We hope you had a joyful (and food-safe) holiday meal. We suspect that like most of us you’ll be enjoying the goodies for days to come.
One highlight of our run-up to the holiday was our live Facebook chat on food safety on Nov. 12. USDA food safety expert Diane Van took questions on a variety of topics, but there were quite a few about handling leftovers.
A sampling of Diane’s answers that will help you stay food-safe for some folks’ favorite meals of the holiday season:
- Put your food away within two hours of serving it. Don’t leave it out on a buffet longer than that to pick at!
- Store the leftovers in small, shallow containers so they cool quickly.
- Store the turkey and stuffing separately.
- Reheat leftovers until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F or until the food is hot and steaming.
- Eat leftovers within three to four days – use gravy within one to two days. If you have more than you can eat within that period, freeze as soon as possible.
- When frozen to 0 degrees F, leftovers will keep for two to six months for the best quality. That’s right: Your Thanksgiving leftovers can keep at least … the Super Bowl.
For more information on safe handling of leftovers, you can listen to our “Safe Handling of Leftovers” podcast. You can read the script here.
If you have other questions about handling leftovers—or any aspect of food safety—you can check in with USDA’s Ask Karen virtual representative at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Ask_Karen. The question-and-answer service is available 24/7.
You can also call USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. It’s open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Expert staff can take questions on any food safety topic.