One of the best things about the holidays is all the food. Oftentimes, the abundance of food results in many leftovers. Just like uncooked food, leftovers can cause foodborne illness if you don’t properly handle them. Taking food safety precautions will help you get the most from leftovers.
Have a plan for how you are going to use those leftovers and stock up on grocery items like noodles, broth and relishes, which can help you reuse leftovers in new ways.
Refrigerate any leftovers within two hours after preparation. Discard any perishable food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours.
Although you can safely store hot food in a refrigerator, you can help the food cool quicker by dividing it into small containers. For turkey and other meat leftovers, it is best to remove all the meat from the bone and place it in shallow containers or small plastic bags. You can leave the legs and wings whole. Store the meat in the refrigerator if you plan to eat it within the next three or four days. Freeze the meat if you are unsure about how soon you will eat it. Store leftover stuffing and gravy separately from the meat.
Eat refrigerated leftovers within three or four days. Consume frozen leftovers within four months.
When you are ready to eat the leftovers, use a food thermometer to make sure you reheat the food to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a food thermometer to ensure the food reaches this temperature. When reheating sauces, soups and gravies, make sure they come to a full rolling boil. If you are reheating your leftovers with a microwave, check to make sure there are no cold spots in the food where bacteria could have survived. Cover, stir and rotate the food for even heating in the microwave.
For more food safety information, contact the Extension office in your Kentucky county.