Eating too much food is a holiday tradition that leaves you with a lot of leftovers. This means that food must be properly stored so that it can be enjoyed for at least two more days.
To ensure your holiday spread is safe to eat, these guidelines are:
Two-hour rule: All perishable items should be refrigerated within two hours of coming out of the oven or refrigerator. After two hours, perishable food enters the Danger Zone — between 40 degrees to 140 degrees F — where bacteria can multiply quickly and cause the food to become unsafe. To prevent foodborne disease, foods should not be left out for longer than two hours. This rule applies to “doggie bags”, which guests can send home with them.
Use small and shallow containers: Store leftover food in small, shallow containers in the refrigerator or in the freezer for later use. Small containers are better for cooling leftovers than large ones.
Freeze or consume within four ays: If you want to keep leftovers longer, freeze them within that four-day period. Except for Listeria, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer. Foods that have been in the freezer for months (recommended freezer times chart) may be dry, or may not taste as good. The best quality leftovers will last for between two and six months if they are kept in the freezer. Reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
When reheating in the microwave, cover and rotate the food for even heating. Place food in a microwave-safe ceramic or glass dish. Add liquid if necessary. After allowing the microwave to cool down, use a food thermometer to check the temperature in multiple places.
Heat soups, gravies and sauces by bringing them to boil.
Do NOT use slow cookers to reheat.
Leftovers are safe to eat once they have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
If you decide to freeze your leftovers, use the Safe Defrosting Methods when you want to reheat.
Curious about how long a specific food will last in the fridge or freezer? Check out this helpful chart from the FDA.
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