CLEVELAND – Leftovers are a staple of a big Thanksgiving dinner. But how should you store them to make sure they last?
“Food containers can vary, but the most important thing is to make sure that it’s really well sealed and airtight,” explained Beth Czerwony, RD, with Cleveland Clinic.
Before going into the refrigerator, leftovers should also be divided into smaller portions when storing to cool more quickly.
Czerwony stressed leftovers must be placed on a shelf above any raw foods in the refrigerator to avoid cross-contamination.
She added the food you plan on saving should not sit out for more than two hours after being cooked.
If cooked food is left at room temperature for over two hours, it will enter the temperature danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit — which is when bacteria can grow more rapidly.
Once all the food is packed up, Czerwony has a guideline for how long leftovers are safe to eat.
“Leftovers are good for three to four days maximum in the refrigerator. An easy way to remember this is you have to have all those leftovers eaten by Cyber Monday,” Czerwony said. “A lot of times people want to keep their food longer, so you can freeze it and keep that food up to six months.”
When going to reheat leftovers, Czerwony said you should have a thermometer and make sure the food is reheated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any possible bacteria.