The countdown to Christmas has reached single digits, which means for many it’s time for the second biggest feast you’re going to eat all year. For a lot of people the Christmas season not only brings presents, goodwill and peppermint mocha, but also lots of hungry relatives. As we’re entertaining and feeding our families, it can be quite easy to rack up an impressive pile of leftovers.
While saving leftovers may seem like one of the simplest tasks possible, properly storing them can mean the difference between a happy holiday and feeling green as the Grinch. We, with the help of the Food and Drug Administration, have rounded up some tips to keep those holiday leftovers delicious. Well, as delicious as they can be.
Keep it Cool
First and foremost, keeping food properly cooled will keep bacteria at bay. At room temperature, the numbers of bacteria that cause food borne illness can double every 20 minutes. To prevent bacteria from multiplying, keep foods in a fridge that is 40 F or lower, and your freezer should be at 0 F.
It can be hard to do, especially with all the holiday goodies, but don’t overfill your fridge. The cold air needs to circulate to keep everything properly chilled. Don’t feel like you have to safe every last bite of every last dish. Keep your favorites or things you know will reheat well later. Everything else can find its way home with family and friends.
Clean it Up
If something spills or leaks, be sure to clean it up right away. Listeria is one bacterium that can grow at refrigerated temperatures, so cleaning up any messes will help keep it at bay. Also, cleaning up immediately will prevent any existing bacteria from cross-contaminating the rest of the food.
It’s tempting to pop that last piece of cake on a plate and into the fridge for later, but make sure you put it in a proper container. Doing so will not only prevent it from drying out, but will also keep any bacteria either in or out. When everything is in an individualized covered container, spoilage can be contained instead of ruining your whole leftover feast.
Check the Dates
Expiration and Use By dates are put on food for a reason, to keep you safe. If you find something that is past its date in the fridge, throw it out. For any food that looks (or smells) questionable remember the rule, “When it doubt, throw it out.” It might also be helpful to label your leftovers. That way you’re not left wondering how old the food is that kind of looks like turkey.