7 Things You Should Never Make Ahead

updated May 29, 2019
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I am all about getting a head-start on weekday cooking by making as much as I can in advance during my weekend meal prep session. But the fact is, there are some foods that are simply not meant to be meal prepped. It’s not that you can’t make these foods ahead of time — it’s that they are at their prime when served immediately after being cooked, and aren’t nearly as delicious or satisfying when served a day or two later.

1. Breaded Chicken

The best thing about this timeless baked chicken dinner is the crispy, crunchy crust blanketing a basic chicken breast. Eating it as leftovers is not even close to being as irresistibly delicious as when you first cooked it. When stashed in the fridge, the excess moisture has a knack for leaving the breaded coating soft and soggy beyond repair. There’s no way to bring that initial breaded crunch back to life.

2. Shrimp

Just say no to cooking shrimp (and most seafood, to be honest!) in advance. Cold shrimp isn’t super appetizing, and reheating automatically overcooks it and makes it rubbery and fishy-tasting. The exception is if you’re cutting the shrimp into smaller pieces and re-purposing it into a pan-fried shrimp cake or scallion pancake.

3. Soft-Boiled Eggs

The number-one reason to love a soft-boiled egg is for that luscious, jammy center. It’s all about the yolk. When you make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge, the yolk doesn’t quite ooze the same way. So if you want that super-runny yolk (a six-minute egg), make it when you’re ready to serve. A slightly firmer yolk (anything above eight minutes) will do fine in the fridge.

4. Risotto

Risotto’s just not the same eaten a day or two later as it is when served immediately, with just-tender grains and a rich consistency. As risotto sits, the grains of rice continue to soak up moisture and become soft (even borderline mushy) and the once-lush, creamy sauce becomes nearly non-existent.

5. Pork Chops

Here’s the thing: It’s not that you can’t make pork chops in advance and eat them as leftovers (we’ve even shared tips on the best way to reheat them). But whether you cook the in the oven, on the stovetop, or on the grill, this mild-mannered meat is at its prime, with the most tender and juicy texture, right after it’s cooked.

6. Gnocchi

Gnocchi is a quick and easy pasta night win, whether you toss it in a pot of boiling water or give it a quick sauté in a skillet. When these pillowy pieces of dough sit around in the fridge, they continue to soften, and the leftovers have a way of being mushy and not as satisfying as when they were first cooked.

7. Crispy Chicken Thighs

I have strong feelings that there is no better way to cook a pack of skin-on chicken thighs than kissed against a screaming hot skillet, creating an ultra-crispy, crunchy skin. The problem is, that irresistible crunch only sticks around for so long. When made ahead, and after an overnight stint in the fridge, that once-perfectly crisp skin, is sad, soggy, and chewy.

What else would you add to this list? Share in the comments!