For those who make pho at home, a common challenge is they always have more pho broth than they can eat in one sitting/meal, even when having a large group of family and friends over.
So what do you do with the extra broth?
What's the best way to store it?
And what's the best way to reheat to enjoy it again?
Here are some of my recommendations. Where appropriate, I've also provided notes on the differences between serving at home versus in restaurants.
- Assuming that you eat the first pho meal right after you finish cooking, I would suggest portioning the remaining broth into 2 or more portions: one group for the fridge/cooler, the other for the freezer. The number of portions is determined by your container sizes and cooler and freezer spaces.
- Portioning for the cooler (short-term storage) and freezer (long-term storage) should occur preferably within 3-4 hours of end of cooking process.
Note: This is ok for homemade meals; actually anything goes with homemade meals. On the other hand, for restaurants or public service, North American health departments require cooling/freezing within 2-3 hours. Furthermore, when placing containers into storage (either cooler or freezer), restaurants need to properly label everything then follow FIFO (first in, first out) procedures.
- You should consume the cooled portions within 6-7 days. Frozen portions can be kept up to several months or longer if you want.
Note: For restaurants I'd recommend more stringent process to ensure quality and to meet regulations.
- To prepare cooled broth for a new meal, just heat in a pan or pot, bring to boil, adjust for taste (adding water and/or spices, fish sauce, others, etc.), then serve.
- To prepare frozen broth for a new meal, if you have time, either thaw it first in the fridge/cooler or leave it out on the counter. The former saves the most energy as the thawing broth helps keep the cooler cool, and the latter is less safe. If you're in a hurry to serve your pho, then the most common methods are 1) running under cold water, 2) thawing in the microwave oven, or 3) running under warm/hot water. The first two ways are safe; the third is less safe. All of these are acceptable for home pho. But for restaurants you need to follow the more stringent rules or your local health regulations.
- Under no circumstance that you should endlessly reboiling or maintaining heat on the broth just to keep from having to store in either color or freezer. Aside from very poor cooking technique/practice issues (who would do this to their own meals), endlessly reboiling/reheating doesn't meet the food safety requirement, while at the same time changes the broth's taste profile and the quality goes down fast.
As noted, for home cooked meals, pretty much anything goes because the health department won't ever be pounding on your door and post a health grade on your window.
But if you follow the steps discussed, you will be able to make large portions of pho broth, and enjoy the best pho you can have at home anytime you want, knowing that you've followed safe practices.
It should be mentioned again that for restaurants it's a different thing. There are important reasons why stringent regulations are in place and why a pho restaurant operator should have and follow good standards in their operation.
Here's a video clip showing 6 gallons of beef pho broth being poured for storage. It's actually a very small amount for restaurant, but is way more than enough for a single seating for homemade pho. So proper storage is key.
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