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NOURISH

Guide to leftovers

Whether it's more ravioli than you could eat in a to-go box from your favorite restaurant or extra grilled chicken from last weekend's barbecue, many people have come to incorporate leftovers into their meal routine. Leftovers can be delicious, time-saving and even wallet and waist-friendly; however, care should be taken to prepare them safely. 

To begin with, be sure that you practice safe cooking at home. An instant read thermometer is a very handy tool that can help you determine that your meats are cooked through.

Food Safe internal temperature
Beef, pork, lamb, veal 145 degrees F
Ground meats 160 degrees F
Eggs 160 degrees F
Poultry 165 degrees F

Once cooked, try to keep foods above 140 degrees F. Consider keeping your meal in a slow cooker or warming tray for buffet foods. The temperature "danger zone," in which bacteria can grow rapidly, is between 40 and 140 degrees F. Cold foods, such as pasta salads and chicken or eggs salads ought to be nested in bowls of ice and covered. Within two hours of preparing foods, regardless of whether or not it's been kept warm or cold, they should be refrigerated or frozen.

Pay attention to how you package up your leftovers. A large roast may be wrapped up and placed in the refrigerator, but the internal temperature might be in the temperature danger zone. The goal is to get foods chilled as quickly as possible so as to minimize the time spent in the danger zone. Instead, try cutting foods into individual portions. Shallow food storage containers may be more effective than large square shaped containers. Be sure to wrap or seal foods with as little air as possible to help keep bacteria out while also retaining moisture.

Label your leftovers with a date: then you won't end up with mystery foods that may get shoved to the back of the refrigerator. Leftovers can be safely kept in the refrigerator for four days. If you might not eat it before that time, consider freezing it, as frozen leftovers will last up to four months.  

When reheating leftovers, keep that instant read thermometer handy. 165 degrees is the safe temperature for reheated foods. It is even OK to repackage your leftover leftovers; just be sure to always reheat to 165 degrees.

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