Get the most out of each meal with these tips for refrigerating and reheating leftovers.
How to Store Leftovers (for use within a few days):
- Refrigerate to below 40° F within two hours, or one hour during hot weather (90° F and above).
- Cool food quickly by placing it in a shallow glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and placing it in the refrigerator.
- Place unused raw veggies in a sealable plastic bag and squeeze out excess air.
- Remove unused canned ingredients from the original can, put them in a sealable container, and cover tightly to maintain optimal flavor.
Foods That Make Tasty Leftovers:
- Skillet dishes and casseroles make great leftovers with delicious flavor. They're arguably even better on day two!
- Leftover steak, chicken, or cooked vegetables can be used in a stir-fry or salad.
- Leftover plain rice, pasta, potatoes, or noodles make for an encore side dish.
Foods That Might Not Hold Their Quality:
- Dispose leftover leafy green salads with dressing; they're sure to be soggy by morning.
- French fries and other breaded and fried foods tend to be less crispy when reheated and won't taste as good. Note: Heating these foods in the oven instead of the microwave will help them taste better.
How to Reheat for Optimal Taste and Safety:
- Leftovers should be reheated until piping hot (to an internal temperature of 165° F).
- Consider adding a little water to the bottom of the pan or dish when reheating leftovers that don't have sauces or extra liquid to help retain moisture.
- When reheating food in the microwave:
- Cover foods with a lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating. Note: Do not heat a sealed container.
- Stir food midway through microwaving to promote even heating and eliminate cold spots.
- After reheating food in the microwave, allow it to "stand" covered to allow the temperature of the food to even out.
- When reheating on the stove top:
- For the best taste when reheating leftover potatoes or noodles, add butter or oil to the pan.
How Long to Keep Leftovers:
- Meats, cooked seafood, vegetables, pizza, soups, and casseroles should be eaten within three to four days.
- Potatoes or pasta salads should be eaten within three to five days.
- Rice, pasta, and hard-cooked eggs should be eaten within seven days.
- For desserts: Cream pies and fruit pies should be eaten within three to four days; cake and cheesecake should stay safe for up to seven days. Note: Desserts should be refrigerated.
- Visit http://www.homefoodsafety.org/pub/file.cfm?item_type=xm_file&id=1240 for more information.
This information is adapted from homefoodsafety.org.