Don’t Stir The Gulas

Natural Food Preservation

March 19, 2012

Allan Stevo

A seldom recognized tidbit related to guláš is that guláš comes with a built-in preservative.

In these modern times you might freeze your guláš to make it last longer or you might put it in a really cold refrigerator.  Let’s envision a time pre-refrigeration, though, where guláš might be stored outside, in a cellar, on a windowsill, or perhaps even in a cold body of water.

The fat in the guláš rises to the top and sometimes even forms a solid layer if it gets cool enough. The layer of fat (either liquid or solid) that rises to the top keeps the oxygen out.  It keeps the air above away from the goodness below.  It’s especially important to keep the air away from the meat because meat can be so easily perishable.  If you don’t do that, the guláš will begin to kysnúť, as Slovaks say – it will begin to turn sour.

Even without artificial refrigeration, if you treat it right, the guláš could be expected to last five days or more in cool weather and might last two days in warm weather.

When you are off in your hunter’s cabin with your gals or buddies, don’t forget about this built in preservative at the top.  Respect it.  When it’s time for a midnight snack, stick your ladle in to gather what you need and let the rest of the guláš be. Don’t needlessly stir the guláš.  Avoid stirring the guláš especially when a Slovak hunter is with you in the hunting cabin – because otherwise you’ll get an earful.  Stirring introduces air into the mixture and temporarily removes the natural preservative – that layer of lard or oil on top of the guláš.

Stirring is great for when you are cooking and want to cool something down (by introducing air), fluff something up (by introducing air), or prevent burning by moving a portion of the food away from a hot spot in its cooking vessel (and introducing air).

But it’s not good to do when gathering from a pot of guláš that you want to have last awhile – precisely because stirring introduces air.

Have you come across any methods of “common sense” natural preservation along the lines of “don’t stir the guláš?”  I’d love to hear about them.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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  • Great advice… I always wondered about that viscous layer swirling above the delicious underfoods.

    As you know, I am a big fan of that OTHER all-natural means of preventing food spoilage — namely, just letting it go sour in its own good time!

  • Marek,
    I’m a big fan of letting milk sour too. I like the comic. Thank you for sharing.

  • I don’t add a lot of salt during cooking. I’ve heard that some salt increases spoilage. Over-salting preserves beef jerky, but would ruin gulash or any other dish for that matter.

    I add lots of salt before serving. And a tight lid on the leftover gulash will keep it good for ten days or more !!

  • Cynthia,
    That’s a smart idea – instead of a two inch thick layer of lard, a good lid also keeps a lot of the air out. I like salting things as I’m eating them as well. Thank you for the tip.


  • Just keep bread as far away from gulas as possible. Dont taste gulas in cooker with bread! If you accidentaly did that, boil gulas again. Otherwise it will begin to “kysnut” in few hours.

  • If you tasted finished gulas in cooker with bread, there is 100% chance it will begin to “kysnut”. Boil it again if you accidentaly did that.

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