Some Things Get Better with Age: Foods to Eat As Leftovers

As the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Though fresh, hot meals are put on a pedestal, full-fledged meals beyond wine and cheese get better with age too. In fact, when braised meats, sumptuous stews and hearty casseroles are left to sit in the fridge and cool down for hours or even days, a little magic happens. Flavors meld together as individual ingredients mingle and achieve a more well-rounded flavor.

Before you scarf down an entire dish, slow your roll. These hearty recipes prove that some things are best taken as leftovers, whether you zap them in the microwave or sneak a bite out of the fridge cold.

Meatloaf

Though meatloaf is often restricted to the weeknight dinner table, it is a powerhouse leftover. For something a little different, assemble thick slices of cold leftover meatloaf (pictured above), or whatever kind of meatloaf you have on your hands, into sandwiches with a dousing of ketchup. If you can’t use it all up that way, remember that meatloaf is a champion when you put it on hold in the freezer.

Giada-Lasagna

Giada-Lasagna

Lasagna

Sure, there’s nothing better than lasagna coming out of the oven hot with bubbling cheese. But recipes like Giada De Laurentiis' Classic Italian Lasagna are so good that eating it all in one sitting and moving on with your life would be too fleeting. Thankfully, it’s easy to pop the original casserole dish right in the oven, or take scoops out and reheat as you go. Since the meat sauce, cheese and noodles get to soak together, the flavors can meld together for the ultimate bite.

FN_Spicy_Pulled_Pork

FN_Spicy_Pulled_Pork

Spicy pulled pork in a pot.

Photo by: Marshall Troy ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Marshall Troy, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork on its own is already a tender, fall-apart dreamboat, but when recipes like Ree Drummond’s Spicy Pop Pulled Pork are left to sit for a while, the shredded meat soaks up all of the juices for the most-developed flavor profile yet. From there, you can pile reheated pulled pork onto bread, steal cold bites out of the fridge or repurpose the leftovers for genius innovations. Try stirring it into macaroni and cheese, using it as a topping for pizza, piling it high over chips for homemade nachos and more.

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Beef Stew

Food Network Kitchen’s hearty Beef Stew is bound to feed a crowd, so don’t be surprised if you’re left with some extras. Aside from heating it up and sinking a spoon into it, nothing needs to be done to this slow-cooked beauty. When the tender meat and veggies sit in the fridge for a while, they become even more fork-tender and delicious.

Meat Sauce

Since it simmers for up to eight hours, Slow-Cooker Sunday Gravy achieves a rich, full-bodied disposition and is brimming with hot Italian sausage, tender short ribs and sun-dried tomatoes. Though it’s called “Sunday” gravy, eating it well beyond that day of the week can only mean good things. Spoon it over polenta, pasta and more for a true dose of comfort.

Chili

Brimming with peppers, chunky chicken and tomatoes, a bowl full of Ina Garten’s Chicken Chili is as comforting as it gets. When it comes to leftovers, letting the cayenne pepper, ground cumin and chili powder stew together creates a more-developed flavor. Plus, you can spoon leftover chili over nachos, baked potatoes and hot dogs for even more exciting reincarnations.

Frittata with Asparagus, Tomato, and Fontina: Giada De Laurentiis

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Frittatas, Quiches and Tarts

Though fried, scrambled and poached eggs should be consumed right then and there, some egg dishes can wait it out. Since they can be taken cold and hot, frittatas, quiches and egg tarts are extremely versatile and can be held for future eating. When it comes to Giada De Laurentiis‘ Frittata with Asparagus, Tomato and Fontina, she recommends setting a few slices on the counter or in the fridge for at-the-ready nibbling.

Fried Chicken

Classic fried chicken fresh from the fryer is legendary for its crisp, crackly skin and moist, tender inside. Though it’s easy to lust after fresh hot fried chicken, taking the bone-in staple out of the fridge, waiting a bit and biting in at room temperature is a killer option too.

Eating it at room temp also ensures that you can eat it with abandon without burning your mouth. Plus, though it’s not as crispy as when it’s hot, the batter fuses together with the meat for one unified mouthful. After cooking and digging into the Neelys’ Fried Chicken, don’t be afraid to save some in the fridge to pack for lunch.

Chicken in Creamy Tomato Curry

Chicken in Creamy Tomato Curry

Food Networks Chicken in CreamyTomato Curry

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2012, Television Food Network, GP. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2012, Television Food Network, GP. All Rights Reserved

Curry

Those little containers of leftover takeout have always held a very special place in our fridge. Curries especially have extra staying power, and Aarti Sequeira’s recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala is a prime example. With so many distinct, intense ingredients — from garam masala to ginger-garlic paste to cream — allowing the creamy tomato-based curry to sit allows for the different elements to fuse together and create one big flavor. Ladle reheated curry over leftover rice and dinner (part two) is served.

Keep Reading

Next Up

When Food Gets in Costume: Edible Takes on Creepy Halloween Things

As you're putting the final touches on your costume creation, pick from our fleet of spooky, creepy and Halloween-y food creations that look just like real things.

POLL: Food Network Magazine Wants to Know How You Eat Thanksgiving Leftovers

Food Network Magazine want to know what you eat after Thanksgiving dinner.

How to Get a Better Chop

When you're chopping garlic, onion or other vegetables in a food processor, keep the motor running and drop the ingredients through the feed tube.

Good Eats for Better Bones

An estimated 44 million Americans are at risk for, or have, osteoporosis, a disease where our bones become increasingly fragile and sometimes fracture. Though women are 4 times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, men are affected as well. Exercise and some medications can help, but what you eat plays a vital role.

How to Get Your Kids Eating Green Foods ... Happily

Yes, it's possible to serve kids green foods without tears at the dinner table. Learn one mom's tricks and recipe tips.

Get Classic Southern Eats in Alabama — On the Road with The Great Food Truck Race

Get On the Road restaurant recommendations from the Alabama stop on Food Network's Great Food Truck Race.

Food Safety: Storing Thanksgiving Leftovers

Store your Thanksgiving leftovers safely and quickly with advice from our experts.