Barbecue Leftovers

Store and Reheat Leftover Barbecue for a Second Perfect Meal

Variety of barbequed meats and ribs on cooker
Steve Cicero/Photolibrary/Getty Images

The one thing that true barbecue won’t allow is throwing extra food on the smoker at the last minute. Always prepare more than you need so you don’t have to worry about running out. Of course, this will leave you with leftovers more often than not. So what do you do with all this extra smoked meat?

Storage: If you are planning on finishing off your leftover smoked brisket, pulled pork or whatever in the next few days, wrap it tightly and keep it in the refrigerator.

If, on the other hand, you want to keep it for more than a few days seal it in a zip lock bag, removing as much air as possible. This will allow you to freeze the leftovers and keep them as much as three months.

The better method of storage is in vacuum sealed bags. This removes the air that will oxidize and cause freeze burning and creates a sealed package. Stored this way, barbecue will remain good in the freezer for as much as six months.

Reheating:When it comes to reheating leftover barbecue low and slow is still the rule. Re-smoking meats can cause them to become too bitter so your best bet is to warm leftovers in the oven. You do not need to reheat as low or as slow as you did the first time. An oven temperature around 300 degrees F will work great. Keep the meat wrapped to avoid drying it out. If you need to reheat it faster thaw the meat in the microwave on the proper thaw setting.

Be careful that the thawing doesn't actually start cooking the meat. Once defrosted, microwave the meat on a setting of 50%. The microwave with soften any crusty parts of the meat. Do not over cook and definitely do not use the full power setting.

The best method, however, for reheating barbecue is as low and slow as the original cook.

This process starts with barbecue that has been stored in vacuum sealed bags. There should be little to no air inside the bag and the meat should remain frozen, so no thawing. Place this sealed bag in hot water to reheat. The water temperature should be constant and steady at a temperature below 165 degrees F. It can be done at temperatures around 145 degrees F, but that will take a considerable amount of time to get it to temperatures. This process is known in the French as Sous Vide and it is the best process for reheating meat. It will take time though. At 165 degrees F, a large amount of barbecue can take 12 to 16 hours to reach full temperature. This is why, storing barbecue in smaller portions can be a good idea.

Properly reheated your barbecued meats should be just about as good as it was the day you first cooked it. But remember not to rush it. Also remember that smoked meats are a great addition to any chili, soup or stew (particularly Burnt Ends). You can also use smoked meat leftovers in almost any dish that uses meat. Mexican dishes are particularly good made with smoked meats. Personally, I love making Tamales.