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This is Exactly How Long You Should Keep Thanksgiving Leftovers

Because no one wants to be sick after Turkey Day.
This is Exactly How Long You Should Keep Thanksgiving Leftovers

After days of preparation and planning, hours spent cooking in the kitchen, and just minutes devoted to devouring a festive meal, Thanksgiving can leave us in more than just a food coma.

But even after revisiting the dining room table for seconds (and maybe even thirds), there’s usually always enough leftovers to feed the family for lunch the next day—and possibly for quite a few days after that, depending on how many people you’re hosting. We all know leftovers are one of the fan-favorites of Turkey Day, and according to The Harris Poll, 79 percent of Americans agree that “having a fridge full of leftovers is the best thing about hosting Thanksgiving.”

While keeping leftovers seems like a no-brainer, if not done properly, this easy and frugal fix may make you sick (and no one wants to be sick around the holidays!). That’s why it’s important to understand food safety techniques when it comes to wrapping up your turkey and sides. Read on to discover the steps you should take when it comes to packing up and storing your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Check the Time Before You Tub

Not all post-meal leftovers will be OK to store, so it’s important to note which ones are OK to put in food storage containers—and which ones you’re better off tossing. Leaving your cooked leftovers at room temperature for more than two hours can result in contamination by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, which is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning.

Eating meals contaminated by this food-borne pathogen may leave you prone to abdominal cramps and vomiting (the two most common symptoms) just hours after you dig in again. In fact, most Clostridium perfringens outbreaks occur during the holiday months of November and December when we frequently feast with the fam, according to the CDC. Do everyone a favor and keep an eye on the time, and be sure to store your favorite foods away before any bacterium have the chance to form.

How (and How Long) to Store Leftovers

The CDC recommends that perishable dishes be stored in small portions and in shallow containers, then refrigerated (to ensure every nook and cranny is chilled) at 40°F or colder within two hours of preparation.

As for how long you should be keeping those mashed potatoes and gravy, leftovers should be eaten within three to four days. After day four, throw them out!

Come Up With Creative Ways to Repurpose

We get it: There are only so many ways to make a turkey sandwich before it gets boring. However, when you think outside two pieces of bread, you can get creative with how you repurpose and reinvent your Thanksgiving leftovers over the next few days. Make a soup with the turkey, use the veggies in a brunch tart for a crowd-pleasing meal, try your hand at a homemade breakfast hash, or make bite-sized appetizers that could feed your family on Black Friday (perfect for a low-stress meal after shopping all day). Whatever you decide to do, there are ways to enjoy your turkey and stuffing beyond how they were originally served. Get creative, and we bet you can use up more of your leftovers than you think!

Freeze Any Extras

If you know you made way more food than you’ll be able to eat in a couple of days, you can avoid food waste by freezing the remaining Thanksgiving grub for future dinners. Once you’re craving the holiday dishes again, reheat them to at least 165°F before enjoying.

Now that you know how long you can safely keep your Turkey Day leftovers in the fridge, you’ll be able to enjoy the holiday foods for multiple meals—without the risk of getting sick.

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