Andy Hinds at AllMusic gave Second Heat four stars out of five, calling it superior to its predecessor and describing it as having "some of the most amazing dual-guitar work ever recorded" thanks to the addition of second guitarist Bruce Bouillet in accompaniment with Paul Gilbert. The rhythm section of drummer Scott Travis and bassist John Alderete was also praised as being "one of the most formidable around." Highlights listed included "Hammer Away", "Living the Hard Way" and the instrumental "Scarified". However, criticism was directed at the band's cover of "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie: Hinds dismissed it as a "backdrop for (you guessed it!) more shredding" at the expense of "all the charm and subtlety of the original".
In 2005, Second Heat was ranked No. 480 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.