After days of preparation and planning, hours spent cooking in the kitchen, and just minutes devoted to devouring the 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. In fact, those leftovers are one of the fan-favorites of turkey day. 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 post-giving thanks. 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 extending your day of thanks.
Check the Time Before You Tub
Not all post-meal leftovers will be ok to store. Leaving your cooked leftovers at room temperature for more than two hours can result in contamination by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens. Eating scraps contaminated by this food-borne pathogen will you prone to abdominal cramps and vomiting 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.
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 must be gobbled up within three to four days. After day four, throw them out!
Freeze Any Extras
If you know you made way more food than you’ll be able to eat in a couple 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, find out ways to repurpose them in our report, 30 Things to Make with Leftover Turkey.