November 28, 2021

Keep Thanksgiving Leftovers Safe With Tips From the USDA

It’s Thanksgiving. One of the best parts of this holiday is leftovers. So you should know how to keep Thanksgiving leftovers safe with these tips from the USDA.

Keep Thanksgiving Leftovers Safe With Tips From the USDA

When you take foods out of the oven or refrigerator, set a timer and follow the two hour rule. That means that all perishable items such as the turkey, stuffing, side dishes, and desserts should be refrigerated within two hours after coming out of those appliances. After two hours, these foods enter the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can double every 20 minutes. Then, even if you thoroughly reheat those foods, the bacteria could have produced toxins that are not destroyed by heat and can still make you sick.

When you break down the foods from the meal, put them into shallow containers so they cool down quickly in the refrigerator. The refrigerator should be set below 40°F; check that temperature with a refrigerator thermometer.

The key date for Thanksgiving leftovers is the Monday after the holiday. Leftovers should only be kept in the fridge for four days after they have been prepared. After Monday, freeze or discard the food.

Frozen food does stay safe indefinitely, although the quality will decrease over time. These frozen foods are best if eaten within six months. Your freezer should be set below 0°F and you should have a freezer thermometer too.

When you reheat leftovers, make sure that they reach 165°F. And always test that temperature, in several parts of the food, with a reliable and accurate food thermometer.

If you choose to microwave leftovers, the food should be covered with microwave-safe paper towels or other types of covers and rotated during cooking for even heating. Arrange the food evenly in the microwave safe container, and add some liquid for more even heating. Most microwave ovens have cold spots, so check the internal temperature of the food in several places before removing it from the oven. And let the food stand on a solid surface for three to four minutes after cooking so the food continues to heat.

Now that you know how to keep Thanksgiving leftovers safe, enjoy the holiday and the food for days to come.

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