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I cook simple vegetarian stews (think lentil stew or curries) at the weekend, fridge them, and reheat with microwave during the week. I'm at work so it has to be microwave. If I eat them on the day of cooking, they are good. But if I leave them in the fridge even a single day, on reheating they are relatively tasteless. Some are OK, but far too often they end up tasting bland and generic. I understand restaurant food is typically chilled and reheated, so it must be possible to retain the flavour. What am I doing wrong?? - all suggestions welcome!

Many thanks

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I freeze similar foods: lentil bolognese, mixed bean chilli, chickpea curry etc. for reheating later, so it can be done. In fact it works well. When I'm organised I defrost them in the fridge, leaving me in a very similar position to you.

Mine all tend to be quite slowly cooked in the first place (if using beans, I start from dried, soak them and cook the dish in a slow cooker) and I think that helps. For very quick cooked recipes as can often be made with tinned beans* the issue seems to me to be that all the flavour is in the sauce when you first make it. Over time that diffuses into the beans and is spread more thinly. Last night's lentil bolognese simmered for about 40 minutes, for example; the red lentils give the sauce body while the lentilles vertes keep their texture. I know that will reheat well.

You could try slightly over-seasoning when you make it, but if you have it one evening freshly made and then the next day after chilling, you'll get the same contrast.

Adding a tadka on reheating (curries) might work though as it's basically an infused oil you can't keep it safely for long. Fresh (or even dried) herbs and black pepper added in work are also a good idea.

If you take it in to work with potato, rice (again, it really doesn't keep safely for very long), or pasta in contact with the sauce, that will also take up some of the flavours.

Because water-soluble flavour compounds will diffuse more into beans and other big lumps of veg than fat-soluble compounds, the flavour profile will be affected as well. Capsaicin (for spicy heat) is very weakly soluble in water so the heat will stay in the sauce while other flavours can migrate. Salt in particular is very water soluble and its presence or absence makes a huge difference. I use very little salt indeed in my cooking, so it's not an issue for me, but it may be for you.


* I sometimes use tinned beans, but very rarely tinned lentils (and never at home for things that are to be reheated)

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  • Thank you, that is most interesting. I will experiment with those factors. Commented Jun 24 at 11:32

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