After a great holiday meal, deciding what to do with a table full of leftovers may be the least of your concerns. While it’s a pity to waste good food, it is unsafe to let leftovers linger. Any food left out for more than two hours is susceptible to harmful bacterial growth and should be tossed. This is true for any part of the meal, not just the meat. Here’s how to handle what’s left:
- Save only the food you know to have been handled safely in the first place, and which hasn’t been tainted by double-dipping or by lots of hands picking at it.
- Try and make an honest assessment of what you are likely to eat over the next three or four days, since that is how long most leftovers are good for, unless you choose to freeze them, which you should do immediately.
- Mark the containers or bags with a date so you know when to use or toss their contents.
- Store foods properly. Remember to store meats separate, as to be sure not to contaminate other food products.
- Make sure your refrigerator is working to keep food cold enough. The temperature should be no more than 40 degrees. You can also help by not overloading the refrigerator, which compromises its efficiency.
- When reheating, leftovers must be cooked to 165 degrees to kill any bacteria. Be sure to use a thermometer to check temperature.