LEFTOVERS often get a bad name, thanks to foods that don’t reheat as well (Yes I’m looking at you, soggy sandwiches). However, there are many dishes that actually taste better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two. And there’s a scientific reason why. Are you a frugal leftover lover?
According to the Institute of Food Technologists, flavours can be enhanced overnight due to chemical reactions, which continue to take place after cooking and produce more and new flavour molecules in a variety of ingredients, which is why leftovers can taste so good.
Molecules aside, all this food science results in more tender, juicier, tastier foods, if you know how to prep it properly, that is. A good leftover starts with good seasoning the first time around.
“Food that’s well-seasoned can taste better simply because as in a curry or marinated meats, the seasonings have had a while to soak into the carrier meats, beans, or vegetables,” says Sara Dickerman, author of Secrets of Great Second Meals.
However, that doesn’t mean that a reheat wouldn’t benefit from a few fresh herbs. “Curries do sometimes still need a hit of something fresh, like chopped coriander or a squeeze of lime, just to wake them up,” Dickerman explains.
Her additional reheating tips include adding a little water to second-day spaghetti for more moisture, reheating yesterday’s veggies in a steamer, crisping up potatoes or sausages with a little fat in a frying pan, or browning leftovers.
Still, there are some dishes that will never make it back to your plate in a better state. Evans says shellfish is “pretty terrible” as a leftover, so you should only buy and prep enough for one serving at a time.
And despite being a master at transformations, Dickerman says her leftover no-no is hamburgers. “It’s largely a textural thing,” she explains. “A good burger is all about the contrast between the crisp exterior and the juicy rare interior; after it’s refrigerated, it takes on a pebbly grey consistency and colour, and I really find it hard to work into something new.”
If you are a frugal leftover lover, here are some ingredients that will taste even better the second time around, as well as a few tips to keep your leftovers as yummy as possible.
Foods such as garlic, onion, and peppers react with proteins and starches while cooking, and they’ll continue to do so when left in your fridge overnight, which makes your leftovers taste good. When you go for round two of your sausage and pepper stir fry, the result is an even better flavour. The main reason? Time.
Sure, occasionally, you may make a stew or chilli that simmers all day, but for most of us, dinner looks something like rushing home from work and throwing together a quick easy spag bol. After scarfing it down, you’ll taste ingredients individually, but after a night of the bolognese resting in a storage container, the flavour profile becomes more robust and well-rounded over time.
So if you’re not a leftover lover, perhaps its because you’re eating the wrong leftovers.
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