The Best (and Worst) Foods to Get Delivered, According to Chefs

Woman unpacking takeaway food delivery


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Woman unpacking takeaway food delivery

Order Wisely

If there’s anything we’ve gotten really good at over the past year, it’s ordering takeout. But as we’ve probably come to realize, all delivery orders are not created equal. That pizza or curry may taste fantastic after it’s delivered, but a steak and fries? Probably not. We consulted chefs for a quick primer on foods most likely to satisfy, as well as the dishes that might disappoint. 

Related: The One Thing Restaurants Wish You Would Do Before Ordering Delivery

Thai cuisine, take away street food, tom yam soup

Best: Soups and Stews

Good news for comfort-food fans: Hot, steamy bowls of soup and stew will be tasty even after a long ride to your house. “They hold heat really well, so you don't need to worry about any quality loss,” says Jack Slobodian, a professional chef and food blogger. “Saucy proteins and vegetables like Thai curries and chili are also a great option,” agrees Jim Mumford, a chemical engineer and cookbook author. “Liquid stays hot, generally does not change consistency, and can reheat very easily. So soups, pho, and the like are the best thing to have delivered.”

Related: Hearty Casserole and Stew Recipes That Reheat Well

Microwave Dinner -Spaghetti Marinara

Worst: Most Pasta

Pasta can be good leftover, but it doesn’t make for great takeout. “A properly made pasta in a restaurant is served at the perfect moment where there’s plenty of sauce and the noodles are al dente,” says Devan Cameron, chef and owner of Braised & Deglazed. “When you package pasta for delivery, the noodles soak up the sauce and continue to cook. The result is an over-cooked pasta with very little sauce left.” And who wants to eat gooey, undersauced noodles? We’ll pass. 

Related: Creative Ways to Spice Up Leftovers

Lasagna takeaway package- Healthy Italian food in foil box
Chicken Strips with French Fries

Worst: Fried Foods

We love French fries as much as the next person, but they’re best reserved for wolfing down after you pull away from the drive-thru. “When fried foods are covered for delivery, they steam. The steam destroys the crispiness of foods and can quickly turn your fries into a soggy mess,” Cameron says. “Things like tempura, fries, nachos, and pretty much all bar foods lose their crispness when delivered.” Moral of the story: Pass on these guilty pleasures until you can enjoy them in all of their crisp, greasy glory. 

Related: This Chain’s French Fries Beat McDonald’s in Our Taste Test

Chinese take away boxes

Best: Asian Food

Craving Chinese? Thai? Sushi? There are more winners than losers here, experts say. “From my experience, Asian dishes generally hold up quite well for takeout,” says Angie Chung, co-founder of BakingHow. “They usually come in very sturdy containers with multiple compartments so your food doesn’t mix unintendedly.” This can be a safer way to get your noodle fix, experts say, since Asian noodle dishes including chow mein typically aren’t as sauce-heavy and won’t get overly soggy. Sushi and poke are also good options, Cameron says. “They will need to be eaten the same day, as the next day the rice will dry out and you also don't want to eat old raw fish.”

Related: Hacks to Make Instant Ramen More Delicious

Egg Benedict - Poached egg with smoked salmon on toasted with fresh hollandaise sauce, Delicious homemade breakfast.
Food Photographer/istockphoto

Worst: Eggs and Butter Sauces

Be careful, brunch lovers: We’re coming for your favorites. “If you’ve ever tried to order eggs benedict to go, you’ve probably noticed how it’s just not the same as in the restaurant,” Cameron cautions. “Poached eggs and hollandaise need to be at the perfect warm temperature and served right away. The problem is they can’t be reheated well without splitting the sauce or overcooking the eggs.” If eggs are a must, an omelette is a better bet for delivery, he says.

Related: Simple Ways to Cook Eggs

Fast food restaurant menu.Smoked pork ribs in sauce
Gennadiy Kravchenko/istockphoto

Best: Barbecue

What if you just gotta have some sauce, though? Barbecue may be your answer. “You can never go wrong ordering this food,” says chef Carolyn Timbers of Kitchen Gadgets Maven. “Barbecues can lock in their flavorful sauce and smoky taste throughout a delivery. Even if served a bit cold, barbecues still taste amazing.” And as any barbecue lover knows, the leftovers can be legendary. 

Related: Bucket List Barbecue in Every State

Helthy food delivery of coil cooking meat, fish and vegetables

Worst: Steak and Grilled Meat

Take note, carnivores. While barbecue is delivery friendly, the same isn’t true for other meats. “It is literally impossible to have delivered meat arrive at the proper doneness,” Mumford says. “Carryover cooking is a thing, and in that car ride, the meat will rest in its own styrofoam oven.” If you simply must have a slab of meat delivered, he advises going down a notch from your preferred doneness (for instance, from medium to medium rare) to account for the cooking that happens en route. 

Related: Where to Order Pork, Steaks, and Other Meats Online

Takeout Chicken Tacos in White Takeout Paper Container
Sanghwan Kim/istockphoto

Best: Mexican Food

If it’s always Taco Tuesday in your house, good news: Most Mexican food will be just as tasty when it’s delivered as it would be at the restaurant. “Mexican dishes all hold up fairly well to delivery,” Mumford says. “Tacos, burritos, and the like were meant to be street and travel foods, so they will be just fine.” Cameron says flour tortillas might be a better bet than hard shells, which could lose their crispness in transit. Also, toppings like guacamole or salsa are best packaged on the side to keep things from getting soggy.

Related: Where to Order Good Cheap Burritos in Every State

Plastic package with healthy chicken salad with avocado , tomatoes and pomegranate to take away

Worst: Salad

The good news about salad: If packaged well, with ingredients and condiments separated, a salad can hold up fairly well for delivery. The bad news about salad: That rarely happens (and honestly, who wants to toss their own salad?). “I have not had a great experience with salad delivery simply because fresh ingredients like lettuce can easily and quickly get soggy, even if it’s packaged without dressing,” Chung says. 

Related: Quick and Easy Cold Salads For People Who Hate Lettuce

Jimmy John's The J.J. Gargantuan
Klemens T./Yelp

Best: Subs and Wraps

If your lust for lettuce is too strong, adding some carbs to those veggies may be the answer. “I’ve had good experiences getting sub sandwiches and different wraps delivered,” Chung says. “They are usually tightly wrapped with foil, and then with a layer of greaseproof wax paper. In some cases, they are placed inside of a fitted insulated delivery bag to keep warm.” 

Related: Where to Find a Good, Cheap Sandwich in Every State

pan fried tilapia with asian slaw and roasted potatoes

Worst: Seafood

Seafood is a big category, but use caution. “Fully cooked fish like in takeout fish and chips will be fine, but I'd stay clear of shellfish or any medium-rare salmon fillets,” Cameron says. “Fish that's not fully cooked needs to be eaten right away; otherwise, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. I'd also avoid most shellfish, as it doesn't reheat very well.” As always, fried seafood will fare the worst when it comes to taste, he says. “Don't even try to order calamari for takeout because it will be soggy and horrible.”

Related: Amazing Seafood Shacks Across America

Image of home delivery pizza in a paper box
kazuma seki/istockphoto

Best: Pizza

Duh, right? There’s a reason that pizza delivery figures so prominently into the busy weeknights of households across the nation. “Like soup, pizza is hearty and can hold up to long drives, even held at any temperature.” Mumford says. “Plus, pizza is super easy to warm up — or, let’s face it, eat cold!” 

Related: The Most Common Complaint About Pizza Delivery

Box of four flavors ice cream

Worst: Ice Cream and Shakes

Frozen treats are a delivery risk for fairly obvious reasons. Cameron emphasizes that some restaurants will be a better bet than others — namely, quick-service places. “I wouldn't order ice cream from a regular restaurant because they're probably not prepared for it like other fast-food chains who've had tons of experience with takeout food.” You can also minimize your risk by ordering a whole pint, if available, instead of scooped ice cream, Slobodian says. “Tubbed ice cream is more compact and the packaging is very cold. Scooped ice cream is less compact and placed in a room temperature takeaway box, and was most likely scooped out of a tub with a hot ice cream scoop.” Another better bet for something cold, he says: Smoothies.

Related: The Best Fast Food Chocolate Milkshake

Delicious cheesecake in eco packaging, food and dessert delivery concept

Best: Cakes, Pies, and Cookies

On the other hand, most other desserts, including pies, cookies, and pastries, will be just fine. “All of these desserts are great for takeout because they are generally served at room temperature and won't need to be kept warm,” Cameron says. “You can save them the next day by wrapping them in plastic or storing them in a sealed glass jar.” Mumford agrees, though he says you might want to steer clear of complicated desserts with a lot of components. He also cautions that you’ll be paying dearly to satisfy your sweet tooth with a takeout dessert. “The markup for a delivered slice of cheesecake, for example, is hefty,” he says. “You may be better off getting one from the bakery directly.” 

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