After a great celebration or dinner celebration, deciding what to do with a desk full of leftovers might not be at the forefront of your mind, but it’s an important part of partying. It’s certainly a pity to waste good food, but letting leftovers linger without temperature control can be unsafe.
This goes for any part of the meal, and it’s especially important if your leftovers have been sitting out in the summer heat. This is true for both hot and cold foods, so make certain to serve foods immediately before mealtime and store anything that is sitting out when the meal is coming to a close.
Bacteria thrive between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit – this is called the temperature”Danger Zone” for storage. Whenever the food hits that range, bacteria start growing quickly, so the time spent in that zone, the safer the food is.
How should you handle what is left?
• Save just the food you know to have been treated safely in the first place, and which hasn’t been tainted by double-dipping or by lots of hands picking at it. If it’s been sitting out uncovered in your backyard, eliminate it.
• Be honest in assessing what you are likely to eat within the next three or four times. While no one likes throwing food away, it’s not worth storing it in your fridge merely to wind up throwing it out anyway. If you’d like to save them, freeze them immediately.
• Be sure to store foods properly. Pack meats separately from vegetables, Rat Poop and grains. Mark the storage containers or bags with the item names and the dates you packaged them along with a”use-by” date so that you can keep tabs on what to use by when.
• Cool all foods completely before storage. Make sure that your fridge is working to keep food cold enough, preferably no more than 40 degrees. You can help keep the temperature consistent by not overloading the fridge, which compromises its efficacy – another reason to be choosy about what you’re saving!
• When reheating, leftovers must reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 seconds to kill bacteria. It’s ideal to do this on the stove top or in the oven as microwaves don’t heat evenly and some regions may be heated properly and others may not be hot enough. Be sure to use a thermometer to check the temperature, removing the food from the heat source before assessing the to ensure that you’re getting an accurate reading and you’re not just measuring the temperature of your heating source!
Keeping your leftovers safely not only prevents you from wasting tasty food, it prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria and limits your exposure of foodborne illnesses. Any hot or cold foods should not be left out for more than 2 hours. Be choosy about what you opt to save, and make sure you eat it within a couple of days.
When in doubt, throw it!