Let’s talk turkey – leftover
Be certain you prepare, cook and store your turkey following safe food-handling methods so your leftover turkey is safe to eat. during mealtime, do not let the turkey sit out for more than two hours after it has been cooked. Discard any turkey, stuffing and gravy left at room temperature longer than two hours.
For safe storage, remove the stuffing and de-bone the turkey. Divide all leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling. Shallow containers allow the turkey to cool faster, preventing growth of harmful bacteria.
Unless you freeze the leftovers, be sure to use the turkey and stuffing within three to four days. Leftover gravy should be used within one to two days. Other cooked dishes can be stored up to four days.
Frozen leftovers should be stored at zero degrees or below and used within three to four months. Turkey frozen in gravy or broth, or other cooked turkey dishes, can be frozen for four to six months. Stuffing and gravy can keep up to one month in the freezer.
Mark your leftovers with the date and name of the item to help you keep better track of them. also, follow the first-in, first-out rule by rotating your freezer items so the older items are moved to the front and used, within the recommended storage time, and not forgotten.
Cooked sliced turkey may be eaten cold or reheated. Reheat leftovers containing meat or poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. always use a food thermometer to verify the internal temperature of the food. Reheat sauces, soups, and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil.
To reheat your turkey and other leftovers in the microwave cover your food and rotate it for even heating. be sure to allow standing time as your food will continue to cook for a few minutes after removal from the microwave. Cover the food with a bowl, plate, waxed paper or paper towel to direct the heat back into the food. Check the internal temperature of your food with a food thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 degrees. Consult your microwave oven owner’s manual for recommended times and power levels.
If your Thanksgiving feast included a homemade pumpkin or fruit pies, be certain to follow food safety guidelines for any leftover pie. A homemade pumpkin pie, which is a custard-style pie containing eggs, should be covered and refrigerated. Leftover fruit pie, which typically is prepared without eggs, can be covered and stored at room temperature. For best quality, refrigerate.
If you purchased a commercially made pie, it might not have been refrigerated as they are typically made from a commercial recipe in which the ingredients are shelf-stable. Once at home refrigerating the pies is still a good idea.
If you have questions about meat, poultry and egg products the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline (888-674-6854) is open year round from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Monday through Friday. Recorded messages are available 24 hours a day. Thanksgiving Day the hotline will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can also find food safety information online at www.fsis.usda.gov .
Lynn little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.
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