Why do bolog­nese, stews and cur­ries taste bet­ter the next day?

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Col­la­gen in meat breaks down into gela­tine at tem­per­a­tures be­tween 71°C and 96°C. A stew that’s been bub­bling on the stove will con­tinue to break down its col­la­gen for half an hour af­ter you take it off the heat. In the fridge, this will set to a firm jelly and when you re­heat it, the gela­tine melts to cre­ate a silky feel in the mouth. Toma­toes also ben­e­fit from long and slow cook­ing to re­lease flavour mol­e­cules within the skin, and a speedy mid-week spag bol won’t have time to reach peak tasti­ness un­til it has had those ex­tra hours to mari­nade. Free wa­ter in a dish will tend to soak into starch, tak­ing dis­solved flavour with it – pea and ham soup tastes bet­ter the next day be­cause the ham stock has been ab­sorbed by the pea starch.

But there’s a psy­cho­log­i­cal as­pect too. Chef and food writer James Kenji López-Alt tried to per­form sci­en­tific com­par­isons and found lit­tle dif­fer­ence when tast­ing fresh and day-old dishes side-by-side. Per­haps we get ha­bit­u­ated to the cook­ing smells the first time round, and things taste bet­ter with a clear nose the next day. LV

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