December end is for holidays, fun, food and family – friends. But it is also about you and those amazing leftovers! Before you dig in, keep these tips handy so that leftovers can stay safely stored in your fridge or freezer. While we may think that refrigerators can save food for as long as you want, there is a certain point when food starts to deplete and lose the essential nutrients it had in the first place. Fresh food, especially when stored over unreasonable lengths of time, can get contaminated and cause stomach problems including food poisoning. The question is how long do these homemade leftover foods stay edible? Are they even safe to eat a few days after cooking? Let’s find out the answers.
Handling food correctly = safe and tasty leftovers
- Leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking. Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze them in covered shallow containers so they cool quicklyHow long do the turkey and trimmings stay safe in the refrigerator or freezer?
- The answer is simple: leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days or place them in the freezer to enjoy later. If you store leftovers in the freezer, they will be of best quality within 2-6 months.
- Not enough consumers know that food can become unsafe in the refrigerator after four days. After four days, spoilage bacteria can cause food to develop a bad smell or taste.
Now, on to the dishes – reheat leftovers safely
It is safe to reheat frozen leftovers without thawing, either in a saucepan or microwave (in the case of curries) or in the oven or microwave. Reheating will take longer than if the food is thawed first, but it is safe to do when time is short. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that the food will heat all the way through.
- Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil.
- When reheating in the microwave, cover and rotate the food for even heating. Arrange food items evenly in a covered microwave-safe glass or ceramic dish and add some liquid if needed. Be sure the covering is microwave safe, and vent the lid or wrap to let the steam escape. The moist heat that is created will help destroy harmful bacteria and will ensure uniform cooking.