Leftover Food Safety

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Person prepping leftovers into brightly colored containers in a kitchen.

Whether we are cooking for a crowd, our household or ourselves this holiday season and beyond, we are bound to generate leftovers at some point. Just like washing your hands is an easy way to prevent foodborne illness while cooking, there are steps we can follow while storing leftovers to stay healthy and continue enjoying our meals!

  • Check your refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Keep your refrigerator temperature at or below 40 °F and freezer at 0 °F. (from https://www.fda.gov/media/101376/download)
  • Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible. Maybe spend a few minutes doing this before sitting down to eat.
  • Dishes containing perishable foods (meat, poultry, seafood and eggs) or cooked vegetables or grains should be thrown out or composted if left…
    • At room temperature for more than 4 hours
    • Outdoors at a temperature above 90 °F (32 °C) for more than 1 hour
  • Package leftovers in small, shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Eat leftovers within 7 days. Be sure to reheat and enjoy your food one portion at a time rather than reheating and cooling leftovers repeatedly.
  • Aren’t sure if you and/or your household will eat all of your leftovers within a few days? Freeze a few portions after initially cooking and enjoy them later in the month.

Additionally, keep these guidelines in mind while meal prepping or batch cooking.


Basic Holiday Food Safety

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