Leftovers Food Safety

After cooking at home or eating out at a restaurant, we usually have leftovers. Leftovers can be used to make quick, savory meals while saving money and time, but you must remember to refrigerate them quickly and reheat thoroughly.

Refrigerate Quickly

Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers to ensure that it cools rapidly and reaches the safe refrigerator-storage temperature of 40° F or below. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of being cooked or being kept warm. This prevents food from being within the “danger zone” where bacteria grow rapidly which is between 40° F and 140° F. All perishable foods that have been left in room temperature for more than 2 hours should be thrown away.

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Store safely

 Refrigerated leftovers should be consumed within 3 to 4 days. Seal leftovers in airtight packaging or storage containers to keep bacteria out. Sealed leftovers should be immediately refrigerated or frozen for prompt cooling.

Thawing frozen leftovers safely

Refrigerator thawing, cold water thawing and microwave oven thawing are all safe methods for thawing frozen leftovers. Refrigerator thawing is the most time consuming method but also the safest. Leftovers thawed in the refrigerator should be consumed within 3 to 4 days or can be refrozen.

Cold water thawing takes less time than refrigerator thawing but does require more attention. Leftovers must be placed in a leak-proof plastic bag while thawing to prevent water from getting into the food. Leftovers thawed in cold water must be cooked immediately before refreezing.

The fastest method is microwave thawing. Make sure to heat leftovers in microwave until they reach an internal temperature of 165° F. Leftovers thawed in the microwave may be refrozen after reaching 165° F.

Reheating leftovers safely

 Leftovers should be reheated to 165° F to prevent foodborne illness.  Cover leftovers while reheating to retain moisture and ensure thorough heating. Sauces soups and gravies can be reheated by bringing them to a rolling boil.

By following these food safety guidelines for leftovers, you can prevent foodborne illness and enjoy your leftovers safely. If you are the owner or an employee of a food establishment, it is required that you have knowledge on safe food handling practices. With over 35 years of experience of training, managing, and teaching food safety, Ken Kuscher provides high quality services for Food Handlers Permit Florida, Food Handlers Card Florida, and Florida Food Handler Certificates. Contact Ken Kuscher today to get certified in safe food handling.


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