The Safe Way to Handle Leftovers

Don’t sacrifice your health or your food’s flavor by improperly handling leftovers.

Preparing foods in bulk so you can have leftovers saves time and money, but how you prepare those leftovers is important when it comes to your health. When you improperly store or reheat your leftovers, you increase your chances of getting food poisoning, which 1 in 6 Americans will get every year. And it’s not just food poisoning you’re risking, you could also be sacrificing the flavors and nutrients in your food. We’ll show you how to properly handle your leftovers from storing to reheating.

  • When you’ve finished cooking, cool your leftovers as quickly as possible (within 2 hours).
  • If storing in the fridge, eat them within four days.
  • If storing in the freezer, eat them within 3–4 months. You can still eat them after this period of time, but the food may lose some of its natural textures and flavors.
  • To defrost frozen leftovers, transfer them into your fridge overnight or use the defrost setting on your microwave. Once they’re in your fridge, the four-day rule applies.
  • You can reheat partially defrosted leftovers, but it will take longer if the food hasn’t thawed completely.
  • Reheat leftovers until temperatures reach and maintain 165°F throughout for two minutes.
  • Stir or flip foods while reheating to ensure even cooking, especially if using a microwave.
  • Serve reheated leftovers immediately and never reheat them more than once.
  • Do not refreeze leftovers that have already been frozen.

Aside from these tips, you should use good judgement. If you think your food has sat too long, then the chances it has gone bad are high. If you see any mold or it smells funny, throw it away. Don’t take any unnecessary health risks. It’s always better to buy lunch than it is to get food poisoning.

Source
Two food storage containers filled with vegetables on a shelf in the fridge.

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