Food Safety: Leftovers 101

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January 22, 2014 by thehealthyheartcenter

The Art of Leftovers
Cooking takes a lot of time and effort which is why saving leftovers can be very cost & time efficient. But how do you know if your leftovers are still safe to eat? Using your nose is always a great trick; if it doesn’t smell good, throw it out. However, sometimes you can be consuming unsafe food and not know it. 

Temperature Setting
First you have to make sure your refrigerator temperature is at 40F or below. This ensures no harmful bacteria will grow on your food. If it is over 40F you increase the risk of foodborne illness. If you are not sure what temperature your refrigerator is because it can fluctuate from season to season, simply keep a thermometer inside at all times. Your freezer should be set to 0F or lower. Because of the significantly colder temperature the freezer is a great place to store leftovers for a long period of time.

Tip: If you have a large quantity of food that you cannot finish in the given time period or if you simply will not eat something in the time it remains fresh put it into the freezer. This preserves food so that you can hold on to it for up to 3-4 months. Whenever you are ready, thaw it in the fridge overnight and you can keep it in the fridge for the time specified above. 

Neat & Tidy
Forgetting about food left in your refrigerator can not only create an awful smell in your kitchen but can also be harmful to other foods. You don’t want spoiled food leaking into others. Once a week go through the contents of your fridge so you don’t leave anything behind. Make sure the inside of your refrigerator is clean. Wipe up spills right away and make sure you have meats towards the bottom to avoid cross contamination from juices. Ready-to-eat foods that you don’t have to heat up should be stored above other items. If you keep your fridge looking neat you are less likely to have something hidden in there for too long. Having a hodgepodge of food makes it harder on you to keep track of everything. Make sure you wrap your leftovers well in tightly sealed containers to prevent cross-contamination and also to retain moisture.

Temperature Danger Zone
The temperature danger zone is the range between 40F and 140F where bacteria is more likely to grow. Therefore store your leftovers quickly and keep food from being left out in room temperature for over 2 hours. When you are ready to eat, try and heat it enough to reach a temperature above 140F.

How Long?
Foods differ on their shelf life so it can be hard to decide when it’s time to throw something away. Follow this guide below from and you shouldn’t have a problem.





Cooked fresh vegetables 3 to 4 days
Cooked pasta 3 to 5 days
Cooked rice 1 week
Deli meat 5 days
– Ham, cooked and sliced
– Hot dogs, opened
– Lunch meat, prepackaged, opened
– Cooked beef, pork, poultry, fish and meat casseroles
– Cooked patties and nuggets, gravy and broth
3 to 4 days 
1 week 
3 to 5 days 
3 to 4 days 
1 to 2 days
Seafood, cooked 3 to 4 days
Soups and stews 3 to 4 days
Stuffing 1 to 2 days




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