When your holiday feast is over, be sure to handle the leftovers quickly and carefully. Any perishable food that is left from your dinner should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours from the time the meal is served.
Divide large amounts of leftover foods into shallow containers for quick cooling. For larger items, such as a whole turkey, cut the meat off the bones. Package and put in the refrigerator or freezer. Date your packages of leftovers so you can keep track of how long they are in storage.
Cooked turkey can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. The stuffing and gravy should be used within a day or 2. In the freezer, turkey slices or pieces can be kept for about 4 months. If you cover the meat with broth you can extend the time you can keep it to 6 months.
When reheating leftovers in the microwave, cover them with a lid or vented plastic wrap. Stir the foods several times to avoid cold spots, and let the food stand for several minutes after microwaving. These foods should be reheated to 165 degrees.
Discard any holiday leftovers after 4-5 days. Never taste them. Harmful bacteria often do not change the appearance, taste or odor of food. Bacteria can multiply to millions within a few hours at warm kitchen temperatures. Don’t put yourself, your family, or your guests at risk.
Author: Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.
Reviewer: Kate Shumaker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Holmes County.