Managing Leftovers

  • Published
  • By Emily Posadas
  • 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron
The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes gatherings that center around food.  With all of the potlucks, get-togethers, and celebrations, rest assured that there will be lots of leftovers to be enjoyed.  However, something that may not cross people's minds when preparing that delicious leftover turkey is ensuring that it's still safe to eat. 

Inappropriate handling and storage of leftovers is one of the primary causes of food-borne illness in the home.  There are precautions that can be taken to ensure we protect ourselves from illness stemming from improperly managed leftovers, while still being able to enjoy yesterday's holiday dinner.

One of the primary causes of food-borne illness is bacterial overgrowth. Bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature and that's why it's important to refrigerate any leftover food immediately if it will not be consumed within four hours.

Additionally, cook all meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly. Foods that are not fully cooked, then refrigerated and consumed at a later time pose greater risk of bacterial contamination. 

Here are some tips for properly managing your holiday leftovers:

- Always be sure to wash hands before handling leftovers
- Prepare meals on clean surfaces and use clean kitchen utensils
- Remove stuffing before refrigerating or freezing leftover turkey
- Refrigerate or freeze cooked leftovers in small, covered containers that are two inches deep or less
- Use cooked leftovers within four days--don't taste leftovers to determine "freshness"
- When reheating leftovers, meats should reach 165°F and liquids or sauces should be at a rolling boil

If in doubt, throw it out!  Following the above simple tips can help ensure that you, your family and friends have a happy holiday season filled with good company, good food, and of course, good health.