Turkey, mashed potatoes, ham, casseroles...are you hungry now?
We all love the holidays, for many reasons – one of them being the food. Nothing beats freshly baked pie or a steaming hot roasted turkey full of stuffing. But one thing comes close – the leftovers. Generally, I don’t care for leftovers but there is something about holiday leftovers that gives you those warm fuzzy feelings all over again with each plate.
But with all the family chaos and hectic homes, it is easy to makes some mistakes when it comes to cooling, storing and reheating those leftovers. It is very important to take food safety seriously – even during the holidays.
Steps to ensure safe holiday leftovers
Before even thinking about leftovers, you need to make sure you are cooking your food properly. This means cooking all foods to the proper internal temperature. Especially that turkey! Preventing cross contamination is extremely important in the process of cooking as well. Keep raw meats away from any ready to eat foods.
It also means practicing good personal hygiene such as washing hands and not touching your face. This may be second nature to some of you in the workplace, but at home it can be easily forgotten and ignored.
During all the chaos and conversations, it can be easy to leave the dinner table full of food for a bit too long. It is extremely important to properly cool all leftovers in preparation for storage.
Storing food too quickly can trap in heat and lead to ideal conditions for bacteria and pathogens to grow.
Storing food too slowly can leave food in the Danger Zone long enough for the same thing to happen.
Food should be cooled down the 70 degrees F within 2 hours and then cooled from 70 degrees to 41 degrees or lower within 4 hours.
This whole process can NOT take longer than 6 hours.
This doesn’t require much explanation. Keep your leftovers covered tightly and keep them cold! Refrigerators can get over stuffed (just like us) after Thanksgiving dinner. Try to keep everything secure and organized for optimal airflow. This will ensure foods cool down the rest of the way and stay cold efficiently.
Different foods require different internal cooking temperatures. But during the reheating process it is best to ensure all foods are reheated to 165 degrees F.
Be sure to stir/flip the food during the reheating process and check the temperature in multiple places to ensure even heating and an accurate reading.
In conclusion, be nice to your family and keep their food safe. You don’t need a bad reputation for next year’s dinner!
Have a safe and happy Holiday Season from all of us at EFST!