The Safest Way to Pack Up Leftovers

Families across the country are making their plans for their Thanksgiving meal. But one often over-looked meal plan is what to do with all of the leftover food after the big dinner.

Posted: Nov. 21, 2017 11:30 PM
Updated: Nov. 21, 2017 11:30 PM

CLEVELAND CLINIC--Families across the country are making their plans for their Thanksgiving meal.

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But one often over-looked meal plan is what to do with all of the leftover food after the big dinner.

According to Lindsay Malone, RD, of Cleveland Clinic, most food will last about three to four days in the fridge, but that only holds true if it's packed up right.

"You want to make sure you're packing it into air-tight, shallow containers, and bringing it back to room temperature before you're putting it away," said Malone.

Malone said while it's common for people to throw some foil over a plate of food and throw it in the refrigerator, she cautions against doing this.

"When air is present, that allows the bacteria to grow faster; so you really want to get the proper containers and pack things appropriately, otherwise, your food isn't going to last the four days," said Malone.

It's also good to know that certain foods don't hold up as well as others.

Malone said dairy, meat or poultry products tend to have bacteria build on them faster than other foods.

She also recommends having someone in charge of paying attention to the clock after the food is cooked.

In order for leftovers to be safely stored, they have to get into the refrigerator within two hours to avoid bacteria growth.

And it's also not a good idea to just put the whole bird back in the refrigerator.

"The turkey - in terms of breaking it down and putting it away - it's really important to take it off the bone and pack it into a nice shallow container," said Malone. "Take the stuffing out of the turkey – you never want to store the stuffing inside the turkey."

If guests are taking home leftovers, if they are traveling home more than two hours, Malone said it's best to pack the food in a cooler, on ice, so that their food will stay safe after that two-hour window.

And if there is a considerable amount of leftovers, consider saving some for another time by freezing them.

"If you have an abundance of food leftover, the smartest thing to do would be to put a portion of it in the refrigerator, and then pack a portion of it really nice in air-tight containers, and put it into the freezer, and then when you're ready to eat it, take it out," said Malone.

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