In order to enjoy all that yummy Thanksgiving or Christmas food again, it’s important to remember to handle leftovers safely. Follow these tips for safe leftovers:
- Leftovers should be eaten, frozen or discarded within 3 to 4 days from the time/date they were prepared.
- Refrigerate cooked leftovers promptly or at least within 2 hours. Bacteria on food start to double every 20 minutes when it is left out at room temperature and in the temperature danger zone. The temperature danger zone is between 40° F and 140° F and is the time when bacteria grow and multiply on food the most. Use an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator to ensure those leftovers are being kept at 40 °F or below. An appliance thermometer, in the refrigerator, should be placed in the warmest part which is typically in or around the door.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions and store in shallow containers in the refrigerator. You can also use ice baths to cool food down rapidly.Many people enjoy holiday leftovers as much as the big meal itself.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Also, make sure all surfaces and utensils that come in contact with food are clean.
- Reheat cooked leftovers to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Sauces, soups and gravies should be reheated by bringing them to a boil.
- When microwaving leftovers, make sure there are no cold spots in food (where bacteria can survive). Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.
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