Often when we cook at home or eat in a restaurant, we have leftovers. To ensure that leftovers are safe to eat, make sure the food is cooked to a safe temperature and stored correctly. Safe handling of leftovers is important to reduce foodborne illness. Use these tips to store leftovers:
- Freezing. Almost any food can be frozen. Freezing leftovers is easy to do and simplifies meal planning and preparation. If you know you will be short on time next week, freezing your favorite recipe this week is a good option.
- Wrap leftovers well. You can wrap food in freezer paper; place in freezer bags, making sure to let all the air out; or place in freezer-safe storage containers. This helps keep bacteria out and preserve moisture.
- Label and date. Label and date all leftovers so you know what is in the package and how long you can safely store it before throwing it away.
- Storage. Leftovers should be eaten, frozen, or thrown away after four days. If frozen, use leftovers within three to four months for the best quality.
- Thaw. Safe ways to thaw leftovers include the refrigerator, cold water, and the microwave oven.
- Reheat. Reheat leftovers in the microwave to 165°F in a microwave safe container and add liquid if needed. Stir the food halfway through the reheating process. Check the temperature of the food in several places before serving it as dense food needs more time to cook.
For more information watch How to Freeze Leftovers, go.iastate.edu/VT3C71, or download the How to Freeze Leftovers Handout, go.iastate.edu/VA6EY2.