Keeping leftovers safe

Cook once and eat twice! Keep your leftovers safe by following a few food safety tips.

Few things are better than cooking once and eating twice! Not only is this a wonderful time saver, but often foods taste even better the next day. Handling leftovers safely is important to reduce foodborne illness. Follow these tips to ensure that your meals are not only tasty and convenient, but also safe to eat.

Refrigerate Leftovers Promptly:

 Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F. Thus, it is important to chill all leftovers within two hours after eating. Discard any food that was held at room temperature longer than two hours because bacteria may have grown to unsafe levels. If the room temperature is warm (above 90 °F) then food should only be held without refrigeration for only one hour.

Storing leftovers:

Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow storage containers so that it cools more quickly. Label the container well. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days or frozen for three to four months. If you do not re-heat and eat the food within four days, throw it away.

Reheating leftovers:

Reheat all leftovers to 165° F. Use an instant read food thermometer to accurately check the temperature of the food. Soups and sauces need to be heated to a rolling boil to ensure the safety of that food. Never use a slow cooker or chafing dish to reheat leftovers. Only thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator, under cold running cold water or in the microwave oven. Never thaw frozen foods at room temperatures.

Visit the United Department of Agriculture (USDA), for more few simple storage tips for safe handling of leftovers.

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