Half of the glory of Thanksgiving isn’t the meal itself but the leftovers that follow…and follow days later. But Thanksgiving meal leftover storage isn’t as simple as you may think. Keeping food safe and tasty takes some forethought. This week when you’re packing away holidays leftovers in the refrigerator and freezer, here’s what you need to know:
1. Store leftovers two hours after the Thanksgiving meal.
Enjoy every last sumptuous bite around the dinner table but start packing Thanksgiving food up and refrigerating leftovers within two hours. Most leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to four days. Gravy only lasts one to two days and cranberry sauce can be stored for up to 14 days. An open bottle of wine lasts three to five days but you can freeze it in ice cube trays for cooking later on.
2. Prep the turkey.
Remove the stuffing from the cavity of the turkey and store in a separate container. Carve the meat away from the bone of the turkey and divide into shallow containers to store.
3. Be cautious reheating.
Every time you reheat foods they lose moisture and flavor, so make sure that you reheat as much as possible all at once. Use a thermometer to make sure that leftovers reach 165 degree F. Sauces, soups, and gravies need to be reheated to a full boil.
4. Love your freezer.
As long as the leftovers are frozen to 0 degrees F they can be stored indefinitely, but they’re best after two to three months. Liquids expand in the freezer, so leave a little space in the container. Label and date all leftovers because once they freeze up they all look the same.
5. Store when finished.
Food does not need to come to room temperature to be stored. If a dish is steaming you can remove the lid until it cools down in the fridge and then replace it once it’s cool. Divide larger portions into smaller containers so they can cool down faster. Don’t store half eaten leftovers in their serving bowls, it’s a waste of space. Avoid opening up the fridge in the mean time so that foods can have an opportunity to cool down.