January 24, 2018

Holiday Leftovers Storage Times and Tips

After the holidays, many people have lots of leftovers in their fridge. Using them up makes good sense economically.  But how long do these foods last? FoodSafety.gov has a convenient chart that will help you keep your family safe.

Most cooked meats last three to five days in the fridge. After that time, they should be frozen for longer storage. Make sure you properly wrap the foods in freezer wrap and containers, label them, and freeze at 0 degrees F or below. Salads and side dishes last three to five days as well.

Once you’ve properly stored leftovers, you must follow rules to thaw and reheat them safely. The USDA offers tips on this topic. Frozen foods can be reheated without thawing; the reheating time is just going to be longer. Be sure that leftovers reach 165 degrees F, and measure that temperature with a food thermometer. Sauces, soups, and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil.

Microwave reheating can be tricky because most microwave ovens have hot and cold spots. It’s important to move food around at intervals during the cooking time and to let the food stand on a solid surface after you take it out of the microwave oven. The heat will travel through the food during this time. Check it with a food thermometer again before consuming.

Finally, it’s safe to freeze leftovers, as long as they have been heated to 165 degrees F. Cool the food down quickly in shallow containers in the fridge, then refreeze.

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