the best advice we can give you on leftovers is to know thyself
February 8, 2019 8:42 AM   Subscribe

A powerful foe exists in kitchens the world over —a force so strong it can render even a famous chef's roast chicken cardboard-y, stale, and faintly rancid. It's called warmed-over flavor, or WOF for short, and we most recently met when I reheated some chicken I'd braised for a dinner party the night before. One bite in, I panicked—had I really served my guests a bird tainted with that much funk? But I distinctly recalled that dinner had been delightful, the chicken perfectly cooked. The truth was, warmed-over flavor had struck again (SL Serious Eats).
posted by devrim (62 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is why I eat almost all my leftovers cold.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:55 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


I feel like this must be a class thing. I grew up the kind of poor that made leftovers a big part of the diet, and so... I kind of enjoy that taste.

So much so, that I'll make things with the purpose of eating them as leftovers.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:04 AM on February 8 [22 favorites]


Cooked a delicious pork pot roast with rosemary and studded with garlic slivers. Put it in the fridge overnight. Next day, sliced it cold, warmed it all up in the microwave for four minutes, served for dinner. Heavenly.
posted by JamesBay at 9:06 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I already commented this on Serious Eats, but on retrospect, I realize this is about reheating meat without any adaptions like sauce or a hash. And that is a thing no one should ever do. Why would you do that? Cold meat is fine. Stews and hashes are fine. What is not fine is just reheating a piece of meat and hoping it will taste as good as when it was freshly cooked. That is an absurd idea and I didn't know anyone thought it wasn't.
posted by mumimor at 9:13 AM on February 8 [24 favorites]


The real foe is food waste. Don't cook too much and you won't have leftovers to hate.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:13 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Thoroughly unnerved that, as a food obsessive, I have literally never noticed this. I wonder if it's the same set of reactions making leftover roast chicken worse (apparently...) as are making stews, curries and chilli way better the next day?
posted by ominous_paws at 9:14 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


Some of us quite like not having to cook every day. I can't say I usually notice any issue with rewarming myself, but then I normally eat leftover meat cold or add it to pasta or whatever and let that rewarm it.
posted by tavella at 9:19 AM on February 8 [13 favorites]


Reading between the lines it seems like the real issue is that somehow soups, stews, casseroles, sauces--all the tricks to make leftovers not seem like the same thing you served last night--are somehow missing from some people's repertoire.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:24 AM on February 8 [20 favorites]


This strikes me like some sort of ratcheting-up of the bona-fides that will be strictly required if you dare consider yourself a foodie. "Oh, really? You never noticed the distinct flavor of leftovers? Hmmmmm...."

Yesterday's dish will never taste the same the next day. Somethings, like chilis and stews, will be close and often taste miraculously better. Other stuff, like leftover meats, will never be the same and, frankly, should not be used the same, either. The day after, leftover meat moves into the "stew" "sandwich" or "shred, spice, and use as burrito or taco filling" categories.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:33 AM on February 8 [16 favorites]


I am so not a foodie - I have never, ever noticed this "warmed over flavour". In fact, I love leftovers: food, already made and just needs to be microwaved! It's like a food fairy blessed my fridge. And I positively like left-over KFC (cold or warm). Maybe it is an acquired taste, like gameyness in meat.
posted by jb at 9:37 AM on February 8 [10 favorites]


I eat meat relatively infrequently. It's not that I don't like it... the problem is that it's expensive (ethically, ecologically, and straight up dollar-cost). I feel that every meat meal I have represents an animal's life lived in industrial farming conditions, a hit to our water quality, a reduction in the viability of our antibiotic arsenal, an expenditure of petroleum resources (for fertilizing and growing and transporting the crops used to feed the animal, for transporting the animal to slaughter, for transporting the meat to the market). It's expensive.

Given the various costs associated with eating meat, I can't rightly bring myself to waste any of it. So, leftovers. There are ways to make leftovers pretty edible. Simply nuking the chicken breast and hoping for a good outcome is not really the way to go. The article says "microwaving does gross things to chicken" which, yeah. It does.

Did you try dicing the chicken breast and putting it in chicken salad? That's a food item that EXISTS FOR A REASON, bub.

How about shredding the chicken breast and throwing it in a pan to fry up with some lard and some taco mix for enchiladas? (Looks different, tastes different, buries any "Warmed Over Flavor" in sauce and cheese.)

Did you try cubing the chicken leftovers and making a potpie thing with frozen mixt veggies and puff pastry crust? (You will need stock for the gravy-like sauce, or some good bullion.)

Sliced cold chix breast on a mesclun bed with a red wine vinaigrette, some walnuts, some of those cranberry dried things, and some purple onion? Add bleu cheese crumblies and/or diced pear if you want to hammer home the five-years-ago trendy. (It will still taste good.)

BLT chicken club sandwiches? Heck, you barely have to cook for that. Nuke a couple bacons, slice up a tomato, toast some bread... cut sandwiches into four triangles, skewer with frilly toothpicks, throw down a generous handful of kettle-cooked potato chips and a dill pickle spear and you have an $11 lunch plate (per person), don't you look smart?

I am not a Food Writer. Probably I'm Doing It Wrong.
posted by which_chick at 9:39 AM on February 8 [10 favorites]


But yes: any kind of stew/casserole often improves with sitting. The flavours meld better - and I would love to learn the science of that.

Which reminds me to say: I loved the science in this article - clearly explained but not dumbed down. Cooking is a fascinating combination of biology and chemistry.
posted by jb at 9:39 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


If I don't eat leftover meat cold or incorporated into some other dish as others have pointed out, I find it perfectly acceptable to pop a few pieces of, for instance, leftover roast chicken in the microwave for around 45 seconds to a minute to warm it without re-cooking it. And it tastes absolutely fine, sheesh.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:57 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


The real foe is food waste. Don't cook too much and you won't have leftovers to hate.

You...are aware that some people cook for one, yet the vast majority of recipes are not one serving, right?
posted by praemunire at 9:58 AM on February 8 [25 favorites]


Describing leftovers as food waste is just odd, really. You are likely to waste far more trying to cook individual portions for every meal than making extra and having leftovers. Just treat them correctly according to their nature and you'll have a second+ delicious meal with minimal extra effort.
posted by tavella at 10:10 AM on February 8 [25 favorites]


I will eat stuff that has fallen on the floor (after scraping off the gunk), or has been left out all night. I fine with reheated meat of any sort but I have a real problem with reheated veg, especially potatoes.
posted by night_train at 10:10 AM on February 8


I can't imagine my world without leftovers in it. It's just me and Herr Duck, and we lead busy lives. Why would either of us spend the time every day to create a unique meal for each lunch and dinner (or even just one or the other in a day)? Almost everything we cook will be stretched into the next day's lunch or dinner. That's a feature, not a bug.
posted by Gray Duck at 10:12 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


I feel like this article is just concern trolling for clicks about a problem that doesn't actually exist.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:18 AM on February 8 [11 favorites]


I can taste this in pork, and I don't like it, but I suspect I like this in chicken. Cold rotisserie chicken? Delicious. You can eat the best bits while you clean the carcass to make chicken salad. The very best is cold fried chicken, eaten for breakfast. Sigh.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:19 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


The real foe is food waste. Don't cook too much and you won't have leftovers to hate.

You...are aware that some people cook for one, yet the vast majority of recipes are not one serving, right?


I feel like we've maybe had this discussion before. Clearly you can't roast a chicken for one, but the vast majority of recipes are adjustable to any number of servings between 1 and 1000. And, yes, doing that calculation can be difficult. Source: I cooked for myself for years.

I'm not going to hate on people who love and eat their leftovers - that's great! More power to you. But the sad truth is that most people don't. So leftovers are effectively food waste, most of the time.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:29 AM on February 8


I have tasted this in chicken before but it's usually only after a second reheating, so a third heating in total, within the span of like 36h - the taste is like the hideous gamey meaty smell of a poorly maintained locker room. It won't kill you but you kind of wish it would.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:38 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


The only time I've had leftovers go Terribly Wrong was when I made a pork and pineapple dish. I presume the pineapple did its enzymey thing and caused the pork to break down far faster than usual. I opened the container to have the leftovers for lunch and it smelled so bad it had to go in the outside bin, even though it was less than a day old.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:39 AM on February 8


Clearly you can't roast a chicken for one, but the vast majority of recipes are adjustable to any number of servings between 1 and 1000. And, yes, doing that calculation can be difficult. Source: I cooked for myself for years.

Look, maybe your spaghetti and grilled cheese for one has worked well for you, but in fact the amount of waste generated by trying to figure out how to cut down the time for cooking three ounces of pork loin without giving yourself trichinosis, or how exactly to adjust the spices when you've cut down the liquid in the dish by 75%, or what the baking time is for one popover, would well exceed that of the occasional non-eaten leftover. Please spare us the orthorexia.
posted by praemunire at 10:55 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


I'm very surprised how heated some of y'all are over this article.
posted by entropone at 10:59 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


My Jewish mother always cooked five times as much food as necessary, especially during the holidays. OMG THE WORLD WILL COME TO AN END IF THE FOOD RUNS OUT EVEN A LITTLE BIT EARLY. A few years ago I said, why don't you just cook twice as much, instead of five times, you'll still come out ahead! She wasn't amused.

So during my life, there were always tons of leftovers, tons of "creativity" * during my childhood, then later tons of complaining about how she had to eat the same leftovers every day for a week, and tons of Jewish guilt about making me take home the leftovers, which made me resentful that even as an adult I had to eat her food all the time. It sometimes felt like she was just marking her territory, rather than cooking meals. After I started putting my foot down (THANK YOU METAFILTER), she then directed me to haul a big pot of soup to a local soup kitchen that didn't ask for it; it's only due to age fatigue that she recently stopped doing these things.

So basically, I hate leftovers (unless it's one small portion of food that I can easily eat the next day) and I make a point of not cooking in a way that creates them. Since I'm single and those "cooking for one" books, as stated above, don't take into account that the ingredients will go bad too, this means that I eat out a lot, but that's better than dealing with the stress of leftovers.

* To be fair; I'm not a foodie. Perhaps someone with an adventurous palate would have been a better daughter, ah well, there's that Jewish guilt again...
posted by sockerpup at 11:00 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Well, definitely, if you don't like leftovers you should cook to the number of people, I just objected to the idea of classing leftovers as food waste generally. I usually cook 4-person recipes, eat one serving, save one to have in the next couple of days, and freeze two for evenings where I don't feel like cooking.
posted by tavella at 11:15 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]


> I'm very surprised how heated some of y'all are over this article

You must be new to the Internet.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:27 AM on February 8 [9 favorites]


Look, maybe your spaghetti and grilled cheese for one has worked well for you, but in fact the amount of waste generated by trying to figure out how to cut down the time for cooking three ounces of pork loin without giving yourself trichinosis, or how exactly to adjust the spices when you've cut down the liquid in the dish by 75%, or what the baking time is for one popover, would well exceed that of the occasional non-eaten leftover. Please spare us the orthorexia.

Thank you for that armchair diagnosis! For the record in the last two days I have had fried chicken and cupcakes. I am many things, bot orthorexiatic is not one of them.

If you want to cook 3oz of pork, which BTW is now totally safe to eat medium-rare, just check it while it is cooking by either using a meat thermometer or cutting it open to check the color. Or slice it into bit-size pieces that cook quickly - I do this all the time with chicken because I am deathly afraid of salmonella.

I can't speak to single popovers or liquid reduction vs. spice volume (though cutting the spices by 75% is a good place to start) but generally speaking, trial and error are the way to go, and as general rules of thumb, cooking on low-medium heat (unless you are searing something) and keeping a close eye on your food will greatly up the chances that everything will come out right.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:27 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Wow, I expected more "Hey, I thought I was the only one who thought previously-cooked meat tastes odd" and less "bah, it's all just snobbery/ ignorance/ posturing".

People taste things differently. I guess I'm too biased as I do have this issue (and would prefer not to, as I am too picky about leftovers), and my knowledge of repurposing leftovers, ingredients and portioning don't make my personal statement (in)valid.
posted by queseyo at 11:37 AM on February 8 [7 favorites]


This reminds me, apparently my housemate left pizza in the fridge for me.

There's food at my food bank I regularly turn down because it comes from the kitchen where I used to work. One reason why is the familiar taste and that it triggers some kind of stress reaction. Another reason is because that kitchen has some sort of ongoing bad/weird microbial problem where pretty much all the food gave me heartburn, indigestion and related issues that stopped when I stopped working there and eating there, or waned if I just avoided eating at work. And the other reason and related to the above is I knew how long the leftovers were likely sitting in hotel pans in our walk in before someone picked them up, and that could be as much as ten days or even more. And we recycled the hell out of our ingredients. Yesterday's breakfast sausage was definitely in the quiche.
posted by loquacious at 11:44 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


I'm very surprised how heated some of y'all are over this article.

I see what you did there.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:47 AM on February 8 [11 favorites]


I'm very surprised how heated some of y'all are over this article

All the fighting got me so I had to leave the thread for a while, now I'm back and I'm reheated.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:55 AM on February 8 [9 favorites]


Wow, I expected more "Hey, I thought I was the only one who thought previously-cooked meat tastes odd" and less "bah, it's all just snobbery/ ignorance/ posturing".

Yeah, I don't know which of the hot takes in here is most annoyingly dumb between the poles of "you must be a foodie if you even think you can taste that" and the "you shouldn't have leftovers in the first place," but as far as I can tell the article is just about the taste that some people obviously notice and why it happens. It would be annoying and pretentious if it then went on to say that the taste made leftover meat inedible, and that anyone who persists in eating leftover meat is a tasteless cretin, but...it didn't. I know that taste. I eat the things anyway. It's fine.
posted by invitapriore at 11:57 AM on February 8 [8 favorites]


For reals though, a milquetoast article on the duller end of Serious Eats food nerdery provokes:

- Well it's obviously a class thing
- it's a crime to waste food
- it's food snobs being the worst but EVEN MORE
- food writers fail to consider these leftover options that I, a simple genius, have embraced
- how dare you not consider those of us cooking for one
- lonely fool, how stupid you are for not realising you can scale recipes down

Man, food threads are something else
posted by ominous_paws at 12:01 PM on February 8 [12 favorites]


Uh, on a more constructive note, there is a linked article on whether or not stews really do improve in the comments.

(spoiler: they change very little, but spicy, acidic stews like chilli can really mellow out so punch them up with hot sauce)

NOW I need to know if curries really do get hotter after you freeze them, and also of course who is a classist foodie snob imbecile planet killer for their opinion on the matter
posted by ominous_paws at 12:08 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


I have a real problem with reheated veg, especially potatoes

Left-over potatoes (esp boiled) can wonderful - you can slice them up and fry them in butter. Ambrosia.

As for cooking 5x too much food: I'm so glad we had a chest freezer growing up. After Thanksgiving, we didn't eat turkey for days. Instead, my mom made up plates and froze them - and sometime in January, when we tired and cold, we could have a yummy dinner of turkey and potatoes and carrots, etc. Like what tv dinners advertise, but actually delicious.
posted by jb at 12:19 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Huh, given that I basically am only willing to cook on weekends and then eat the same thing for a week (yes, I know my food safety practices are....questionable there), I'm obviously not sensitive to this taste. I'll have to try and eat something the day I make it so that I can compare and see if I notice it again later.

Given the deep rift between leftover-eaters and leftover-haters, I wonder if there's some kind of genetic thing, the way some people can't eat cilantro? Like, maybe some people just don't taste/smell that particular chemical, while others do and are disgusted by it.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 12:29 PM on February 8 [10 favorites]


To be fair, I'm a food snob and I don't especially agree with the article.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:33 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Anyone looking to take a recipe and size it up or down can start with this helpful calculator. It won't adjust times for baking, etc, but will maintain the ingredient ratios.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:34 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I nearly did an Ask on this at one point. I've noticed the phenomenon particularly with poultry and usually only if I've cooked it at home. I often get prepared chicken breasts from Whole Foods and can eat them for two or three days with no WOF. But even a yummy home-roasted chicken can get the dreaded leftover flavor.

Maybe it is the way WF marinates the meat? I dunno, as I can't reliably reproduce results. I don't notice it as much in pork or beef, or when prepared as a soup/stew/braise.
posted by Preserver at 12:35 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm with bowtiesarecool -- I basically cook several things on Sunday, and then eat those for the rest of the week. (For the record, I can't remember the last time I got food poisoning, but it's been at least 10-15 years.) And I've never noticed the off-flavor the article mentions; I'm totally fascinated to hear that it's a thing for so many people. So yeah, maybe like cilantro?
posted by Kat Allison at 12:37 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Given the deep rift between leftover-eaters and leftover-haters, I wonder if there's some kind of genetic thing, the way some people can't eat cilantro? Like, maybe some people just don't taste/smell that particular chemical, while others do and are disgusted by it.

I think we just get used to it.

What he's talking about is basically mild rancidity, which is almost universally offensive in extremis, but I've heard and read a fair number of Japanese people saying that westerners almost always smell slightly rancid to them.

I think we could make a lot of progress toward better tasting food if we could figure out better ways of limiting the oxidation of fats as we cook. I believe that must be one of the big reasons sous vide tastes better to many people, but there might be other ways of doing that, such as cooking in an atmosphere of pure nitrogen, or even just all water vapor.

I'd imagine that the partial pressure of oxygen is considerably reduced in a gas oven compared to an electric, for example, and I have one of those little counter top convection things which recommend cooking some things with a layer of water in the bottom, and I've been meaning to try that with roasts. Oxidizing fats can probably pull the oxygen out of water too, but that's energetically much less favorable and could be limited by adjusting pH, perhaps (the article says lemon juice seems to have an effect).

I also wonder how our domesticated food animals compare to their wild ancestors and wild counterparts in the degree of saturation of their fat stores -- I know that one of the common complaints about venison is that it tastes and smells rancid when cooked. It's hard to imagine we haven't pushed our farm animals toward tasting better when cooked, but that might merely have been a matter of biasing their diets toward saturated fats (I've read that pigs, for example, don't alter the degree of saturation of the fats they consume before they're stored in tissue, yet that cows can and do change the saturation of the fats they consume before storage).

And that brings up another issue about more saturated fats: we know they are less likely to be oxidized during cooking, but are they also less available to oxidation during the metabolic process?

I bet the answer is yes, and that it's easier to lose body fat which is less oxidized, and that there's probably an athletic performance boost to be had from replacing saturated fat with less saturated (but not rancid!) fats both in diet and bodily stores.
posted by jamjam at 1:37 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Make that 'lose body fat which is less saturated'.
posted by jamjam at 1:43 PM on February 8


I always thought my leftovers* didn't taste that great because I was eating them in the lunchroom at work.

*or as my family calls them, made-aheads
posted by Emmy Rae at 1:53 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Pulled pork is notorious for this. IT ends up tasting "Doggy"

I'm going to try vacuum sealing leftovers for the next day to see if that helps.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:58 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


I feel like this must be a class thing. I grew up the kind of poor that made leftovers a big part of the diet, and so... I kind of enjoy that taste.

So much so, that I'll make things with the purpose of eating them as leftovers.


Yeah, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard or said "It's always better the second time around" in one of my extended family's kitchens, I could afford a nice meal out.

N.B. that I haven't eaten meat in decades, so adjust your grain of salt accordingly. (Yeah, I know.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:46 PM on February 8


Well, some people find meat disgusting no matter how you cook it, so it wouldn't be surprising if there's significant variation in whether people like the taste of reheated meat.
posted by straight at 3:00 PM on February 8


As well as sensitivity to level of rancidness, which as jamjam pointed out seems to be the real topic of TFA.

I have a fairly good nose - for a Westerner, anyway - and I'm careful about storing cooked food in sealed containers (as the article seemed to make a significant point of emphasizing; is storing open containers of food in the fridge more common than I thought?). If I pull something out of the fridge and it doesn't pass the "sniff test", I know that no amount of reheating is going to fix that...out it goes. I and everyone I've fed leftovers to have managed to avoid food poisoning so far.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:13 PM on February 8


I grew up eating a lot of bad leftovers due to my parents and grandmother living through the Depression and not wanting to waste food, and my mom and grandma's, er, questionable attitudes toward food safety. But, having grown up and learned to cook for myself and living alone, I eat a lot of leftovers. (In a one-person household, you either learn to love leftovers or waste a ton of food.)

which_chick (comment flagged as fantastic! it made me hungry) has the right idea - you don't just nuke a leftover chicken breast, that bad boy gets chopped up and made into chicken salad, made into a sandwich, or gently heated with some Trader Joe's simmer sauce and served over rice. I make turkey alfredo from holiday turkey leftovers as an alternative to sandwiches.

I also find that vegetarian dishes make fantastic leftovers, with no funny taste or rancidity! In fact, a bean soup or lentil dal tastes so much better the next day after all the spices and flavors have a chance to sit and meld overnight. Mmmm, leftover dals are teh yum!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:23 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Also, microwaves are trash. They are great for convenience but most food tastes way better reheated on the stove or in the oven. I haven't had a microwave in easily 8 years, and I don't miss it at all.
posted by agregoli at 3:41 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


I cook dinner once every three to five days and then just eat off of that. If I get tired of it before it's gone or I feel like maybe it's getting close to the end of its fridge lifespan, into the freezer it goes. I currently have ten individual portions of homemade chicken soup banked in my freezer, that shit is like gold. I fo have things that are quick and easy which I will make smaller batches of, but really if it doesn't make good leftovers then I'm generally not interested in making it. I'm not one of those people who gets joy out of preparing dinner for himself on a weeknight. Eating it, yes. Preparing it, let alone doing the dishes after? Nah, I've got other things I'd rather be doing.

Cold leftover prime rib with just a little bit of salt on it though is 😘👌
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:48 PM on February 8


"Clearly you can't roast a chicken for one, but the vast majority of recipes are adjustable to any number of servings between 1 and 1000. And, yes, doing that calculation can be difficult. Source: I cooked for myself for years."

Look I'm cooking for five but I rarely make recipes that serve less than eight because these children demand I feed them 21 times a week.

That's a lot of times.

Leftovers make that a tiny bit easier.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:55 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


I caught a Reddit thread referencing this article yesterday and thought this comment chain was really interesting, talking about how this off flavor is maybe a more culturally known thing in the middle east to the point that there's a word for it in Arabic ("zankha") that's kinda hard to translate, I guess?

Even though I haven't noticed this taste, its maybe being a pet peeve for whole cultures is a heck of a mark in the "real thing, not some foodie nonsense" column.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:09 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


The more I think about the article, the less sense it makes. To me it seems like the words the author uses, like "funk" and "off-flavors", refer to food that's clearly starting to go bad, that presumably only an uninformed person might attempt to resurrect by reheating. Yet the article is on a foodie website whose target audience (I assume) is well aware of such issues; people who (a) don't need a Food Safety 101 article and (b) already know that reheated meat will never taste exactly like freshly-cooked even in the best of circumstances.

Maybe I'm wrong, and I'm misreading the article or the intended audience or both. Maybe it is a Food Safety 101 article after all, and we're misinterpreting it as intricately subtle "foodie nonsense". All I know is that I'm more confused now than I was the first time I read it through.

In conclusion, food is a  land of contrasts  minefield.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:27 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Mom and Dad used to tell the story of the first meal she cooked after they moved in together. There were never fewer than ten people at Grandma's dinner table; she had never cooked for just two people before.so she ended up making this giant kettle of Spanish rice that could have fed the whole building. They only had an apartment-size refrigerators with a tiny freezer, so they ended up eating Spanish rice three times a day for a week. Dad would always say it was a good thing her Spanish rice was so good.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:41 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Cooking frequent meals for one is energy-inefficient and someone who insists on doing that is contributing to climate change and the degradation of the environment. An argument could probably be made that all that single-portion prep is also wasting more food just by the proportion of stuff that gets left on the side of the mixing bowl or whatever.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:24 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Cooking frequent meals for one is energy-inefficient and someone who insists on doing that is contributing to climate change and the degradation of the environment.
Doesn't that depend on what and how you cook? The Serious Eats podcast has a talk with chef Anita Lo on cooking for one, I haven't heard it yet, but maybe there are good tips in there. When I am alone for some reason, I mainly cook simple one-pot meals, or delicious sandwiches. I often plan for leftovers.
posted by mumimor at 7:34 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


The more I think about the article, the less sense it makes. To me it seems like the words the author uses, like "funk" and "off-flavors", refer to food that's clearly starting to go bad, that presumably only an uninformed person might attempt to resurrect by reheating.

Food's never starting to go bad though, it's always going bad and always has been and we just know good ways to slow it down. But if it's in any kind of state where you can eat it, like not frozen solid or burning hot, it has some level of bacterial activity, and it's always going to have some level of oxidation happening unless it's kept in an anaerobic environment or its surface is covered in antioxidants (even then really, antioxidants aren't magic and there are a lot of variables in the effectiveness of that approach), so it's easy to imagine some people are sensitive to the tastes bacterial and/or oxidative processes create and can pick up on them much sooner in the shelf life of the food than others, well before most of us would consider the food to have gone off. Nothing being informed about food safety can help if you're sensitive to those tastes, because there's no stopping those processes entirely even if you could swing a perfect score on a ServSafe test.

And I can especially believe it for the taste of oxidized fats because when that does get to a level I can detect, jesus that smell and taste will just punch right through anything you try to cover them up with.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:51 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


"With no leftovers, there's no need to worry about WOF. "

Orrrr you could make a meal that doesn't use meat if you want to cook ahead for the week. This is actually a thing that is possible!
posted by Belostomatidae at 8:24 AM on February 9


so she ended up making this giant kettle of Spanish rice that could have fed the whole building.

My aunt does this, and her wife refers to it as "vat mentality". As in "we're having chili again because of Sandy's vat mentality."
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:58 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Huh. Didn't know there was a Food Science™ reason I don't like chicken or turkey (even the first time it's cooked) and couldn't stand fish as a kid, but there it was in an article about leftovers:
The amount of PUFAs in cell membranes differs from animal to animal; chicken and fish have a much higher concentration of PUFAs in their cells than lamb, pork, or beef, hence their increased tendency toward WOF.
I avoid explaining why I don't like chicken to people because nobody wants to hear that their favorite meal immediately triggers a "this food is rotten" response. And as an adult I can eat fish now, but I think at least part of that is just improved access to fresher fish than the 70s-era Oklahoma of my childhood. But I'm guessing somebody on their panel has the same response I do, because:
In the storage portion of the testing, we tasters nearly unanimously agreed that freshly cooked chicken was free of WOF.
"Nearly" unanimously, except for That One Person. Hi, That One Person. Let's be friends.

Leftover beef and pork are never a problem for me, FWIW.
posted by fedward at 9:52 AM on February 9


This must be like cilantro: some people are very sensitive to it, some people barely notice.

I just talked about this with my wife, who eats a lot of leftovers. Turns out she's very sensitive to it, but just eats them cold or room temperature.

I don't notice it as much, but maybe this is why my favorite chicken stir-fry has to be made with raw rather than cooked chicken.
posted by zompist at 12:41 PM on February 9


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