For the past three weeks, we’ve discussed a range of kitchen safety tips, from proper cooking temperatures to thawing foods.
For the past three weeks, we’ve discussed a range of kitchen safety tips, from proper cooking temperatures to thawing foods. But one of the most overlooked food safety issues is how to properly store leftovers.
Whether it’s a holiday event or simply packing up leftovers from dinner, there are important practices you should follow to protect your family from food-borne illnesses.
Keep these tips in mind when cleaning up after a meal:
• Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure your fridge stays between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Wash your hands well with soap and warm water before and after handling leftovers.
• Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of the time they were prepared (this includes those restaurant doggy bags).
• Cool food in the refrigerator instead of on the counter. It is fine to put hot food in the fridge, as long as you vent it slightly. For safety’s sake, consider using an ice bath or shallow pans to cool food rather than risk heating the fridge and other items with hot food.
• Small portions of leftovers cool down faster. Divide large amounts of leftovers between several clean, shallow storage containers.
• Make sure storage container lids seal tightly, or cover them with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
• Place storage containers at least 2 inches apart in the refrigerator - this allows cold air to circulate.
• Use leftovers containing meat within three days, other foods within five days.
• Foods generally should not be reheated more than twice due to bacteria growth. Never store cooked or ready-made food below raw meats as blood could contaminate other items.
• Food should never stay in the danger zone (40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) for more than four hours total time. When in doubt, throw it out!