Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to gather around the table, give thanks and eat until we can’t move! As much as we enjoy the turkey and all the fixings, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and many refrigerators will be overflowing with leftovers. Amongst the festivities, lurks the danger of food poisoning.
Each year 1 in 6 Americans, or 48 million people, get a foodborne illness due to improper cooking and handling, so it’s important to follow safety precautions during preparation, cooking and storage. But there’s a different set of guidelines to follow when storing your leftovers.
When it comes to the turkey, it’s advised to cut all the meat off the bone and refrigerated within two hours of coming out of the oven. In the refrigerator, leftovers can last up to four days and it’s better to only reheat what you will be serving. Continually reheating food causes it to lose flavor and moisture.
In the freezer, leftovers can be stored indefinitely if frozen at 0 °F, but they will taste better if consumed within four months. Once the food has cooled, it can be stored in an airtight freezer container or plastic freezer bags, but it’s recommended turkey be wrapped in freezer paper or foil before sealed in a plastic freezer bag. To preserve their freshness, the sooner the food goes into the freezer the better. However, it’s fine to keep leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days before deciding to freeze them.
Although it seems easier to just cover the leftovers in the serving dish and throw it in the refrigerator, it’s best to store everything separately in clean, small containers. You may be tempted to grab the largest Tupperware you own to stuff the leftovers in, but don’t! Instead, grab several shallow containers. This allows more surface area to be exposed to the cold air, so your food will cool faster, preventing bacteria growth.
MadgeTech specializes in data loggers to ensure food safety from cooking and cooling, to shipping and storage. The MadgeTech product line features devices that can be placed in an oven to monitor cooking cycles, or wireless models to monitor shipping and storage conditions.
Check out the infographic below for the proper temperatures to thaw, cook, serve, store and your thanksgiving meal.