Got Thanksgiving Leftovers? Here Is What You Need To Do

Food & Drink

What’s Thanksgiving without the leftovers? Well, it would be Thanksgiving without the leftovers. For many people, though, Thanksgiving dinner leaves much food to be desired, in a good way. That is, there is plenty of food remaining to snack on or to meal on after the official Holiday is done.

Enjoying leftovers can be as good as or even better than Thanksgiving dinner. After all, Thanksgiving Dinner requires all that talking to family members stuff and typically doesn’t allow you to eat in your underwear or pajamas. Plus, there’s what Los Angeles Rams’ running back says:

Twitter certainly had no shortage of folks looking forward to leftovers:

People also shared how they were enjoying leftovers, ranging from the throwing-it-into-a-bowl-and-eating-it recipe:

To other slightly more complicated recipes:

Yes, leftovers can be great, as long as you can avoid that food poisoning stuff. Bad bacteria contamination can be a real buzz kill for leftovers. Therefore, make sure that you take the following proper precautions:

  1. Store everything properly within two hours of cooking or making it: Discard anything that’s been out for longer, because that would be enough time for bad bacteria to grow. If you somehow believe that refrigerating or freezing food alone will kill this bacteria, keep in mind that Han Solo was able to survive being frozen.
  2. Store everything in clean airtight containers or wrapping: A bowl that you licked is not considered clean. Use a container or wrapping that is either new or thoroughly cleaned. Also, keep air from accumulating inside as air can allow for oxidation and bacterial growth.
  3. Remember the three to four day limit for refrigeration: As they say, fish and house guests go bad in three days. This is also how long you can keep most leftovers in the refrigerator. Beyond that time, you may be playing diarrhea roulette or worse. The exceptions are breads and pastries that don’t have fillings like pies, which can keep up to a week, and cranberry sauce, which may stay good for up to two weeks. Of course, once the time limit has been exceeded, throw the food away.
  4. Remember the three to four month limit for freezers: If you do freeze your food soon after you’ve finished Thanksgiving dinner, the amount of time you can keep the food in the freezer is also three to four, in this case, three to four months. Remember frozen turkey is not the same as wine. A turkey from 2000 would not be vintage. Once you’ve defrosted leftovers, if you transfer them to the refrigerator, the three to four day refrigeration limit applies as wel.
  5. Make sure that your refrigerator temperature is 40° Fahrenheit or lower: Over-packing your refrigerator so that the air circulation is blocked or leaving the door open too often can result in your refrigerator not being so refrigerated.
  6. Heat leftovers to at least 165° Fahrenheit before eating them: They say revenge is a dish best served cold. But this doesn’t apply to Thanksgiving leftovers such as meats, stuffing, and potatoes. It’s better to re-heat such leftovers to at least 165° F, the magic threshold to kill the bacteria Salmonella. However, to be safe, go higher than this temperature especially when it’s a whole turkey or chicken (at least 180°F) or dense piece of meat (at least 170°F). Make sure that all parts of the food surpass these thresholds. For example, if you froze the turkey, some turkey-sicles may remain in the meat and not get properly re-heated.
  7. Re-cook leftovers of leftovers: If you enjoy some of your leftovers but have then have food leftover, don’t just stick them back into the refrigerator or freezer. They may be contaminated with bacteria because, after all, you are covered in bacteria. Therefore, make sure that you re-cook the leftover leftovers and properly re-store them within two hours.
  8. Check your leftovers before you eat them: Just because you are eating leftovers within the aforementioned time limits, doesn’t mean that they are OK to eat. Check them carefully. Make sure that they don’t look or smell funny. They shouldn’t sound funny either. Certainly if your leftovers are making jokes, it’s time to discard them.

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