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Tips for Safely Savoring Foods the Second Time Around

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’Tis the season for delicious and hearty meals that only come around during this special time of year. And once you’ve survived the seemingly endless rounds of seconds and woken from your turkey-induced slumber, you can look forward to arguably one of the best parts of the holidays: leftovers. Using leftovers in future meals is a great time and money saver, but be sure you’re doing so safely. Read on to learn how!

Keep Them Safe

1. Don’t leave your leftovers on the counter for too long. Cooked foods and refrigerated foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours.

2. The USDA states that keeping your food between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F—known as the "danger zone"—is the ultimate way to promote the development of bacteria, so be sure to get your food in the fridge as soon as possible.

3. If you're packaging your leftovers to eat later this week or next, don't overfill the container. Leaving a bit of extra space will help your food cool down more quickly so bacteria won’t develop.

4. If you plan on waiting longer than a week or so to eat your leftovers, store them in the freezer instead of the refrigerator. The colder temperature will keep the food safe to eat.

How to Properly Thaw

1. The quickest way to thaw food is to put it in the microwave. Periodically check your dish to ensure it's heating up evenly.

2. If you've vacuum sealed your leftovers, submerge the package in a large bowl or sink filled with cold water to thaw your food. Change the water when it gets too warm.

3. The safest way to thaw is by using the refrigerator. Take your leftovers out of the freezer a couple of days before you plan to eat them, because it’s also the slowest way to thaw a dish.

Only Reheat Once

1. Make sure everything you reheat is just as hot as it was when it was initially cooked so any bacteria is killed.

2. It's not safe to reheat food more than once, no matter how it was stored. So if any reheated leftovers go unfinished, as tempting as it may be to toss it back in the refrigerator, just throw it away.