July 15, 2024

Do You Know How to Safely Store and Reheat Leftovers?

Now that fall is here and people are making more substantial food in larger quantities, it’s time to think about the safe handling of food. Do you know how to safely store and reheat leftovers? Many cases of food poisoning may occur because leftovers are improperly handled.

Do You Know How to Safely Store and Reheat Leftovers?

The first thing to know is that all leftover perishable foods should be refrigerated as early as possible after the food has finished cooking. The danger zone is between 40°F and 140°F. In that temperature range, bacteria can double every 20 minutes. So it’s important to divide food into smaller quantities and put into shallow containers. Cut large pieces of meat into smaller pieces. Divide a big pot of soup into smaller containers. Cover and refrigerate within 2 hours.

Then make sure that your refrigerator is set to a temperature between 35°F and 40°F. Keep your fridge clean and only store leftovers up to 4 days; after that, they should be frozen. Leftovers should be wrapped in airtight packaging or placed in food storage containers.

Keep leftovers for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, or up to 3 to 4 months in the freezer. The frozen food will still be safe for a longer time, but dehydration can cause freezer burn and reduce the quality.

If you do freeze leftovers, they must be thawed in the fridge only. Never thaw them on the counter or bacteria will grow. You can put a waterproof bag containing frozen food in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, until it is thawed. Reheat this food immediately. The microwave is also a way to thaw food. Again, when thawed, the food should be heated to 165°F.

You can reheat frozen leftovers without thawing first, either in a saucepan on the stove, in a microwave, or in the oven. The reheating time will be longer.

Always make sure that leftovers are heated to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. Sauces, soups, and gravies should be brought to a rollin boil. When using the microwave oven, be sure to cover and rotate the food. Covered food will create moist heat which will destroy any harmful bacteria. Check the temperature of the food in several places, because microwave ovens have cold spots. Allow a resting time of a few minutes before checking the final temperature.

And you can reheat leftover leftovers. If you freeze food after reheating, bring it again to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer and it will be safe to eat. Now that you know how to safely store and reheat leftovers you  can keep your family safe.


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