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The best delivery food to order for a top-notch meal, ranked

Dig into meals that survive factors like travel time and packaging with our guide to the best delivery food to order

JP Karwacki
Written by
JP Karwacki
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Open up any app and it's filled with more meal options than you can eat in a year. The thing is, which of them make up the best delivery food to choose? These days you can order anything your heart desires and stomach demands, but only certain menu items meet the top criteria: The best delivery food should survive the travel time to your home in an appropriate takeout container, can be reheated in the microwave or oven without sacrificing (too much) quality, and is as comforting and delicious on arrival as you thought it'd be when ordering it in the first place. Save yourself from botching orders and become a master of the apps with these sure-fire bets.

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Here's every dish that's fit for delivery

Fried chicken
Photograph: Brian Chan / Unsplash

10. Fried chicken

Generally speaking, anything that gets fried in oil doesn't keep well in back of a delivery driver's bag, but fried chicken is just one of those enduring hankerings we get. If it's packaged well—and that can be a big if—so long as it's not soggy upon arrival (and that's possible!) a piece of crispy chicken either in a sandwich or by the drumstick can be incredibly satisfying. The reheating factor here can be problematic, and while chefs across the country are always improving recipes, fried chicken tends to be a coin toss. Satisying and satiating in ways no other food can, but a coin toss.

Sandwiches
Photograph: Eaters Collective / Unsplash

9. Sandwiches

Ah, the sandwich. A perfect unit of food. If a restaurant's got the courage to put a sandwich they'll swear by on the menu, it's likely worth it. However, there's a myriad of ways a sandwich can go wrong: Is it too dry? Too soggy? Not enough toppings? Too many toppings? That said, even with all of those potential pitfalls, most can travel and do so effectively, and can last until the next day at least. Some even benefit from a bit of mileage, like a Philly cheesesteak, smash burger or a bacon, egg and cheese, but even better if they come cold like an Italian muffuletta when bread's lightly soaking up the condiments. Most of all, there's variety. Best fo all: If at first your order does not succeed, try, try someplace else.

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Sushi and poké bowls
Photograph: Vinicius Benedit / Unsplash

8. Sushi and poké bowls

Hosomaki. Sashimi. Nigiri. Futomaki. Poké bowls. Sushi burritos. Whatever way you want, sushi is a reliable bet when it comes to delivery from both omakase masters and more affordable places. Some may be squeamish with the idea of having raw fish delivered to a door, but it's generally made-to-order and supposed to be served up relatively cold in the first place; even common sides like edamame and miso soup tend to travel well. Sushi gets docked marks for not being very good a day later, however, so try to avoid over-ordering.

Casseroles
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Casseroles

The word 'casserole' might sooner conjure up thoughts of home cooking, but consider what falls under this category: Mac 'n' cheese, lasagna, enchiladas, moussaka, cassoulets... The list goes on. When baked to order, casseroles hold their shape, taste and texture well past the time they arrive at your doorstep. Even if you only manage to plow through half a dish, casseroles tend to last a considerable amount of time in the fridge and reheat easily, and that lends major points to all things casserole. 

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Dumplings
Foto: SJ Baren / Unsplash

6. Dumplings

Among all the things your mind may jump to when ordering delivery, consider the humble dumpling. Whether baked, boiled, fried or steamed, all dumplings come as self-contained pockets of deliciousness, making a dumpling a conveniently packaged-within-a-package food. They come in a huge range of options—Japanese gyoza, Polish pierogi, Chinese dim sum, Korean mandu, Middle Eastern kibbeh, you name it—and each are as incredibly satifying to eat as the next. While you'll likely eat every last one in your order, they'll easily keep until the next day or two. Then again, who's ever heard of leftover dumplings? 

Noodles
Photograph: Alyssa Kowalski / Unsplash

5. Noodles

Provided they've been stir-fried or come with just the right amount of sauce, noodles are a versatile choice for delivery. Think Chinese chow mein or lo mein, Japanese yaki udon or mazemen (brothless ramen), Korean japchae, pad Thai, Indonesian mie goreng; all of these—when cooked in the right amount of sauce and oil—and many more look and taste just as they would've coming straight out of the kitchen (minus a few minutes). Besides, who among us hasn't appreciated some leftover noodles the next day? Send noods, please.

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Tacos
Photograph: Xavier Crook / Unsplash

4. Tacos

Who doesn't love a good taco (or the taco bowl, its deconstructed cousin)? When it comes to delivery, tacos easily make the trip no matter its packaging, particularly when served in soft-shell corn or flour tortillas—only a true packaging master can keep hard shells from getting soggy. The portion sizes are just right as well, allowing tacos to dodge the reheat factor altogether; that makes even fish tacos a decent choice despite their breaded and fried toppings. But if you've got a leftover taco kicking around? No problem! Pop that sucker in the microwave and Roberto's your uncle. 

Barbecue
Photograph: Jose Ignacio Pompe / Unsplash

3. Barbecue

Be it Texan, North Carolinian, South Carolinian, Alabamian, Tennessean or Missourian, the thick cuts of brisket, finger-licking ribs, pulled pork, cuts of smoked chicken and more can all make for solid delivery choices. While most orders are juicy in their own right, some may even argue that barbecue can benefit from steaming in its own takeout container along the way, and few parts of a true barbecue meal—fritters, grits, slaw, beans, potato salad, collard greens, corn on the cob—fail to make the trip. Reheating's no problem as well, and better still, leftovers can be repurposed into sandwiches, pastas and salads.  

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Soups and stews
Photograph: Andy Hay / Unsplash

2. Soups and stews

From rich Indian stews and chili to Thai curries and even pho broth (if the noodles are packed separately), generally every soup and stew-type dish out there tends to retain some of its temperature from the kitchen to your table. Bonus points go to the reheating factor, as even if you don't finish your meal, it's simple enough to zap it in the microwave or heat it up on the oven and boom: You just breathed life into your leftovers.

Pizza
Photograph: Aliyah Jamous / Unsplash

1. Pizza

Few things are as time-honored in the realm of delivery as pizza. It's been around so long that getting a hot pizza to your house is practically a science—how many delivery foods out there can claim to have their own specialized bag, anyway? This versatile, comforting and delicious dish can get topped with (or without) just about anything you can think of, and always survives its travel time. Even if it doesn't, pizza consistently heats up well. Heck, some people even like to eat it cold. Consider this the reigning champion of delivery eats.

And the worst?

  • Restaurants

The world of delivery's an amazing place. Thanks to poliferation of delivery apps, we've got full access to just about any cuisine under the sun, but there's a dark side to that: Without a doubt, some menu items just need to be eaten immediately and can't travel well. Order the following items at your own peril.

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