5 Smart Steps for Keeping Holiday Leftovers Safe and Delicious
Turn those big dinners into safe, yummy meals for later
After we deck out our halls with decorations, we spend the holidays cooking and feasting. All of that delicious food can make for some wonderful, easy leftover meals. The key: following a few smart steps to keep the food safe from food poisoning.
Clostridium perfringens, bacteria that grows in cooked foods left at room temperature, is the
second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning, causing vomiting and
abdominal cramps 6 to 24 hours later. These outbreaks occur most often in November and
December – when we’re producing those large meals that create leftovers.
your family safe with these five USDA tips:
cooked food within two hours.
Throw away all perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours – that includes the time spent sitting down to your meal.
To prevent bacterial growth, get food out of the “danger zone” of 40-140° F to the safe refrigerator-storage temperature of 40° F as soon as possible. Do this by cutting large pieces into smaller sizes, and pack leftovers into meal-sized containers. Then immediately put this food into the refrigerator, explains the AARP, and let the fridge do its job.
3. Wrap leftovers.
Cover leftovers, wrap them in airtight packaging or seal them in storage containers to help keep bacteria out, retain moisture and prevent leftovers from picking up odors from other refrigerated foods.
Related: Holiday Food Safety Do's and Don'ts
Note the date you cooked the food on the container so you know how many more days it can stay safe and fresh. Leftovers can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days, and although frozen leftovers are safe indefinitely, use your leftovers within 4 months so the food doesn’t dry out or lose flavor.
your leftovers properly.
Cover leftovers when reheating, which helps retain moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through, and bring sauces, soups and gravies to a rolling boil. Microwave reheating requires special care because microwaves tend to heat food unevenly. You’ll want to arrange food items evenly in a covered microwave safe glass or ceramic dish. Add liquid if needed, so the moist heat can help destroy harmful bacteria and make for uniform cooking. Be sure to use a food thermometer to check that your reheated food has reached 165° F to kill harmful bacteria – and check microwaved food in several spots.
these simple tips, you can give all of that wonderful holiday fare a second
chance at another delicious meal - while keeping your family safe. Happy