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Leftover Safety: Making the Thanksgiving Meal Last

Thanksgiving foods - pumpkin pie, stuffing, etc

Photo credit:Flickr/Kristen Taylor

Leftover Safety: Making the Thanksgiving Meal Last

By Jessica Klimczak on December 02, 2014

For many of us, leftovers sit in our refrigerators filled with our good intentions of finishing them—saving us money, time, and most of all, waste. But in reality they sit waiting until they’re finally returned to the garbage disposal or compost.

But the Thanksgiving meal? That’s the one we hope to savor for days past the last Thursday in November. Late-night turkey sandwiches layered with cranberry sauce or pickles almost always taste better than the feast the day before. 

So how long will those Thanksgiving leftovers, or any leftovers for that matter, keep safely in the fridge? In some ways, it depends on personal taste and comfort level. For example many sources, including the Mayo Clinic, err to the safe side and recommend eating prepared foods like meat, fish, eggs and vegetables within 3-4 days. However, Dr. Chip, a Medical Expert on JustAnswer, reports that most foods actually stay good in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.

Here are a few more leftover tips:

Sitting out on the counter: Again, there’s a safe side: 2 hours at room temperature, but most foods can sit out for a maximum of 4 hours. If you live in a hotter climate, food shouldn’t sit out for more than 1-2 hours. As for baked goods, those last longer on the counter. According to Dr. Chip, covered pies can sit on the counter for about two days and covered cakes can last up to a week.

Reheating: When reheating leftovers, make sure they get hot – to kill any bacteria that accumulates while in the refrigerator. Ideally the internal temperature should reach 165 F (74 C). Most of us won’t pull out the thermometer for this one, but it’s safe to say that generally you should reheat your leftovers.

Freezing: It’s important to freeze food as close to its preparation day as possible. Food that has been sitting in the refrigerator for a week should be thrown out, not frozen.

Here’s to pumpkin pie for breakfast, stuffing for lunch and turkey for midnight nibbling. Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone!

Worried about food poisoning? Talk with a doctor now to make sure you’re taking the proper precautions with your food.