Revealed: Why yesterday’s leftovers taste so much better the next day
Who hasn’t licked their lips in anticipation at the thought of tucking into the leftovers from last night’s curry, stew or even spaghetti bolognese? After all, we know that such dishes always seem to taste so much better the next day. But why exactly is that? Grab a bowl of yesterday’s biryani, and allow us to enlighten you.
Meats such as chicken, pork and beef contains a fascinating natural protein called collagen – the most abundant protein in mammals – which is mainly found in the connective tissue of skin, cartilage, bones, tendons and ligaments.
During cooking at higher temperatures, insoluble collagen partially is converted into water-soluble gelatin. For cuts that are high in collagen, cooking methods that use slow, moist heat, such as stewing or braising, are the best. As the connective tissue gradually breaks down, the muscle fibres no longer have anything to hold them together. This means they become smooth in texture and can be easily pulled apart.
So far, so good. But here’s the really clever bit…
As the dish cools or languishes in the fridge overnight, chemical reactions mean it literally gets more flavoursome by the minute. That’s because during the cooling process, the gelatinous material from the collagen that has extracted during the cooking process begins to gel in and around the chunks of meat, trapping flavour compounds and enrobing them with a delicious savoury moistness.
When the dish is reheated, the melted gelatine becomes silky smooth in the mouth and helps the flavours disperse more evenly.
This is best illustrated by examining the contents of a baking tray in which a chicken has been roasted. You’ll see not only the juices that have come out of the bird, but also a jelly-like substance. This is the gelatin created from the breakdown of collagen in the meat, and it imparts a wonderfully aromatic flavour. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a popular ingredient in the food industry, as it not only delivers a flavour boost but also helps food melt in the mouth. Obviously, the longer meat is soaked in its sauce, the more it will marinate and take on the maturing flavours of the gravy too.
So now you know. When it comes to creating meat dishes that taste even better the next day, collagen is king. And if that hasn’t got your digestive juices flowing, nothing will.
Click here to find out more about GELITA’s portfolio of gelatins for food and pharmaceutical applications.