October 27, 2021

Thanksgiving Leftovers and Food Safety

The USDA is reminding consumers that turkey leftovers should be frozen after three or four days in the refrigerator. That means if you have any turkey left over from Thanksgiving dinner, it should be in the freezer by Monday.

Thanksgiving Turkey RoastedCorrectly refrigerating all leftovers is critical to preventing foodborne illness. The bacteria in food left at room temperature for more than two hours double in number every 20 minutes. And some bacteria produce a toxin while they are growing that isn’t destroyed by heat. Leaving food out at room temperature is one of the main causes of foodborne illness.

It’s also important to cool food rapidly to below 40 degrees F. Large amounts of food (such as the turkey) should be divided into smaller pieces and refrigerated as soon as possible. When you’re storing other foods, the same rules apply. Soup, for instance, should be divided into shallow containers and chilled. Hot food can be placed right into the fridge; don’t worry about warming the fridge with hot foods.

And remember to cover leftovers in airtight packaging; either plastic wrap, foil, or storage containers. This will help keep bacteria out and will also prevent the food from losing moisture and flavor.

Reheating leftovers is another crucial part of food safety. Make sure that your reheated leftovers reach the temperature of 165 degrees F, measured with an accurate food thermometer. Reheat sauces, gravies, and soups by bringing them to a rolling boil. Cover leftovers when you’re reheating them. This helps retain moisture and ensures that the food will heat through. Always thaw frozen leftovers in the fridge, never on the counter.

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