atlasobscura.com – THE STRANGE TRUTH ABOUT LEFTOVERS is that they often taste better the next day. It seems counterintuitive: One would think that food tastes best when it’s most fresh. But try telling that to fans of leftovers as varied as chili, curry, and cold lasagna. Is the perceived superiority all in our heads? Or is something more scientific afoot?
While cooking is a science, taste is a multi-sensory and subjective experience. The way a dish is plated can impact how we perceive its taste, for instance. So in the case of next-day food, perhaps remembering how good that beef stew tasted the day before enhances our enjoyment.
Yet something else we often don’t consider is that food continues to undergo chemical reactions even after the cooking’s done. Cook’s Illustrated conducted an experiment to try to understand why some food flavors notably improved overnight. They served tomato soup, beef chili, and French onion soup to several testers. Every taste tester held that the two-day-old soups and stews were “sweeter,” “more robust-tasting,” and “well rounded.” Yet the response to the chili was mixed, and some testers reported that flavors weren’t as pronounced after several days.