It is great to find leftover turkey or chicken in the refrigerator the day after a feast of a oven-roasted bird. Newspapers and magazines offer scores of ideas of what to do with leftovers during turkey season.
Cooked meat holds better in the refrigerator, than raw meat because through heat you got rid of harmful microorganisms and deactivated enzymes in the chicken that otherwise start to spoil the meat. But the flavor just isn't the same after three or four days as it was the Friday after Thanksgiving. Food scientists refer to this phenomenon as warmed-over flavor and I discussed in detail in Warmed-over flavor in the Meat chapter. Poultry is exceptionally susceptible because it is high in unsaturated fats, which tend to turn rancid faster than saturated fats.
As with most chemical reactions, lowering the temperature and limiting oxygen contact minimizes oxidation. Wrap any leftovers carefully and store them in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as the are cool. Covering the meat with a sauce to keep oxygen from attacking it is another excellent way to reduce warmed-over flavor. Meat stored in gravy has five times longer shelf life than if it is wrapped securely but stored without sauce.
Cold cooked poultry is a fine addition to salads, but don't use the pieces that you cooked in water to make a poultry stock. The flavor of that meat is all in the liquid, and what is left gives nothing but a good texture to salads. Instead, marinate fresh chicken or turkey in your favorite marinade, and bake the marinated pieces specifically for your salad.
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