After a great celebration or dinner celebration, deciding what to do with a desk full of leftovers may not be at the forefront of your mind, but it is a significant part of partying. It’s certainly a pity to waste good food, but letting leftovers linger without temperature control can be dangerous.
This goes for any area of the meal, and it is especially important when your leftovers have been sitting out in the summertime. This is true for both hot and cold foods, so be sure to serve foods immediately prior to mealtime and keep anything that’s sitting out as soon as the meal is coming to a close.
Bacteria thrive between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit – this is called the temperature”Danger Zone” for food storage. As soon as the food hits that range, bacteria start growing immediately, so the time spent in that zone, the safer the food is.
How should you handle what’s left?
• Save just the food that you know to have been handled safely in the first place, and which has not been tainted by double-dipping or by lots of hands picking at it. If it’s been sitting out uncovered in your backyard, get rid of it.
• Be honest in assessing what you will probably consume within the next three or four days. While nobody likes throwing food away, it is not worth storing it in your refrigerator merely to end up throwing it out anyhow. If you’d like to save them, freeze them immediately.
• make certain to store foods properly. Pack meats separately from vegetables and Bat Poop. Mark the storage containers or bags with the item names and the dates you packaged them along with some”use-by” date so that you can keep tabs on what to use by when.
Ensure your fridge is working to keep food cold enough, preferably no longer than 40 degrees. You can help keep the temperature consistent by not overloading the refrigerator, 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 best to do this on the stove top or in the oven as microwaves do not heat evenly and some areas could be heated properly and others might not be hot enough. Make certain to use a thermometer to check the temperature, removing the food from the heat source before assessing the to make sure that you’re getting an accurate reading and you are not just measuring the temperature of your heat source!
Keeping your leftovers safely not only prevents you from wasting delicious 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 decide to save, and be sure to eat it within a couple of days.
When in doubt, toss it!