Love Your Leftovers

Follow these important food safety tips when you store leftovers and other previously-cooked foods.

To avoid food-borne illness, follow these tips for proper storage of leftovers and other previously-cooked foods.

•  Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Foods left out longer should be discarded.

•  Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.

•  With poultry and other stuffed meats, remove the stuffing and refrigerate it in a separate container.

•  Place hot foods directly into the refrigerator or freezer, but don't overload the container. Cool air needs to circulate to keep food safe.

•  Use refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. Freeze quantities that can't be used by then. Since bacteria can't grow at freezer temperatures, food is generally safe while frozen, but you'll need to use the frozen foods in a reasonable length of time for best quality.

•  Reheat leftovers thoroughly to a temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steaming. Soups and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil.

•  If you are reheating leftovers in the microwave, use only microwave-safe dishes. Remove food from plastic wrap, Styrofoam and/or freezer containers.

•  When reheating in the microwave turn the dish midway through cooking, reposition it on rotating table, rearrange or stir food, and turn large food items over.

•  Allow food to stand after microwaving because the food will continue to cook after the microwave is off.

Anne Cain, R.D., MyRecipes

January 2009