In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a "C" grade, indicating "a record of clear professionalism or barely discernible inspiration, but not both." He commented that Flack occasionally "sounds kind, intelligent, and very likable, but she often exhibits the gratuitous gentility you'd expect of anyone who said 'between you and I.'"
In a retrospective review, The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992) gave Quiet Fire two out of five stars and criticized that it "barely sparks at all". By contrast, Allmusic's Stephen Cook gave it four-and-a-half out of five stars and cited it as "one of Flack's best". He felt that its "varied mix all comes off sounding seamless" and stated, "Forgoing the full-throttled delivery of, say, Aretha Franklin, Flack translates the pathos of gospel expression into measured intensity and sighing, elongated phrases."