Why does food taste better the next day?

Science shows that some foods truly do have more flavour and improved taste the second time around. Picture: Pexels

Science shows that some foods truly do have more flavour and improved taste the second time around. Picture: Pexels

Published Feb 21, 2024

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Ever wondered why food tastes better the next day? There is a scientific reason why.

Health scientists reveal that time gives the flavours in dishes a chance to meld, and refrigeration slows some of the chemical reactions that occur in foods, which could enhance flavour rather than degrade it too quickly.

So, there is an opportunity for those flavours to marry a little bit longer and sort of continue to evolve, which can make them more flavourful.

Science shows that some foods truly do have more flavour and improved taste the second time around.

However, the answer to why does not lie in how the leftovers are stored or reheated, but in the ingredients with which they are made. The reason that meatloaf tastes better on day two is that it contains aromatics such as onion, garlic and pepper.

Science says these ingredients will continue to have chemical reactions during the reheating process, releasing more flavour and aroma than they did during the initial cooking.

The non-aromatic ingredients also play a role in the flavour of the reheated dish. Should a food have a fatty element, the aromatic food, such as curry powder, will seek out the fat and its flavour will become part of the fat-containing item such as cheese.

Having a well-mixed item will also encourage the ingredients to interact more, thus leftovers stored in the fridge will have more opportunity to share flavours and become tastier when it is time to reheat and eat them.

Science shows that some foods truly do have more flavour and improved taste the second time around. Picture: Pexels

Which foods are better as leftovers?

I am sure you will agree that some foods are way better as leftovers than others. Leftovers are so much more than “food that was left” after a meal is over. It is the food you made, food you paid for, food that can still be enjoyed later.

I mean, I get it. Most of the time, leftovers are not as glamorous or photo-worthy as they were the day before. This can make leftover food seem less appealing to the eye. But, really, it is the same food it was when you originally made it.

Embracing leftovers can help you save money, time and energy on meals and food choices. As long as the food is stored properly and nothing has spoiled, it is perfectly fine to eat leftovers.

Science shows that some foods truly do have more flavour and improved taste the second time around. Picture: Pexels/Muffin Creatives

Pizza

Whether you are a fan of a Margherita or prefer something more adventurous, pizza also has those lovely aromatic ingredients that get even more powerful as the classic Italian dish chills in the fridge.

But how it is reheated is crucial (that is, of course, if you are not a cold-pizza devotee).

Soups, chillis and stews

Soups and chillis are probably some of the most well-known leftover-friendly recipes there are. And for good reason. Soups and chillis often taste even better after they have sat in the fridge overnight.

Soup is also incredibly easy to reheat and customise after reheating. Do not forget to add some fresh elements after reheating to really give some life to those leftovers.

Fresh herbs, crackers or chips, sour cream, cheese and avocado are all wonderful add-ins, depending on the type of soup or chilli you are enjoying.

Pasta

All those lovely, aromatic ingredients – onions, peppers, garlic – become even more flavourful after they have had time to mingle. Another bonus: the sauce gets a lot less runny. Add a splash of water to keep the pasta moist during microwaving, and it is dinner (again).

Science shows that some foods truly do have more flavour and improved taste the second time around. Picture: Pexels/Engin Akyurt

And how do you store leftover food? Storing leftover food the right way should be a habit as it ensures freshness and taste, plus it keeps bacteria at bay.

According to dietitian Anne Cain, this is how you can properly store leftovers:

  • Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Foods left out longer should be discarded. Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
  • With poultry and other stuffed meats, remove the stuffing and refrigerate it in a separate container. Place hot foods directly into the refrigerator or freezer, but don't overload the container. Cool air needs to circulate to keep food safe.
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. Freeze quantities that cannot be used by then. Since bacteria cannot grow at freezer temperatures, food is generally safe while frozen, but you will need to use the frozen foods within a reasonable length of time for the best quality. If you are reheating leftovers in the microwave, use only microwave-safe dishes. Remove food from plastic wrap, Styrofoam and freezer containers.
  • Reheat leftovers thoroughly to a temperature of 74 degrees Celsius or until hot and steaming. Soups and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil.

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