Frozen dinners become extremely dry after reheating them, so much so that I choke on them while eating. Why could this possibly happen, and how can I avoid it?

I store them in the freezer (newish Samsung fridge/freezer combo), which is set to 0F, and they spend at most 1 week in the freezer. No signs of freezer burn.

I've tried:

  • Multiple brands, same results. Dishes I've tried (exact same ones): this or this

  • Microwave and oven heating per instructions on the box, same results. My oven is convection and my microwave is a regular 800W microwave (not inverter), which can be adjusted down to 600W.

  • Reducing power and increasing time in the microwave, same results. Example: 400g rice+chicken meal, box says 6 min at 750W, I do 6:25 at 700W.

I've not tried:

  • Reheating in the microwave with a glass of water inside. I'm concerned about 1) superheated water and 2) food becoming unsafe to eat due to most of the energy going to the water rather than the food.

  • Adding fresh water to the frozen meal before reheating it. Same concern as 2) above. Won't energy be spent in heating the extra water rather than the food itself, thereby making it unsafe?

  • What's your microwave's rated power, and what power are the instructions written for?
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 15:16
  • Please see edits: > (...) My oven is convection and my microwave is a regular 800W microwave (not inverter), which can be adjusted down to 600W. > (...) Example: 400g rice+chicken meal, box says 6 min at 750W, I do 6:25 at 700W.
    – endimper
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 16:40
  • Seems odd. Also: what sort of foods - stuff like curry should be fine though the rice compartment may get a little dry
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 16:42
  • @ChrisH chicken and rice, or chicken and potatoes.
    – endimper
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 16:43
  • chicken in sauce, or just a bare piece of chicken? An overcooked chicken breast could end up quite dry, for example
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


This is going to sound odd, but there was a recommendation on TikTok recently about putting an ice cube in your food to be reheated, and then remove it once it’s hot.

This gives you just a little bit of steam to keep your food from drying out, without adversely affecting the time in the microwave by heating up a bunch of water.

America’s Test Kitchen had an explanation of it in which they said the surface moisture on the ice evaporates, but the frozen ice doesn’t actually get heated by the microwaves. (Which also explains why want to thaw frozen foods before trying to heat them in a microwave)

And of course, you want to cover your food to hold the steam in near the food, especially if you have a larger microwave. There are a few companies that make plastic covers that are slightly vented that can be put over plates or bowls. (I have one with magnets, that sticks to the top of my microwave when not in use)

  • An interesting idea, and certainly ice isn't as good at absorbing microwaves as liquid water, but the explanation you cite doesn't fully hold either - microwave defrosting is quite successful (thankfully, as I want soup for lunch and forget to take it out of the freezer last night)
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 10:31
  • @ChrisH It might be that the other stuff that isn’t ice still heats up, slowly melting the ice, but trying to heat a frozen food item on full power from a high wattage microwave is likely to either leave a frozen center or a dry exterior. (Liquids or foods frozen in sauce being a possible exception). For solid hunks of food, low power for longer is better, and for stuff that’s in multiple pieces, bursts of heat and stirring occasionally… or even just periods of rest to let the heat distribute in between bursts of heat
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 13:08
  • 1
    full power defrosting unless you frequently break up the food, demonstrates nicely that microwaves don't penetrate very far, but do penetrate a bit. I tend to set 10 mins at quite low power and walk away. I think the ice cube trick works because the food it's next to absorbs most of the energy (apart from anything else the ice cube is a small fraction of the mass), while the ice cube provides a slow steady amount of moisture from the surface. It takes a fair bit of energy just to bring the ice up to 0°C even before it starts to melt so there's a sort of thermal reserve
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 13:13
  • 1
    Ready meals with rice, here, have two compartments, and you're supposed to add a little water to the rice. But I don't think it's that sort of dryness TBH. If the chicken gets as bad as the OP suggests (in the middle), the rice would be little bullets
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 13:15

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