leftover chicken
August 1, 2010 6:25 PM   Subscribe

why does refrigerated cooked chicken taste different than freshly-cooked chicken? i dislike the strong gamey taste that it acquires. is there anything I can do about it, except covering it up with spices or condiments?
posted by macinchik to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't experience what you're describing with my leftovers. Do you have it in a sealed airtight container in the fridge? It might be picking this up from the other stuff in there.
posted by XMLicious at 6:28 PM on August 1, 2010

Well, if you're eating it cold then it would obviously have a different texture since it's in a more solid state and all the fat has congealed. If you reheated it, then perhaps it's because of your method of reheating (Note: microwaves are the devil and will ruin your chicken).
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:38 PM on August 1, 2010

The only time I experience major taste variations between freshly cooled cooked food and refrigerated cooked food is if I put stuff in the fridge uncovered and it dries out.

If I found that meat of any kind tasted gamier when it came out of the fridge than it did before it went in, I'd toss it.
posted by flabdablet at 6:39 PM on August 1, 2010

I feel like it's not the refrigeration that gives it the weird taste, but the microwaving. When I eat it cold or microwave at very low power to just barely lukewarm, it tastes fine. Could you experiment with your microwave or find other ways of reheating?
posted by twoporedomain at 6:42 PM on August 1, 2010

What is the temperature of your fridge set at? I have encountered insanely thrifty people who always turn up the temperature as high as possible to save electricity and so food begins to spoil almost immediately.
posted by XMLicious at 6:44 PM on August 1, 2010

Response by poster: well, i just chopped up some refrigerated cooked dark meat (thighs and drumsticks) and warmed it in olive oil and alfredo sauce over medium heat in a frying pan, but the taste persists. perhaps this is similar to the way some people think cilantro tastes like soap.
posted by macinchik at 6:46 PM on August 1, 2010

Agreed... Poultry and microwaves are not BFF. Eat it cold or use a toaster oven. We do a lot of reheating with our t.o., it's toast cycle makes far better reheated pizza, poultry, sandwiches and other stuff. The nuker is mostly good just for beef and veggies and soup.

You should be storing your poultry in a sealed container as is will pick up smells in the fridge like woah.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:48 PM on August 1, 2010

Response by poster: oh, and it has been in the fridge for less than 24 hours in a covered TrueSeal glass container.
posted by macinchik at 6:48 PM on August 1, 2010

I know the taste you're referring to. I usually only have it happen in dark meat. I don't know how to fix it.
posted by proj at 6:52 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

As another data point: I experience the same flavor change between freshly-cooked and refrigerated-and-reheated chicken (and, to an even greater extent, turkey). I keep my refrigerator at a very cold 36 F, so I don't expect spoilage to be a problem. I also make a point of using airtight containers. The gamey taste is present whether I reheat by microwaving or on the stovetop (i.e. as part of a soup, stew or stir-fry).

My aversion to the taste is so strong that I can only tolerate refrigerated chicken if it is served cold and heavily masked with salt and/or spices. Eating the chicken straight from the fridge is definitely the single biggest way I've found to minimize the unpleasant taste; the "gamey" taste is still there, but much attenuated.
posted by Dimpy at 7:00 PM on August 1, 2010

I don't like dark meat chicken, so i can't really help you there. But I always cook a couple of extra breasts when i grill, etc. I wrap them individually first in parchment paper, then in aluminum foil, the way you save good, fresh Parmesan. I don't get any smells "invading" my chicken that i notice...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 7:10 PM on August 1, 2010

Best answer: In food science, this is referred to as "warmed-over flavour."

It means that some of the fat in the meat has oxidized. Some people prefer this flavour. I hate it.
posted by Ouisch at 7:11 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Warmed over flavor
posted by Ouisch at 7:13 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Two ideas to consider ...

1) The chicken possibly wasn't cooked or seasoned well to start with. Gamey taste? That doesn't sound right at all. Salt that bird!

2) Refrigerators are really good at keeping things cold. They are not good at making things cold. If you put hot food in a refrigerator, it will cool down, but will spend an indeterminate amount of time in a tepid zone -- taking possibly hours to cool down, internally, from 140F to 40F, for example.

This is somewhat dangerous, especially if the food is undercooked to start with.

And moreover, you will make everything else in the fridge hotter when you do this, increasing the danger.

If you have a lot of hot food and you need to cool it quickly, temporarily pack it with ice packs. Certainly take it out of its original pan/container, which may also be warm. Always keep it airtight, preferably with a ziploc bag (which makes it easy to pack in ice).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:15 PM on August 1, 2010

Yeah, on reading that it's definitely warmed-over flavor.
posted by proj at 8:03 PM on August 1, 2010

I know exactly what taste you are referring to, and the way I avoid it is by taking the meat off the bone and stripping it of skin and fat before storing it in the refrigerator. This works really well. I read this tip on the web eons ago and it finally let me enjoy leftover chicken after years of detesting the stuff once it had been refrigerated.
posted by annathea at 11:35 PM on August 1, 2010

perhaps this is similar to the way some people think cilantro tastes like soap.

I think that's true. I have no use for cilantro, won't eat refrigerated chicken, and can detect rancid oil before anyone else does.

The oxidation theory makes sense to me, because I don't taste this "flavor" in commercial refrigerated chicken products, like salad strip kinds of things. Presumably because there are preservatives/anti-oxidizers in it.

I have had OK luck with leftover chicken if I put it in a baggie with chicken broth and no air.
posted by gjc at 5:39 AM on August 2, 2010

Hmmm. I usually leave the dark meat on the carcass, under the skin and often a little bit submerged in juices left over from cooking, until I want it. Could this be inhibiting the oxidation? If so, it's awesome that my laziness has saved the day again.

Or it could just be a taste buds - cilantro mutant gene thing. I really like dark meat so I'm glad that I don't get this, for whatever the reason is.
posted by XMLicious at 7:45 AM on August 2, 2010

The wiki article mentions "plum juice" as one potential way of preventing it. I've never heard of this, but I think it would be worth a try.
posted by Ouisch at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2010

Hmm I dont get this with my chicken either. Heck homemade breaded chicken breasts usually taste better to me a day later cold.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2010

Hmm I dont get this with my chicken either. Heck homemade breaded chicken breasts usually taste better to me a day later cold.

Hence the term warmed-over flavor.
posted by proj at 1:41 PM on August 2, 2010

Eating the chicken straight from the fridge is definitely the single biggest way I've found to minimize the unpleasant taste

OK, that will be why I've never encountered it then. I can't recall ever having taken cooked chicken out of the fridge and reheating it before eating it. Which, given that I am now 48 years old and have never had any particular reason to avoid doing this, strikes me as odd.
posted by flabdablet at 4:31 PM on August 2, 2010

Heh, I have this problem to an extreme degree. I can't eat any meat of any kind once it goes cold. As soon as it goes cold, it gets this flavor in it that I can't stand and even reheating it (in any way) doesn't make it go away. Thus, I can't eat any lunch meat, the turkey dinners at restaurants, or any of the leftovers I have from dinner. The only time I can eat the meat gone cold is if it has a very strong set of spices (ie. indian or mexican food). In fact, my husband got to enjoy leftover fried chicken today while I got to eat leftover mashed potatoes. But alas, that is my lot in life. I am finally happy to have a term for this, as most people just look at me like I'm crazy : )

I do, however, LOVE cilantro.
posted by katers890 at 7:20 PM on August 2, 2010

I think it's worth noting that some people seem not to be able to taste this flavour. My husband can't notice it, but I'm really, really sensitive to it. To me, it tastes the way a dog smells.
posted by Ouisch at 7:48 AM on August 3, 2010

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