Tips & Recipes for BBQ Leftovers

bbq leftovers tips & recipes

When it comes to barbecuing, it’s easy to cook more than you need. Whether you’re entertaining guests or grilling for your family, there’s a chance — however slim it may be — that you’ll have some leftovers. It may be tempting to toss them in the microwave for the sake of convenience, but your delicious BBQ deserves better. Don’t let that extra pulled pork, chicken breast or rib rack go to waste — use it to make a new dish. With your leftover meat, you can improve upon an old classic or find a new favorite.

Whatever you choose to do with it, it’s essential that you store your extras correctly to ensure they maintain the best flavor and keep well. It’s nearly just as important to reheat them properly. If you’re not sure how, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll provide you with directions to store and reheat barbecue for the best results and tips for what to do with leftover BBQ. 

How to Store Your BBQ

When you have leftover barbecue, you have two main options — use it right away or store it to use at a later date. If you don’t have much left and have a dish in mind that you can use it in, it’s worth putting it in your refrigerator. As long as you make the recipe or finish it up within a few days, your meat should keep well without any food waste. 

For optimal meat safety, be sure to refrigerate within two hours of its temperature dropping below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Things like pulled pork, chicken, brisket and ribs will keep better in shallow containers. They allow the meat to cool off faster, reaching the safe refrigeration point of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. The recommended time span to use your refrigerated leftovers within is three or four days.

If you’re not planning on using your leftovers within that period, it’s important to store them correctly. Your best option is to freeze the extras within the same two hour time frame. Freezing will allow you to keep your extra meat longer. Vacuum sealing your barbecue is the best option, though, as it can keep for two or three years without losing any flavor quality.

Depending on how much BBQ you have, you can even do a little of both. Find a recipe you can make in the next day or two or enjoy a second helping as is and freeze the rest. That way you can satisfy your second-day cravings without having to thaw the rest of your meat right away. You may also want to consider freezing several portions in separate containers if you have a lot to use so that you can pull out one container without having to thaw all of the meat. 

How to Reheat BBQ

Once you’ve refrigerated or frozen your leftovers, you can let them sit until you’re ready to use them. But when you do find the perfect recipe or you have a major hankering for barbecue, you should reheat them properly for the best results. If you put your meat in the fridge, the process shouldn’t take long, but if you stored it in the freezer, you’ll need to think ahead. 

Thawing

Putting your leftovers in the freezer will help them last much longer, but they’ll also need ample time to thaw out before you try to reheat anything. That being said, you should plan your meal well in advance so you can take the meat out of the freezer early enough. 

If you want to thaw the meat out slowly, you can keep it in the refrigerator for a day or so. The amount of time will depend on the size of your cut of meat. For example, ribs can take anywhere from six to eight hours to thaw fully, but a dense roast may take much longer. For faster thawing, you can leave them in a room temperature area or in a small container of cool water. Make sure the meat is completely unfrozen before trying to cook it. 

Reheating

Once you’ve thawed your meat — or if you’ve simply taken it out of the fridge — it’s time to move on to reheating. The best method to use for barbecue is low and slow. If you try to cook the meat too fast or with hot, dry heat, there’s a good chance it’ll lose its tenderness and moisture. You can also add BBQ sauce, stock or your liquid of choice to be sure it doesn’t turn out dry. It’ll also help bump up the flavor after freezing.

how to reheat ribs without drying out

There are several methods you can use to go about reheating shredded, sliced or smaller cuts of meat:

  • Oven or stove: To reheat it in the oven, 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit is a reliable range. Be sure to cover the meat so the top layer doesn’t dry out and it retains the juices. Check and stir it occasionally as well to promote even heating. You can do the same on a stovetop with a covered pan or skillet, but you’ll have to stir it more frequently. 
  • Grill: The same technique should work on a covered grill, using it like an oven and putting your leftovers in a covered cast-iron skillet. However, you shouldn’t use a smoker to reheat already cooked meat, as it takes much longer for the leftovers to reach a safe internal temperature and will dry them out in the process.
  • Microwave: You’re also welcome to use a microwave oven, but it’s certainly not the best option. Microwaves tend to heat unevenly, meaning you’ll have to stir the meat more frequently and pull it out to check it often. It also tends to dry out meats, so a cover — and potentially some additional liquid or sauce — is necessary. 

Regardless of what method you choose, be sure to check the internal temperature with a thermometer. You’ll want the meat to hit a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be sure it’s safe to eat. 

While certain cuts are easy to shred and heat up in an oven, pan or grill, others may take a little more care. Racks of ribs and full steaks, for example, are more difficult to reheat, considering it can cook them further and change the level of doneness — yes, that is the term. If the heat is too high, the meat will shrink and become tough. 

Here’s the not-so-secret-secret of how to reheat ribs without drying them out: Wrap the ribs in foil with plenty of sauce or stock to keep them moist and put them in an oven or grill at about 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Then uncover to finish. 

Leftover BBQ Dishes

Barbecue is always best when it’s fresh from the grill or smoker. You know the feeling of pulling something from the coals and how good that first bite always tastes. But leftover BBQ makes an excellent addition to or subject for new recipes. Regardless of what you have leftover, you can repurpose it in something just as delicious. It also saves a lot of time, as half your cooking is already taken care of.

Pork

Pork is not only versatile meat, but there are also plenty of cuts to work with. Whether you’re holding on to the last half-rack of ribs or saving that pulled pork barbecue, you can use your leftovers to make countless dishes. There are plenty of leftover BBQ pork recipes to try. 

Pork Pita Wraps

Reheating plain cuts of pork can be unexciting, but by adding new flavors and sauces, you can make your pork roast or chops into a dish you’ve never tackled in your kitchen. For those who love the classic street truck Gyro, you can make a similar dish at home. 

Reheat your pork meat and cut it into small chunks or long, thin slices — whichever style you prefer. Then, warm up a flat pita, add the pork, diced tomato, onion, lettuce and tzatziki sauce for that delicious Greek flavor. You can use storebought tzatziki or make it yourself, as it’s essentially a yogurt dip base with cucumber and dill. If you want to make them slightly more authentic, you can season the pork with sumac, which adds a slightly sour taste.

Pulled Pork Macaroni and Cheese

Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? It’s a dish that almost anyone can make well, and it takes little time and preparation. But with tender pulled pork on top, it’s on a whole new level. Take your noodle shape of choice, boil it until it’s al dente and drain the water. To create your cheese sauce, melt butter in a pan and incorporate flour, milk and your shredded cheese. 

what to do with leftover bbq mac and cheese

Once it’s well combined, you can take it off the heat and toss your pasta into it. Then, put the macaroni in a shallow baking pan, top it with your leftover pulled pork and panko breadcrumbs if you so desire, and let it bake. It’s fast, simple and a dish anyone will enjoy. 

Pork Chop Suey

If you want to incorporate your leftover pork into a dish with a little more Asian flavor, chop suey is the way to go. It’s also a relatively healthy alternative packed with vegetables. You’ll essentially cook this like a stir fry, leaving a little crunch to the veggies but ensuring they’re cooked through. 

For the best flavor, use mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bok choy and bell pepper. If you’re not a big fan of bok choy, you can easily use broccoli instead. Stir fry your vegetables in a pan, add in your reheated pork and make a pot of rice — and you’ve got a filling meal.

Chicken

Chicken in any form is delicious and super versatile. With a few grilled breasts or legs, sauced or rubbed, you can create a new and delicious dish to serve your family or keep to yourself. The best part about chicken? You don’t even need to reheat it for it to be tasty. If you’re deciding what to do with leftover BBQ chicken, you have a countless number of options. 

what to do with leftover bbq chicken caesar salad

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

It’s a classic any grilled chicken fan has likely encountered before — the caesar salad. It’s crisp, light and might be refreshing during the summer or to switch things up after a meat-centric barbecue party. It’s a great way to get in your daily servings of vegetables without sacrificing flavor. Plus, it’s super easy to put together. 

Rinse and chop your lettuce into a forkable size and place it in a big bowl. You can add dressing and stop there or toss it with anchovies and grated parmesan. Depending on how much time you want to devote to it, you can also make your own caesar dressing. Once you’ve given it a good toss, add your croutons and sliced chicken to the top. If you leave the chicken cold, you can put it on at any time, but if you heat it, put it on right before serving.

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Your grilled chicken is too good to waste on boring leftover sandwiches. But there’s nothing boring about well-made chicken salad — especially when you have grilled leftovers to use. First, shred or chop your meat and mix-ins. Celery is a classic staple of chicken salad, but you can also add green onion, grapes and dill to amp up the flavor. 

Put all your chopped items into a bowl and dress them with a mixture of mayonnaise and sour cream or plain yogurt. Season the blend with a healthy amount of salt and pepper, and add any other spices you want, such as cumin, cilantro or cayenne. Once you’ve given it all a good stir, you can pile it on your favorite bread or eat it with a spoon — there’s no judgment from us. 

Tandoori Chicken Breast

Want to add a little more variety to your dinner plans? You can make an excellent tandoori-spiced chicken dish. First, you’ll have to create the spice paste for your chicken. Tandoori seasoning calls for salt, onion, garlic powder, ground ginger, coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric and white pepper, all combined with vegetable oil. Spread the paste on your chicken prior to reheating. 

Once you’ve got the chicken spiced and hot, you can put it on a warm pita and eat it as is, or you can add tomato jam and herbed yogurt. The latter is easy to make — mix a cup of Greek yogurt with chopped mint and cilantro leaves and salt and pepper to taste. The tomato jam may take a bit longer, but it’s a flavorful addition to the meal. 

Beef

Second-day steak isn’t as good plain as it is fresh off the grill, and cooking it can be tricky if you want to keep the same level of doneness. It’s all about choosing the right recipe and pairing the meat with the right flavors. You can also use many beef dishes as leftover barbecued ribs recipes, as long as you cut the meat off the bone. 

what to do with leftover bbq beef

Steak Sandwich

Steak sandwiches are easy, delicious, filling and only take one pan to make. They’re also very customizable, so you can easily cater to the tastes of multiple guests. Cut your steak into strips and toss them in a pan to fry them. Be careful not to overcook because you still want the meat to be moist. To add more flavor and stretch the steak further, you can sautee mushrooms, peppers or onions in the same pan. 

Once it’s almost fully cooked, you can add cheese and cover it to melt if you so desire. If you think your meat might be a little dry, you can heat it with barbecue or tomato sauce to provide more moisture. Portion out your mix into rolls and you’ve got an excellent steak sandwich worth sharing. You can amp up the flavor with recipes that include Dijon mustard, horseradish, arugula and parmesan, but there’s nothing wrong with the classics. 

Tacos or Fajitas

Taco night is a classic and a great way to use up that leftover barbecue. While steak is an excellent choice of meat, you can also make the same meal with pork or chicken — or a little of each. It’s a fun food with versatility and no shortage of flavor. Slice or shred your beef cut and toss it in a bowl with taco or fajita seasonings and a little oil to help it stick. You can either use your own blend of spices or use the pre-blended spice packets. If you do purchase the packets, follow the directions listed, as they may have you use water.

Then, fry up your taco or fajita meat in a pan and serve it with plenty of toppings and hard shells or soft tortillas. Put out plenty of cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, beans, sauteed peppers, sauces and avocado. Having a taco party is an easy way to follow up any barbecue get together and use your leftovers in the process. 

Meat Sauce 

Leftover beef gives you plenty of options to work with in terms of recipes. There’s even a use for those leftover hamburgers. Making meat sauce is an easy way to reuse that cooked ground beef without drying it out or simply reheating it as a burger. All you have to do is chop up your patties into bits, toss them in your favorite tomato-based sauce and simmer. At the same time, boil your noodles and drain them. You’ll have a nice pasta dinner ready in minutes. 

Cook Barbecue Worth Saving With Grilla Grills

When you’re preparing a beautiful cut of meat, you need a cooking method that complements it. Grilla Grills has pellet grills and smokers that rise to any occasion, from cooking for one to hosting the backyard bash of your dreams. With our top-quality, durable and temperature controlled units, you’ll be the neighborhood pro in no time. And with enough versatility to use them like an oven, you’ll be able to reheat your leftovers on the same grill. 

cook barbeque worth saving with grilla grills

With the Grilla Grills family, there’s no monkeying around — our jungle-direct pricing will provide you with competitively engineered grills and smokers without emptying your wallet. You’ll also have access to full support from our dedicated team.

Become a part of the family — browse our grills and smokers to find the perfect style for you, or contact us with any questions. 

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