Norman Regional Health System

Keep Thanksgiving Leftovers Safe for Weekend Meals

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Norman Regional Health System wants to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day, as you expect, comes with a lot of food. Friends and family gather for hours on end chatting and catching up while bonding over a filling meal. After your plate is clear of turkey and the gravy is soaked up by your dinner roll, what do you do with all the leftovers?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to remind you how leftovers can stay safely stored in the fridge or freezer so they last you through Black Friday and into Cyber Monday.

Safe Food Handling = Yummy Leftovers

The USDA says leftovers should be stored within two (2) hours of cooking. Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze them in covered shallow containers so they cool quickly. A large container or whole turkey will take too long to cool down to a safe temperature, which gives bacteria a chance to multiply.

RELATED BLOG: 5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

A USDA study shows, 66% of respondents said they would refrigerate leftovers after letting them cool to room temperature first. This is not necessary and could make your food unsafe. Leftovers should be placed in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible, even if they still have steam or heat coming off them.

S Preparing Thanksgiving Meal for the refrigerator.jpg (138 KB)

Keeping Leftovers, How long is too long?

Only keep leftovers in the refrigerator for three (3) to four (4) days. If you make your Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, you have until Monday to eat all delicious food you have stored or move the food to the freezer.

After four days in the refrigerator, spoilage producing bacteria can cause food to develop a bad smell or taste.

If your leftovers end up in the freezer, you have between 2 to 6 months to enjoy.

Thanksgiving Meal in the refrigerator.jpg (93 KB)

Reheating Leftovers Safely

When reheating any leftovers, the USDA reminds us food should reach 165°F.

Cover leftovers to reheat to retain moisture so food will heat all the way through.

RELATED BLOG: What to Bring to Your Holiday Potluck

Arrange your food on a glass or ceramic dish and add water if needed. Use a microwave-safe lid or covering that will let steam escape. The moist heat that’s created will help destroy harmful bacteria.

Soups, sauces and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil.

Looking to find a doctor? Norman Regional Health System consist of a number of primary care physicians and physician specialists. Visit our website to learn more.

Our Community Call Center connects you with experts who can schedule you with the best provider based on your health needs. Call (405) 515-5000 to find a provider that’s right for you.