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How Long to Keep Leftovers

Leftover Tips

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.

Download PDF

This information is adapted from homefoodsafety.org.

 

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