Thanksgiving dinner doesn't have to end on Thursday. No matter how much every one eats and plates full of leftovers are sent home, somehow there's always food leftover.
There are many wonderful things to do with your leftover foods, but you want to be sure they are safe to eat.
Here's a guide - but remember individual circumstances will vary. Your food may have been left out longer than normal, or there may be a special ingredient that doesn't keep as well.
You've heard it before - keep hot food hot and cold foods cold. It's much safer that way.
As your platters become empty and need refilling, use a new dish rather than mixing foods that have been sitting out with foods fresh from the oven or refrigerator. Yes, it's extra clean up, but that's nothing compared to the risk of food poisoning.
Be sure to separate the stuffing from the turkey as soon as it comes out of the oven and get the turkey off the bone as soon as possible. Bacteria spreads quickly on the bone. Of course if the turkey is left on the bone the chance of contamination increases dramatically.
After the meal, get foods into small, shallow containers and refrigerated as soon as possible. Using small containers will allow the food to chill faster amounts so that it will. If you want to freeze your food, do so immediately, not after a few days.
- Turkey (off the bone) - 3 days
- Turkey (on the bone) - discard
- Stuffing (out of the bird) - 1-2 days
- Stuffing (in the bird) - discard, along with the turkey
- Gravy - 1-2 days
- Baked Ham - 4-5 days
- Pumpkin Pie - 2-3 days
- Fruit or Nut Pies - 3-4 days
- Restaurant take out (entrée) - discard
- Cooked vegetables - 4-5 days
DO NOT TASTE TEST FOOD to see if it's fresh. A very small portion of food can cause massive illness. And remember, food may spoil long before it looks, tastes or even smells bad.
As much as we all hate to waste that wonderful food, the best rule of thumb when it comes to any food - When It Doubt, Throw it out! If you feel your food can be saved as leftovers, it is best not to exceed these refrigerator days.
If you are taking home food from a relative's house and are not sure about the ingredients or the amount of time it has been sitting out, remember our rule of thumb. After all, Christmas is coming and there'll be another opportunity to eat these fresh, wonderful foods.