Leftovers are cooked food either you or your family made or takeout food that you purchased that has not been eaten within two hours. Eating leftovers is a great time and money saver, just as long as it’s stored safely. Storing cooked food incorrectly is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, but by following some basic guidelines for safe food handling you can avoid getting sick.
Never leave your food sitting out for more than two hours and in really hot weather don’t leave the food out for more than one hour.
Wash Hands Before Handling Food
Always remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling your food. Use clean utensils and containers to store your food, and don’t put your food back in the container it was in prior unless you cleaned it well beforehand with soap and warm water. Also, steer clear of putting your food on your counter top and cutting board unless you cleaned these items beforehand as well. Surfaces can have germs and bacteria on them and if you place your food on them before they have been cleaned, those germs and bacteria will then contaminate your food.
What to Store Leftovers In
When preparing to store food in the refrigerator, such as any takeout food you may have had, remove the food items from the deli food containers and place it in shallow containers three inches tall or less and cover them with a lid that seals well. Using shallow containers to store your food in the refrigerator helps encourage even cooling of the food. With large deep containers, food takes longer to cool which can lead to the growth of dangerous bacteria.
Four Day Rule
Never hold onto your leftover food for more than four days. If the food looks suspect or you’ve had the leftovers longer than four days, don’t taste it, just play it safe and throw it away. When disposing leftover food that is potentially unsafe, it is best to put the food in a garbage disposal or wrap the food up tightly in a bag or package and throw it in the garbage so it can’t be eaten by other people or animals. To help yourself remember how long a food item has been in the refrigerator, try labeling the container with the date so you know when it’s time to throw it away.
Food Temperature and Reheating Leftovers
When reheating your leftover food, make sure the food is reheated to a temperature of 165 degrees. Also when heating your food check to ensure that it’s being heated to a rolling boil if it’s something such as a sauce, soup, or gravy. Be sure to stir the food while it’s heating up so all the food in the pot reaches the appropriate temperature. If you need to take your reheated food on the go, try putting your food items in new clean deli food containers.
Food poisoning is a serious matter, but it is preventable. Taking careful consideration how you handle your leftovers can make all the difference, and by following these guidelines you and your family can enjoy your food without any worries.
Kay Kissinger is mother of three who loves to write