Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas!  Hopefully you will be enjoying a delicious Christmas dinner soon.  The holidays typically bring some great food and those leftovers can easily fill up the fridge. The key is to safely store and use those leftovers, and today we’ll offer a few tips on that topic. 

First, food storage.  After food has been served, leftovers should be placed in clean, small, shallow containers, three inches or less in height, and covered completely.  Leftover food should be placed in the refrigerator within two hours or less.  Containers should be spread out in the refrigerator to allow air flow and promote rapid, even cooling of the food.  Food should not be refrigerated or frozen in large, deep containers as the food in the center remains warm for a longer time which can cause harmful bacteria to grow.  If you’re short on fridge space, use a cooler with ice packs or cubed ice to keep leftovers at a temperature of 40 degrees or less. 

When reheating leftovers, food should be reheated on the stove, in the oven, or in the microwave until it reaches 165 degrees.  Slow cookers are not recommended for reheating leftovers. 

Plan ahead for using those leftovers.  If you’re having a Christmas ham, plan for omelets, casseroles,
Plan to use holiday leftovers, whether its
turkey sliders or scrambled eggs and ham!
sandwiches, or a pizza, for example.  Leftover turkey can become a base for a turkey pot pie, turkey noodle soup, turkey wild rice soup, turkey enchiladas, etc. – it can easily be substituted for chicken in many recipes.  Leftovers can quickly grow tiresome, so another good option is to freeze them.  For example, dice up that ham and freeze in small Ziploc bags so that a serving can be pulled out in the morning and added to scrambled eggs. 

So, how long can you safely keep refrigerated leftovers?  Generally, leftovers should be used within four days but specifically the guidelines are as follows:

Those delicious salads should be
eaten within three to five days.
  • Soups and stews - 3 to 4 days
  • Gravy and meat broth - 2 to 2 days
  • Cooked meat, meat dishes, casseroles - 3 to 4 days
  • Opened package of deli meats - 3 to 5 days
  • Pasta and potato salads - 3 to 5 days·       

Now, I’m sure there’s lots of folks out there right now saying, “Oh, I eat leftovers way older than that and I’ve always been fine!”  Could be, but please remember that adults ages 65 and older, children younger than 5 years, pregnant women, and people whose immune systems are weakened due to illness or medical treatment are most at risk for foodborne illnesses.  So, while you may be able to handle that week-old turkey, Grandma, your pregnant wife, or your three-year-old son may not be able to. 

So, keep those hot foods hot and those cold foods cold, and quickly refrigerate leftovers!

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