Got Leftovers? How to Make Sure They Are Safe to Eat

Often when you eat in a restaurant or cook at home, you have leftovers. Safe handling your leftovers is essential to reduce foodborne illness (food poisoning). Here are some recommendations for handling your leftovers safely.

– Keep Food out of Danger Zone

Bacteria grow fast between temperatures of 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. After safely cooking food, keep hot food 140 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter to prevent any bacterial growth. Refrigerate your leftovers within two hours of holding the hot or cooking it. Throw away any perishable food left at room temperature for over 2 hours (one hour if the temperature is more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit).

Keep cold perishable food, like chicken salad, at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. When you are serving food at any buffet, you should keep it hot in chafing, warming trays, slow cookers or dishes. Keep food cold by using small serving trays, replacing them often, or you can nest dishes in bowls of ice.

– Cool Food Rapidly

It is important to cool food to prevent bacterial growth. To cool food fast and ensure it reaches the recommended safe refrigerator-storage temperature (40 degrees Fahrenheit or below), you should divide any large amount of food into takeaway containers that are shallow. The smaller the size of portions, the faster the food is going to cool in your refrigerator.

For whole hams or roasts, cut or slice them into smaller parts. Slice breast meat; you can leave wings and legs whole. Cut your turkey into smaller pieces, then refrigerate. You can place hot food directly in your refrigerator, or you can rapidly chill it in a cold or ice water bath before refrigerating. A big pot turkey stew is going to cool more slowly compared to several small containers and leave the potential for increased rate of bacterial growth in the centre of your pot that will remain in the danger zone longer.

– Store Leftovers Safely

You can keep leftovers in your refrigerator for three to four days, or you can keep them frozen (0 degrees F or below) for three to four months. Although they are safe indefinitely, frozen leftovers might lose flavour and moisture when you store them in the freezer for a long period.

– No Leftover-Leftovers

Heat your leftovers only once. When you are reheating your leftovers, only take out the portion that you plan to eat. Heat the portion thoroughly to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any bacteria. Don’t heat up the entire tray of lasagna if you will just have a single serving. If you do not finish the serving, you should throw it away. Let food stand for several minutes after you have taken it out of your microwave. During this standing time, heat will continue distributing.

– Wrap Leftovers Well

Seal your leftovers in takeaway containers or wrap them in airtight packaging for storage in your refrigerator. These practices will help retain moisture, keep bacteria out plus prevent your leftovers from picking up any odours from other food that you have placed in your refrigerator. For rapid cooling, immediately freeze or refrigerate the wrapped leftovers.

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