June 15, 2024

Store Thanksgiving Leftovers Safely to Stay Healthy

After the holidays, one of the best things is having lots of great leftovers to eat. But you need to store Thanksgiving leftovers safely to stay healthy. Here are some rules to follow from Food Safety.gov.

Store Thanksgiving Leftovers Safely to Stay Healthy

Food safety starts as soon as you take the food out of the oven or the refrigerator to serve it. Make sure that all perishable foods, which include meats, cheeses, cut fruits and vegetables, and casseroles, are put into the fridge or freezer within two hours. That time period shrinks to one hour if the ambient air temperature is above 90°F.

Divide the food into smaller portions so it cools quickly. A whole turkey or a large casserole will take too long to cool down, meaning it can stay in the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F too long. In that temperature range, pathogenic bacteria can double every 20 minutes.

In a USDA study, 76% of respondents said they would let leftovers cool to room temperature before refrigerating them. This is dangerous and can cause foodborne illness. Refrigerate or freeze the food even if it is still steaming hot.

Now another rule: Leftovers are only safe for four days in the fridge. You  have until the Monday after Thanksgiving (November 27 this year) to use or freeze the food. If you freeze leftovers, they will keep their quality for the next two to six months.

According to USDA research, 31% of respondents said they would eat leftovers kept longer than four days in the fridge. That is unsafe.

Reheating leftovers is another tricky point. All leftovers should be reheated to 165°F. Check that temperature with a reliable food thermometer. Reheat sauces, soups, and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil.

You  can reheat foods in the microwave oven, but cover it and rotate the food so it heats evenly. The covering will keep moist heat in so the food will get uniformly hot to help destroy harmful bacteria. Check the food temp in several places if you use the microwave to find cool spots, and let the food rest on a solid surface for a few minutes after you take it out of the microwave.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers with these tips to stay safe.

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