Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Many of us are preparing to fill our pantries with ingredients that will make a traditional turkey dinner. Come next Thursday, there is sure to be kitchens filled with leftovers. But how long will those leftovers last in your refrigerator? Many people are googling the question, so let’s answer it.
Refrigerated Thanksgiving leftovers are safe to eat for four days. After that, the risk of food poisoning increases. A good tip to remember, is that the Monday after Thanksgiving is the last day to safely eat the leftovers. After that, it’s time to toss them.
It is best to throw the leftovers away after 4 days due to bacteria buildup. Food sitting in the refrigerator longer than 4 days allows bacteria, called spoilage microorganisms to build up, which is why leftovers can oftentimes smell or look unappealing after sitting in the fridge too long.
But bacteria doesn’t always change the smell or appearance of the leftovers, so it is best to stick to the four day rule.
The safety of leftovers is also how and when the food is stored. The USDA says it’s best to refrigerate perishable foods in shallow containers within two hours of coming out of the oven or refrigerator, even if it’s still hot.
After two hours perishable foods enter the danger zone, where bacteria can multiply quickly, leaving food to become unsafe to ingest.
When eating leftovers, the USDA says it’s important to reheat the food to at least 165 F and reheat sauces and gravies to a rolling boil.
To avoid throwing food away, remember you can always freeze the leftovers and have a Thanksgiving treat later! But eat them within 6 months to maintain the quality.
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