Leftovers can be a boon when you’re too rushed to cook. The get-togethers you’ll likely host yourself or be invited to this holiday season can leave you with a bounty of delicious food. However, if not packaged and stored properly, leftovers can be a recipe for illness. Here are a few tips for how to safely handle them.
- To prevent contamination, always wash your hands before handling leftover food.
- Divide large amounts of leftover food into small, airtight containers or freezer bags to speed cooling and prevent bacterial growth. Then refrigerate or freeze. Be sure to refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours after your meal is complete.
- Avoid overstuffing the refrigerator or freezer — cold air needs room to circulate. A full freezer will stay colder than an empty one, however.
- Serve refrigerated meat, fish, or poultry leftovers within 3 days. All other refrigerated leftovers should be eaten within 5 days. Frozen leftovers will keep for months; just be sure to mark the containers or packets with the contents and freeze date.