetop is a much-loved method, and for good reason. The evenly spread heat allows for great heating, and you can control the temperature, keeping it low and steady as you wait.

The trick with this one is to keep the temperature low and keep the skillet covered. You will be tempted to peek inside, but don’t. Trust the process and know that you will have a delicious slice or two once it’s done.

How to reheat leftover pizza in a skillet:

  • Place 1 or 2 slices of pizza in a skillet, crust down (no oil or water needed)
  • Set the stove plate to low
  • Secure the lid on the skillet
  • Set the timer for 5-8 minutes

Note: You may need to try a few cooking times for this one, as variables like the make of the oven, type of skillet, etc., will affect the time needed for the perfect slice.

Go with the method that makes sense to you, or give them all a try and decide once you’ve tasted the results.

How To Store Leftover Pizza Dough

This is a ball of pizza dough wrapped in plastic.

If you are a talented chef in the making and have gone to great lengths to make your own pizza from scratch, you have likely been left with a little (or a lot) of extra dough. Dumping it in the trash is not an option (unless it was an epic fail, in which case, be our guest!) so let’s look at how you can store it effectively. That way, you can use it again when inspiration and hunger strike again.

 The great news is that pizza dough is often made ahead of time. That means that it is literally made to be kept. The best place for your leftover pizza dough is in the refrigerator. In this icy haven, it will last up to 2 long weeks. To keep the dough from drying out, after 2 days, place tightly stretched plastic wrap around the dough while still in its bowl.  

 If you need to freeze your dough, wrap half-pound balls in plastic wrap and simply place them in the freezer. When it’s time to use the dough again, thaw the frozen balls in the fridge overnight.

The Best Container For Storing Leftover Pizza

This is a couple of air-tight plastic containers on a wooden table.

Some swear by storing pizza in an airtight container, while some suggest using plastic wrap around stacked pizza on a dinner plate. If your preference is a container, you may want to get clued up on what’s good and what’s not with this practice.

Most brands of plastic containers make boxes large enough to fit pizza slices for storage. Some have the added feature of a vent in the lid. This is to aid with reheating, as the container releases steam and helps prevent the pizza from becoming soggy. Keep the vent closed while storing your pizza in the refrigerator to avoid having the pizza dry out.

When storing leftover pizza in a plastic container, a definite no-no is simply placing the slices in the container. Place a paper towel at the bottom before lowering the pizza slices into the container. This will soak up extra juices and oil and help keep the pizza from becoming too soggy.

A must with this process is keeping toppings separate.  If you have ordered a variety of toppings, store them in separate containers to avoid having the flavors mix into an unrecognizable taste. This practice will also assist you if you have vegans or vegetarians in the house.  Most vegans and vegetarians will not eat food that has been stored with a meat dish, so be sure to keep meaty pizza separate from vegetable ones.

A huge pro to using an airtight container for leftover pizza storage is that your refrigerator will not adopt the smell of a pizza oven or café. Keeping the scents and flavor locked away will help keep your refrigerator smelling clean and fresh.

The Low-Down On Storing Leftover Pizza

A couple of leftover cheese pizzas on a plate.

Some say that pizza does not need to be refrigerated, but if you want to err on the side of caution, go with the science on this matter and keep your slices locked away. It’s a pretty easy process to neatly stack and wrap leftover pizza for safe storage in either the refrigerator or freezer. Going to this small amount of effort will guarantee you a great-tasting meal when it comes to eating your leftovers.

Resources:

Fitday: Myth or Fact: Leftover Pizza is Okay to Leave Out

The Independent: Absolutely the Best Way to Store and Reheat Leftover Pizza

The Spruce Eats: Top Ways to Reheat Leftover Pizza

Fine Cooking: Made Ahead Pizza Dough