Enjoy leftover food safely

Properly reheating leftover or take-out food can prevent foodborne bacteria from making you sick.

Chicken, broccoli and rice leftover in pan.
Safely store leftover food to save money in your food budget.

Leftovers are a great way to save money in your food budget. Whether you are dining out and take leftovers home or cooking at home and find yourself with leftover food, both instances can allow you to stretch your food budget and enjoy those foods in the next few days.  Michigan State University Extension encourages you to take the proper steps to ensure that these delicious leftover foods are safe for you to consume later on. Simple food safety tips can keep those leftovers safe from bacteria that may cause foodborne illness.

To properly handle your leftovers, consider the following tips:

  • Store food in airtight containers or wrap and seal in proper packaging.
  • Refrigerate food promptly. Food items should be refrigerated within two hours. Refrigerator temperatures should be 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that food is kept out of the temperature danger zone where harmful bacteria can grow. Using a refrigerator thermometer is the only way to be sure that your leftovers and other refrigerated food are safe from illness causing bacteria.
  • Label all food with a date before refrigerating it.
  • Plan to use the leftovers within three to four days.
  • When you are ready to enjoy your leftovers, proper reheating is critical. Foods should be reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured with a food thermometer. If using the microwave for reheating foods, be sure to rotate the food item and stir during the reheating process to even-out any hot-spots due to uneven cooking temperatures in the microwave. Foods reheated in the microwave also must be reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the food to cool after proper reheating before tasting.

Safely enjoying leftovers can be done by following the simple food safety tips listed above.

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