leftover turkey in a container

Holiday Leftovers: When to eat them and when to throw them out.

Whether you are expecting a big crowd this year for thanksgiving or a small one, there is bound to be leftovers. Many of us even have leftover traditions, pies, soups, even breakfasts that we make with leftovers in the days that follow.  But how long is too long to safely reheat or recycle your thanksgiving leftovers? 

Here are some food safety tips to keep in mind this holiday season. 

1: Refrigerate food within 2 hours of serving it. All perishable items should be refrigerated within 2 hours of coming out of the oven or refrigerator.  After 2 hours food temperatures can enter the danger zone where bacteria can quickly mulitply causeing the food to be unsafe. Throw food away if it has been out for more than 2 hours, including any leftover “doggie bags” sent home with guests.

2. Store leftovers in small shallow dishes. Storing food in smaller containers will allow them to cool quicker than storing them in larger containers. This also can help when reheating small amounts of food later for second meals.

3.Label the containers with the date that the item was cooked. This is especially important if you cooked items on different days. Leftovers can be refrigerated for 3-4 day. Although frozen leftovers are safe indefinitely try to use them within 4 months to retain the best taste and texture.

4. When you re-heat your leftovers be sure to reheat them to 165 degrees to kill bacteria. Reheating with a lid or cover will help insuring that the food heats quickly and evenly. Remember to check the temperature of microwaved food in multiple spots.

5. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil.

6. Do not use slow cookers to reheat leftovers. 

7. When in doubt throw it out.

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