Consumer Reports

Keeping Thanksgiving Leftovers Delicious and Safe

NBCUniversal, Inc.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about this holiday season, November and December are also peak months for food poisoning from certain types of bacteria, such as Clostridium perfringens. That bacterium grows in cooked foods like turkey and beef kept at room temperature. Consumer Reports says you can keep your favorite holiday foods safe and tasty beyond your holiday dinner by following some tips from its food and health experts.

First, pack any leftovers as soon as possible. You should do this sooner than you might think. They should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking, regardless of the temperature.

Many people leave the turkey out to cool, but that’s a big no-no, says CR. A whole turkey can take a long time to cool down, which gives bacteria a chance to multiply. You can store wings or legs on the bone, but slice off the breast meat when it’s time to pack it away.

Break down the leftovers into meal-sized portions and store them in shallow covered containers.

Plan to freeze whatever you won’t eat in three to four days. To preserve the quality of your food and reduce moisture loss, you want to keep it airtight. So use products specifically designed for the freezer, like freezer bags, freezer paper, or airtight containers.

And planning will also help. Think about other meals that work well with those leftovers. For example, if you have a rice or a potato dish, that might pair well with chicken or fish.

Of course you can eat cooked turkey cold, but CR says that if you’re reheating it, use the stove and add a little broth or gravy to keep it moist instead of heating in a microwave, which can give it a weird flavor.

One thing you don’t have to worry about are fruit pies. These can be stored loosely covered on the counter if you're planning to eat it in one or two days. But put that pumpkin pie or any other egg-based or custard pie in the fridge. That is, if there’s any left!

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