SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Thanksgiving Day is over but there’s still a lot of leftovers to store, put away, and eat later.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has some tips on how to safely store those leftovers in the refrigerator or the freezer.
Leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking.
Divide them into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze them in covered shallow containers so they can cool off quickly. The turkey should also be portioned to ensure quick cooling in the refrigerator.
A large container or whole turkey would take too long to cool down to a safe temperature, which gives bacteria a chance to grow.
In a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, 76% said that they would refrigerate leftovers after letting them cool to room temperature first. That’s not necessary and could actually make your food unsafe.
Leftovers should be placed in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible, even if they still have steam or heat coming off of them.
Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days. That means you have until the Monday after Thanksgiving to eat all of the leftovers or place them in the freezer to save for later.
Not enough people know that the food can become unsafe to eat in the refrigerator after four days.
In fact, 31% indicated in a recent study of HHS that they would eat leftovers that’s longer than four days in the refrigerator.
After four days, the food will start to develop a bad smell or taste caused by spoilage bacteria.
If the leftovers are stored in the freezer, they will stay safe for two to six months.
HHS also has tips on how to reheat Thanksgiving leftovers safely.
It’s safe to reheat frozen leftovers without thawing in either a saucepan or microwave, like soup or in the oven or microwave, like casseroles.
Reheating will take longer if the food is thawed first, but it’s also safe to reheat without thawing.
Reheat gravies, sauces, and soups by bringing them to a rolling boil.
When reheating in the microwave, cover and rotate the food for even heating. Arrange the food items evenly in a covered microwave-safe glass or ceramic dish and add some liquid, if needed.
Be sure that the covering is microwave safe and vent the lid or wrap to let the steam escape. The moist heat that’s created will help destroy harmful bacteria and will ensure all of the food is cooked.
Because microwaves have cold spots, check the temperature of the food in several places with a food thermometer to see if the food is at 165 degrees Fahrenheit and allow a resting time before checking the internal temperature of the food.