Don't store leftover turkey in the fridge for more than three or four days.
Food safety: Thanksgiving leftovers
By Suzanne Driessen
From eNews, November 8, 2007
Thanksgiving usually means a time to gather with family and friends, turn on some football, pig out--like you haven't since last Thanksgiving--and for you refrigerator to be will filled with leftover food.
Before reheating leftovers Determine that they are safe to eat. Were the leftovers refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking? If not, throw them out. Were the leftovers cooled properly, i.e. turkey and ham sliced into smaller portions and other leftovers cooled quickly in shallow pans less than two inches deep? How long have they been in the refrigerator?
Here's a list of how common leftovers and recommended refrigerator storage times:
- soups and stews: three to four days
- gravy and meat broth: one to two days
- cooked turkey, meat and meat dishes: three to four days
- cooked poultry dishes: three to four days
- casseroles: one to two days
- luncheon meats: three to five days
- pasta and potato salads: two to three days
When using the microwave It's tempting to throw the plastic container with the leftover food in the microwave to reheat. Unless the container is labeled microwave safe, take the time to put the food on a plate.
"Cool Whip," cottage cheese containers, margarine tubs and most plastic storage containers are not heat stable. Chemicals from the plastic may absorb into the food during heating. Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels are safe to use. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods when you microwave. Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave oven.
Read Talking turkey from eNews, November 11, 2004.
Listen to Kathy Brandt, a food science educator with the U of M Extension Services, talk about the safety measures you should take when preparing turkey.
Microwaves tend to heat unevenly. So arrange food items evenly in a covered dish and add some liquid if needed. Cover the dish with a lid or plastic wrap; loosen or vent the lid or wrap to let steam escape. The moist heat helps destroy harmful bacteria and ensures uniform cooking. Stir or rotate food midway through the heating time to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive. After reheating food in the microwave, cover and allow food to stand for 2 minutes before eating. Then, use a clean food thermometer to check that food has reached 165 degrees Farenheit.
I've often found food stuck in the back of my refrigerator and asked myself, "How long has that been there?" If you don't remember how long it's been there, remember the old adage, "when in doubt, throw it out."
Suzanne Driessen is a University of Minnesota Extension educator specializing in food safety.