Who doesn’t love holiday leftovers? The biggest mistake turkey-lovers make is keeping leftovers in the fridge for too long.
Don’t forget to eat, freeze, or discard leftovers within 3-4 days of serving. “Eat them, freeze them, or toss them,” says the USDA. The food pathogens that make you sick are odorless, colorless and invisible.
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Leftover Food Safety Tips
A turkey is probably the largest food item most of us will ever cook. With all the side dishes and desserts that go along with the holiday meal, most of us will end up with leftovers. It doesn’t have to be a struggle to use up the leftovers. So use some basic food safety tips of how to safely handle holiday leftovers.
Wrap Leftovers Airtight
Wrap leftovers in airtight packaging, or seal them into freezer bags or airtight containers. This helps keep bacteria out, retain moisture and prevent leftovers from picking up odors from other food in the refrigerator.
For best quality, use your leftover turkey within 4 months. Frozen leftover turkey is safe forever, but after 4 months it can dry out or lose flavor.
Leftover Refrigerator Safety Rule of 4
For leftover food to be safe, it must be kept under conditions of what is called the Rule of 4: no more than 4 days in the refrigerator at 40˚F or 4˚C.
Leftovers kept in the refrigerator for three to four days and then must be eaten or put in the freezer. They will last in the freezer for three to four months. Although the leftovers are safe indefinitely in the freezer, they can lose moisture and flavor when stored for longer times.
Reheat Leftovers Properly
When reheating leftovers, be sure they reach 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. Reheat sauces and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil. Cover leftovers when reheating to help retain moisture and allow the food to heat all the way through.
Turkey Leftover Recipes
Here are some recipes to use up those turkey leftovers:
- Vegetable and Turkey Stir Fry: this healthy stir-fry includes ginger root for flair.
- Turkey Tostadas: The whole family will love this recipe. You could also substitute taco shells or tortillas for the tostadas.
- Turkey Tetrazzini and Turkey Rice Casserole: casseroles are quick to make on a busy night. These recipes are great for pasta and rice lovers.
- Turkey Roast and Rice Soup: save your leftovers and make a delicious pot of hot soup when the weather gets cold.
- Spicy Curry Turkey Soup: this cold weather recipe is perfect for extra flavor.
- Turkey Salad with Orange Vinaigrette: for a light and quick meal.
Now you see how easy it can be to keep your family bacteria free. Remember these tips when dealing with leftovers so foodborne illness won’t be on your shoulders. Because people won’t remember how great a time they had, they will only remember that your food made them feel bad.
If you still have questions about the safety of meat or poultry, an expert can assist you at the USDA meat and poultry hotline at 1-888-674-6854.