One of the best things about the holidays is the delicious food. When the main meal is over, follow these tips to get the most out of your leftovers.
Store Them Safely
According to the USDA, food should be refrigerated within two hours after cooking to keep it out of the “danger zone.” The danger zone is a temperature range between 40° F and 140° F where bacteria thrive. When serving food buffet-style, keep hot food hot in chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays, and keep cold food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Within two hours of cooking or after the food is removed from an appliance keeping it warm or cold, refrigerate leftovers.
Cooling Best Practices
To prevent bacterial growth, food should be rapidly cooled to reach the safe refrigerator-storage temperature of 40° F or below. To do this, divide large amounts of food into shallow containers, and cut large items into smaller portions. For example, a big pot of soup or a whole roast, ham or turkey will take a long time to cool, inviting bacteria to multiply and increasing the danger of foodborne illness. (Sliced breast meat; legs and wings are small enough to be left whole.) Once the food is wrapped, covered or placed in an airtight container, you can cool it down further, if needed, by placing the container in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating.
If your food is still quite warm when you put it in the fridge, be sure to leave plenty of room around it for proper air circulation, which will cool it down faster. Crowding hot food next to other items in the fridge poses the risk of lowering the refrigerator’s temperature and inviting bacterial growth in other foods.
Storage and Freshness
For optimal flavor and freshness, wrap or seal leftovers in airtight packaging. Stasher bags, U-Konserve stainless steel containers and Bee’s Wrap are great sustainable options!
Leftovers keep for three to four days in the fridge and three to four months in the freezer. (Although safe indefinitely, frozen leftovers can lose moisture and flavor when stored for longer.)
Try Something New
If you aren’t in the mood for the same food after a day or two, transform your leftovers into new, exciting meals!