Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving Day leftovers? Enjoy a plate of turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings, or repurpose Thanksgiving leftovers to create a fabulous meal. It is no coincidence that Throw Out You Leftover Day is celebrated each year on November 29th. This is a reminder that after as certain point, Thanksgiving leftovers just need to go. Food may look fine and taste fine, but bacteria can be sneaky. Take control and don’t give germs a chance to grow. It is important to enjoy those favorite Thanksgiving leftovers safely!
- After your holiday dinner, make an effort to refrigerate food promptly. As a general rule, never leave food out for more than two hours at room temperature.
- Bacteria tend to grow and multiply the fastest between 41 and 135 degrees. There is a reason this temperature range is referred to as the “danger zone.”
- For safety’s sake, discard any food left out longer than 2 hours.
- Let your refrigerator cool leftovers.
- Store leftovers on the top shelf, loosely covered, to allow food to cool faster. Once cool, cover them tightly.
- Separate large containers of food into smaller portions if needed to facilitate cooling.
- Since food is often prepared prior to Thanksgiving Day, label your leftover storage containers with the product name and the either date the food was made or a throw away date.
- Heating up leftovers properly is also critical for food safety. Heat up leftovers in an oven, on the stovetop, or in a microwave to a temperature of at least 165 degrees. If you do not have a food thermometer, this is a wise investment.
- When reheating meat and poultry in the oven, the oven temperature should be at least 325 degrees.
- Leftovers should not be heated up in a warmer drawer, a chafing dish, or a slow cooker. These methods heat too slowly and allow food to spend too much time in the “danger zone.”
Typically, leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, but nothing lasts forever. Use common sense when carousing through the fridge, and remember: when in doubt, throw it out. Once leftovers have been enjoyed for a few days, it is time to give your refrigerator a good look. This is the time to toss the food that has been hiding in containers in the back of the refrigerator. Take a moment and look in the produce drawers and see if there are any fruits and vegetables that are past their prime. This is the “use it or lose it” moment.
Cleaning out the refrigerator after Thanksgiving is not only a practice in food safety, it also provides an opportunity to become more mindful of your family’s eating habits and food preparation needs. Nobody likes to waste food. If there is an entire pan of stuffing leftover, make notes for next year. Cleaning out your refrigerator regularly can help will help with meal planning and promote “planned overs” versus leftovers!