How to Reheat Meatballs: 4 Best Ways

Meatballs are a well-known and loved dish. They work as an accompaniment to many a meal, yet they also work as a main entrée.

One of my top comfort foods is a delicious bowl of pasta, covered by vibrant marinara sauce and layered with meatballs throughout.

I’ll be honest though, if it isn’t made with homemade meatballs, I never enjoy it as much. Because of this, I love to make a big batch of meatballs to store for later use.

However, reheating meatballs can be tricky. We’ve all done it incorrectly and ended up with tough, overcooked meatballs that resemble shoe leather! 

The good news is that I’ve done it enough to devote some time to learn how to avoid it.

In this article I’ll share the 4 best ways to reheat meatballs. Follow these step-by-step guides for tender, moist, light, reheated meatballs!

Can You Reheat Cooked Meatballs?

Whether they’re made with pork, beef, lamb, or turkey, meatballs are delicious, and we want to savor them as much as we can. But is it actually safe to reheat cooked meatballs? 

Well, as you suspected, and probably have done in the past, you can reheat cooked meatballs. There are, however, proper and improper methods for doing so.

Reheating doesn’t mean recooking. Though it seems simple, this is often overlooked.

A meatball should be heated just enough to where it’s warm whilst retaining its moisture. Overheated meatballs tend to be rubbery and dry. If you underheat the meatballs, you’ll notice a cold or frozen center.

Only reheat meatballs that have been properly stored in the fridge.

If left at room temperature for more than two hours, bacteria will quickly spread, making them unsafe to eat. Discard meatballs that have been left out over 2 hours. Only properly stored cooked meatballs can be reheated.

Reheating Meatballs With and Without Sauce

The reheating process is different depending on whether you’re reheating meatballs with or without spaghetti sauce. The reheating process will affect the dish’s flavor and texture, so using the right one is essential.

In each of the methods below, I’ll explain how to reheat with and without sauce.

How to Reheat Leftover Meatballs

The method in which you reheat your leftover meatballs makes all the difference. Reheating meatballs requires a balance. Do not overheat or underheat them, as it will negatively affect the dish you’ve worked so hard on. 

There is more than one right method for reheating meatballs. I’ll tell you about four possible ways to reheat them.

You can reheat your cooked meatballs in an oven, microwave, crockpot, or on the stove. The two best reheating methods for meatballs with sauce are done in the microwave or on the stovetop. Meatballs without sauce should ideally be reheated in the oven. However, if you’re in a rush, you can use the microwaving method.

If the meatballs are frozen, you may keep them in the fridge overnight or soak them in water in a waterproof bag. You can use any of the reheating methods to heat thawed meatballs. If reheated frozen, it will take longer to heat up. 

On the Stove

Using the stove to reheat meatballs works great. However, there are specific methods you should use when reheating plain or sauced meatballs on the stove.

With Sauce

If you want to serve meatballs with marinara sauce or gravy, reheat them on the stovetop combined. This is how to do it properly:

  • Put the meatballs and sauce in a pan.
  • Cook them over a low to medium heat. 
  • To loosen the sauce, add a few tablespoons of water. I recommend doing this gradually.
  • Let the sauce slowly simmer whilst stirring till the meatballs are warmed all the way through.
  • Reheat refrigerated meatballs for 10 minutes and frozen meatballs for 20.
  • Ensure that the internal temperature of the meatballs is 165°F (74°C) using a cooking thermometer.
  • Serve and enjoy!

How long you should heat them depends on the number of meatballs you’re heating. If it’s only a handful, heat them for about 10 minutes. If you’re heating a large number of meatballs, increase the cooking time. The key thing is that the internal temperature is 165°F, so keep checking.

Heating on the stovetop is a gentle way to reheat the meatballs, as the sauce will keep them from drying and maintain their flavor. If you find the sauce starting to dry out, add in a bit of water.

If you’d like, cut the meatballs in half to reduce heating time. In addition, make sure that the pan is big enough for the sauce to surround spread-out meatballs.

Without Sauce

Without much sauce, the stove isn’t the best method for reheating meatballs. The meatballs will fry instead of heat up.

However, if you do want to reheat plain meatballs on the stove, it can be done. This is what you’ll need to do:

  • Fill a pan with water or stock.
  • Submerge the meatballs.
  • Heat the liquid on low heat.
  • Keep water from boiling, but allow a gentle simmer.
  • Heat for 8-10 minutes (15-20 minutes if frozen) while stirring occasionally.
  • Once heated all the way through, serve.

In the Oven

Reheating in the oven is one of the best methods for plain meatballs. This process takes a longer time than the previous method. However, it is a hassle-free way to heat a large number of meatballs.

With Sauce

Reheating meatballs with sauce in the oven requires you to:

  • Put sauce and spread-out meatballs on a baking tray.
  • Pour a bit of water into the meatballs and sauce to loosen it.
  • Cover them with foil to retain moisture.
  • Heat to about 300°F (150°C) for 15 to 25 minutes (frozen meatballs will need about 25-35 minutes).
  • Halfway through, check on the meatballs and turn them.
  • Add more water to the sauce as needed.
  • Check the internal temperature of meatballs.
  • If they have reached 165°F (74°C), they’re ready to serve!

Without Sauce

To properly reheat plain meatballs in the oven, this is what you’ll need to do:

  • Spread meatballs out on a baking tray.
  • Sprinkle a few tablespoons of water on them.
  • Cover them with foil.
  • Heat to about 300°F (150°C) for 15 to 25 minutes.
  • Halfway through, check the meatballs and turn them.
  • Check the internal temperature of meatballs.
  • If they have reached 165°F (74°C), serve.

In the Microwave

The microwave is an efficient way to reheat meatballs. It is by far the quickest of all the methods. However, you need to take care to make sure you don’t dry them out or overcook them.

To reheat plain or sauced meatballs in the microwave, you’ll need to:

  • Place meatballs in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Sprinkle with water.
  • Cover the bowl using pierced plastic wrap.
  • Set the microwave to 50% power.
  • Heat for 30-second intervals until thoroughly heated, about 1-2 minutes (5 minutes if frozen).

Putting the microwave at 50% power means you’ll slow down the reheating process. This gives you a better chance to avoid overcooking the meatballs. The lower setting will warm them from the middle. 

In a Crockpot

Reheating meatballs in a crockpot is another option. However, this option isn’t as does take longer than the rest.

Keep in mind that meatballs with sauce require a gentler reheating approach. Often, people will use a crockpot to reheat frozen meatballs since the extra time allows them to be thoroughly reheated during the day.

Most often, meatballs will turn out tender after being reheated in the crockpot. For this reheating method, you’ll need to:

  • Add meatballs to the crockpot.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients (sauce, if present).
  • Cook at warm setting, or between 145-165 degrees, for 2 hours, or 4-6 hours if frozen.
  • Keep checking to see if they have thoroughly been reheated.

Can You Reheat Meatballs Twice?

Sometimes, we reheat too many meatballs, which leaves us in a dilemma. Do I store it and reheat it again later, or do I throw them out?

While some foods can be reheated several times, meatballs should only be reheated once. 

How to Store Leftover Meatballs

Improper storage of leftover meatballs will cause their quality to deteriorate. It also poses a potential health risk. If not properly stored, meatballs should never be reheated and instead should be discarded. 

Cooked meatballs should never be left at room temperature as bacterial growth and multiplication will occur. If kept for longer than two hours at room temperature, discard the meatballs. Instead, you should directly place the meatballs in the fridge. This will lengthen their shelf life.

Cooked meatballs should be kept in a shallow airtight container. If that is not available, you can use heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap to wrap them tightly before refrigerating. If stored correctly, the leftover meatballs will last about four days. By that time, however, sauced meatballs will have probably become a bit soggy.

An alternative storage method for leftover meatballs is freezing them. If done correctly, this will extend their shelf life to about 3-4 months. Just place the meatballs in a freezer-safe bag, label them, and stick it in the freezer. If you don’t have freezer-safe bags, you could use airtight containers or aluminum foil to wrap the leftovers tightly.

Before reheating your meatballs, always check for any changes in texture or smell. For example, if they have a slimy texture or sour smell, you should throw them out.