How do you interpret "overnight" prep time?

For longer prep steps, such as proofing bread overnight, salting/brining meat overnight, do you interpret "overnight" as 8h? For slow fermenting breads I usually take "overnight" to mean about a night, and set up my baking to continue in the morning. But for something like salting a steak or chicken, I'm unlikely to eat it when I wake up in the morning! In that case "overnight" would turn into almost a full 24h. Instead, I prep the meat in the morning before I go to work to eat that evening. I'm just curious how other cooks/bakers interpret "overnight" steps, thanks!



702551 October 3, 2018
I'm probably in the minority here, but when I read something like "overnight" I don't expect to be finishing up prep at 10pm and to be back in front of the stove at 6am.

I see "overnight" as somewhere between 10-12 hours. Of course, this can depend on the recipe.

The better recipe authors will actually specify the number of hours if it makes a real difference. If there is a point where the preparation starts to degrade in quality or change in chemical nature, a good recipe author will explicitly identify that threshold.

That's how I see it.

Disclaimer: 95+% of my cooking is done without recipes and I gave up baking years ago.
Alyssa October 3, 2018
I usually think of overnight as at least 8 hours. For bread, though, I like to let it rise a little bit longer (12ish hours) to let the gluten and flavors develop.
Stephanie B. October 3, 2018
Bread is easier to see and feel the change...but I'm certainly not skilled enough to tell the difference between an 8 and 12h salted steak by giving it the poke test lol
Nancy October 3, 2018
I interpret it similarly, usually considering a range of 8-12 hours needed for the changes the recipe author wants to happen.
If making the first time, I will probably check at the 8 hour mark to see if there's a need to stop the action.
Casual use of the term "overnight" to mean or suggest one day in fridge can be annoying & misleading.
Do the same as you with a meat dish asking for something "overnight" - start it morning of day intended to make for dinner.
Stephanie B. October 3, 2018
Thanks Nancy, I'm glad I'm doing it right!
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