The holiday season typically brings up thoughts of leftovers. It is important to use leftovers rather than contribute to the country's food waste problem. Nearly 200 million lbs. of turkey meat is pitched Thanksgiving week because of poor planning and little interest in leftovers.
While people often complain that leftovers lack flavor, the problem is not the food but the storage techniques. There are at least five ways to ensure your leftovers are stored effectively, safe to eat, and still delicious.
1. Think About What You Want To Make
One problem people have when they decide to store leftovers is not thinking ahead. Instead, they try to cram as much food into a container as possible before placing it in the fridge or freezer.
It is better to divide leftovers into portion sizes. By focusing on smaller batches, you ensure the food is useful for as long as possible.
2. Refrigerate Within 2 Hours of Cooking
To keep your food safe for another meal, you need to refrigerate it within a two-hour window. Too many people allow their food to cool before placing it in the refrigerator, but this is a mistake.
When food temperatures fall below 140° Fahrenheit or rise above 40° Fahrenheit, it is in the temperature danger zone. In this temperature range, bacteria can thrive. It would be best if you got the leftovers packaged and put away within the two-hour timeframe, regardless of temperature.
3. Know the Timeline
Many people overestimate how long leftovers are good for, with some believing refrigerated items can last a week or more. The truth is leftovers should not remain in the fridge for more than three to four days.
Before the four-day mark, you will need to eat the food or move it to the freezer. However, not all food is meant for the freezer.
4. Know What Freezes
Freezing can extend the life of leftovers for two to six months, depending on the item. Everything from meat to pies to certain vegetables and fruits is safe to freeze and will typically thaw well.
However, some items, such as bell peppers, celery, and onions, can lose a bit of texture, becoming softer. Additionally, dishes with cream or that might be described as creamy can become watery.
To ensure things are safe to eat, any reheated leftovers should be reheated to a temperature of 165° Fahrenheit. Anything below this is risky, according to the CDC.
5. Use Air-Tight Storage Options
When preparing things to freeze, you'll need to use air-tight and moisture-proof materials, such as freezer paper or heavy-duty foil. You can also opt for a machine that can remove the air from containers or bags to ensure a tight seal, keeping food fresher.
The tighter the seal, the fresher the leftovers will be. Also, the safer the food will be. However, you do not need expensive equipment. With the right materials, including foil and freezer-weight bags, you can safely store leftovers for future use.
Leftovers is not a bad word. When food is properly sealed and stored, it can provide several delicious meals without losing its flavor and texture. Still, you want to stick to some basic safety guidelines, like tossing or freezing leftovers after four days.
Do you have any advice on storing leftovers? Comment below.