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Thanksgiving Leftovers: How Long Can You Safely Enjoy Eating Them?

Posted by on Nov. 8, 2014 at 9:11 PM
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Reduce the Temperature of Your Leftovers Quickly

Public health & safety organization National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International recommends reducing the temperature of your leftovers as quickly as possible. Cooling food quickly helps discourage bacterial growth. You can put hot food directly into the refrigerator as long as you put it into smaller containers first. So do that with any extra foods you're not serving at the table before dinner starts.

You Have 2 Hours

You have two hours to put away your leftovers, either in the refrigerator or the freezer. 

Be careful with any leftovers you plan to send home with your guests. "The two-hour rule still applies," cautions Cheryl Luptowski, home safety expert at NSF International. "If possible, cool the food down to less than 40 degrees F before sending home, and make sure that the guests live within an hour or so of your home so that the food will stay safe on the journey home."

Keep the Heat On

"If you plan to have a lot of guests," suggests Luptowski, home safety expert at NSF International, "consider having a buffet line, which would allow you to use heated pans or ice dishes to help keep the foods you are serving at safe temperatures."

Toss Anything Left Out Longer Than 2 Hours

Refrigerate for 3-4 Days

The general rule of thumb is that leftovers are safe for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Toss anything that goes uneaten after that point. Freezing will not undo whatever bacterial growth has already happened by then.

Freezing Is Forever But ...

Technically, you can keep food frozen indefinitely. But quality will suffer over time. Luptowski says most Thanksgiving foods will freeze well, but pumpkin and other custard-style pies don't. She recommends storing those pies in the refrigerator and eating within 3-4 days.

Store in Serving Sizes

For best results, divide your leftovers into serving-size portions before storing. If you're freezing, this will help thawing happen faster. And you won't run the risk of thawing large quantities you don't need and having to re-freeze the rest again

by on Nov. 8, 2014 at 9:11 PM
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darbyakeep45
by Darby on Nov. 9, 2014 at 7:34 AM

Thanks for sharing!

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