Reheat Tater Tots in an oven, will come out nice and crispy. Using an air fryer, as described in this post, they’re even crispier and better.
Whoever came up with the idea of tater tots should be knighted. They are so much fun, and kids think they are delicious. Actually, I do know who first came up with the idea.
Ore Ida, a branch of H.J. Heinz based in Ontario, Oregan, a company known as Sir Ore Ida.
Anyway, enough of food history. If you have some tater tots in your freezer (if not, why not? - kids love 'em), you might think you have to heat them in the oven.
Of course, you can, but it's a lot easier and quicker to heat them in an air fryer if you have one - and again, I have to ask the question - if not, why not?
Have you heard the myth that potato-based goodies cannot be reheated?
If you have, rest assured it is just that - a myth. Most potato products, including these lovely tater tots, can be easily reheated if you know how to.
So you never have to let your leftover tater tots go to waste.
If you've got any leftovers, knocking up a quick meal of fried chicken and tater tots is fast, easy, and most importantly, delicious.
If you'd like to know more about reheating these little golden potato nuggets, all you have to do is read on.
Avoid using the microwave.
I know that in many instances, the microwave is great for reheating leftovers. But not when it comes to tater tots, trust me.
It's the same with French fries. They, and tater tots too, are ruined when reheated in a microwave. In fact, it's probably how the rumor started that reheated potato products are not good.
All too often, you will either end up with a soggy mess or, if you nuke them for too long, a dry, inedible pile of what once were potato-based goodies.
How microwaving fried leftovers makes them lose their crispness
Microwaves heat things by activating the water molecules they contain.
These molecules then expand and rise to the surface, where they get mixed up with the outer layer of crunchy oil.
When potato products are fried adequately, the insides actually steam inside a crispy exterior due to the high temperature.
But when you reheat products in your microwave, the temperature doesn't usually rise much higher than the boiling point.
What then happens is that the microwaving process agitates the water molecules inside the crispy outer, which then turns to steam and soaks what once was a crispy exterior.
The end result is sogginess. The water had migrated to and through the surface rather than being trapped inside when you initially fried it.
The best ways to reheat tater tots
So, avoid microwaving your tater tots at all costs, and instead, go for one of the following options.
Option 1 - in the oven
This is not the fastest way of reheating tater tots, but once you've tried it, I'm sure you will agree it's well worth the wait. What you will end up with is reheated golden brown heaven.
Here's what to do:
- Preheat your oven to a temperature of 350°F.
- While the oven is coming up to temperature, you can select an appropriate oven-safe dish into which you can then sprinkle the tater tots.
- Take some aluminum foil and cover the dish.
- Leave the tots to bake for between 15 to 25 minutes. The reason for the time spread is because all ovens are slightly different. You will need to check the tater tots from time to time to make sure they're not burning.
- Once they are properly reheated, serve and enjoy, but don't forget to cool them first by blowing on them; otherwise, you might burn your mouth.
Option 2 - in the frying pan
This option is quicker than reheating in the oven because you don't have to wait for the oven to get up to temperature, and the end result is infinitely better than reheating in the microwave.
Follow the steps:
- Coat the bottom of a skillet or frying pan with some cooking spray or oil - whichever you prefer.
- Position the skillet on the stovetop over medium to high heat.
- When hot enough, pour in the tater tots.
- Allow them to heat through for around one minute, then flip them over and cook them for the same time on the other side.
- Remove from the pan by tipping onto a sheet of paper kitchen towel and allow any excess oil to draw away.
- Serve, eat and enjoy.
The great thing about this method is that it recreates the tater tots' original crispiness.
Option 3 - my favorite option - in an air fryer
An air fryer is one of the top kitchen appliances around. As I said earlier, if you haven't yet gotten one, you ought to.
You can buy them for approximately $70. Check out these models on the consumereports.org website.
When it comes to reheating tater tots, here's what to do:
- Preheat your air fryer to a temperature of 350°F. Because air fryers are a lot smaller than conventional ovens, you can bring the temperature up much quicker.
- Tip your tater tots into the air fryer basket, locate the basket inside the air fryer, close the lid, and cook for approximately 5 minutes.
- When ready, serve, eat and enjoy.
I said earlier that tater tots reheated in a conventional oven come out nice and crispy. But when you reheat them in an air fryer, as described above, they're even crispier and better.
Can tater tots be air-fried from frozen?
They sure can. In fact, I believe this is the best way to cook them.
- Preheat your air fryer to a temperature of 350°F.
- Spray the air fryer's wire basket with oil. I like using avocado oil spray made by Chosen Foods. I like it because it has a high smoke point. Also, please note that air fryer manufacturers do not recommend using non-stick oils in their products.
- Pour the frozen tater tots straight from the freezer into your pre-oiled air fryer basket.
- Sprinkle with a liberal helping of salt. If you're concerned about the amount of salt you eat, you can buy unseasoned tater tots and sprinkle them with low-sodium salt.
- Air fry for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the tater tots from time to time to ensure they cook evenly.
When the cooking time is up, you will be serving the best-ever tater tots with a lovely crispy outer and soft fluffy inner.
Why use oil in your air fryer?
Now hang on a minute; what's all this about using oil in your air fryer. Surely, judging by its name, an air fryer uses hot air to fry foods?
Yes, it does. However, you don't want the food to stick to the wire basket, and that is why you should spray the basket with oil.
The good thing is that you only need a fraction of the quantity of the oil that you would use if you were deep fat frying in the conventional sense.
You don't have to use oil to air fry certain frozen foods, and these include the likes of chicken nuggets, French fries, pizza rolls, and tater tots.
All of these already have a certain amount of oil in them as a by-product of how they were made.
Even so, I have had these types of frozen foods stick to the wire basket before. So rather than take any chances, I use a small amount of avocado oil spray.
What is the meaning of smoking point when related to oil?
All fats and oils have a certain temperature at which they begin to smoke.
Unsurprisingly, this is known as their smoking point. Different oil products have different smoke points, with avocado oil spray being the highest, which is my favorite.
I've compiled a handy list below if you are unsure which one to use with your air fryer.
Take your pick from the following oils.
- Avocado - 570°F
- Ghee or clarified butter - 485°F
- Olive (extra light) - 468°F
- Soybean - 460°F
- Coconut - 450°F
- Peanut - 450°F
- Vegetable - 400°F
- Olive (extra virgin) - 375°F
- Butter - 200°F to 250°F
Why you shouldn't use non-stick cooking sprays in your air fryer
Some non-stick cooking sprays on the market (such as Pam) have additives that can damage the non-stick coating on air fryer baskets.
These additives include propellants which can cause non-stick coating to peel.
Is it necessary to always preheat your air fryer?
No, it is not always a necessity. You will, however, save yourself approximately 2 to 3 minutes in terms of cooking time if you do preheat your air fryer.
The exact time may vary slightly depending on the type of food you are cooking.
I usually preheat my air fryer, but it's a habit I've gotten into rather than an absolute necessity. You can choose whether or not to do so.
The fact that you don't necessarily have to preheat your air fryer is one of the beauties of them. Thanks to the fact that they only have small interior spaces, they are quick to heat up.
What's the best temperature for air frying frozen tater tots?
As indicated above, I cook my frozen tater tots at a temperature of 350°. When I first bought it, I followed the instructions and cooked the tots at a temperature of 400°F.
However, they browned too much for my liking, so I adjusted the temperature downwards. It also means that they burn less easily if you happen to take your eyes off them for a minute or two.
You can cook your tater tots at the temperature recommended by air fryer manufacturers - 400°F. It's no big deal to add 5 minutes to the cooking time when using a lower temperature.
But it does mean your need to keep a careful eye on them to make sure they don't burn.
Air fryer versus a conventional oven
- Pro - The air fryer method is far quicker as the preheating time is significantly less.
- Pro - Air fryers are more energy-efficient than conventional ovens
- Con - A conventional oven holds more tots than an air fryer
- Con - Foods need to be shaken during cooking and must be watched closely to avoid burning.
As you can see, there's not a huge difference between the pros and cons. Both methods entail having to wash up one piece of hardware.
But for me, when running a busy household with hungry kids baying to be fed at mealtimes, the quicker cooking time of air frying seals it.
What about the reheating of tater tots?
If you've got some leftover (refrigerated, not frozen), tater tots that you want to reheat, an air fryer is perfect for the job. Here's how:
- Preheat your air fryer to 350°F.
- Lightly spray the air fryer's wire basket with avocado oil or similar.
- Add the cold tater tots into the pre-oiled air fryer basket.
- Air fry for approximately 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the quantity.
- Don't forget to give the basket a little shake halfway through cooking time to ensure all the tots are evenly cooked through.
You'll find that even though the tater tots might have been a little soggy when you took them out of the fridge.
By the time you've finished air frying them, they will be lovely and crisp again - in fact, double-fried tater tots are one of my kids' favorites.
Tater tots with a difference
Tater tots are super simply air-fried with a bit of salt added. My kids also love to dip them in a little ketchup when they eat them. But you can get a little more creative with the spicing.
Consider these ideas:
- Sprinkle with a little cajun seasoning.
- Serve seafood tots - Sprinkle with some Old Bay seasoning and a teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Tots with garlic - Sprinkle with garlic and onion powder.
- Mexican taco tots - Sprinkle with cumin, chili powder, dried oregano, and garlic powder.
- Seasoned tots with a difference - Sprinkle with a little Lawry's Seasoning Salt.
Homemade tater tots recipe
Grated potatoes make up tater tots. You can serve these little bites as a replacement for French fried or as a side dish. It’s common for tater tots to be deep-fried, but others also air fry or bake them.
Check out the step-by-step instructions on how to make homemade tater tots on my other post.
What to serve with tater tots?
I want to finish this session on tater tots by discussing things you can serve with them - not that you need to. They are great on their own, in a sandwich, a panini, or as an appetizer.
But if you want to serve them up as a main meal, here are a few suggestions.
- fish sandwiches
- baked fish - breadcrumbed fish especially (Furikake Salmon)
- chicken Caesar salad
There are plenty of other things you can serve tater tots with, limited only by your imagination. They are a great alternative to French fries and saute potatoes.
If you haven't exposed your kids to them yet, be careful when you do. They will love them, and so will you.