Follow the two-hour rule. Hot, perishable food that sits out longer than two hours is considered unsafe and in the “food danger zone” (between 40 and 140 F) when bacteria can quickly multiply. Quickly refrigerate perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Uncooked foods, such as cold salads or sandwiches, also should be eaten or refrigerated promptly.
When storing leftovers, don’t overfill the refrigerator, cold air needs to circulate around the food. Also, the faster leftovers can cool, the better. The best way to decrease the cooling time for leftover turkey is cut it into smaller pieces to decrease the surface area that needs to be cooled and then store it in shallow pans or containers.
Leftover turkey can keep for three to four days in the refrigerator and should be kept in airtight, leak proof containers or wraps. After four days risk of food poisoning increases. If you don't think you'll be able to eat leftovers within four days, freeze them immediately. In the freezer, leftovers should be eaten within six months.
When you're ready to eat leftovers, reheat them on the stove, in the oven or in the microwave until the internal temperature reaches 165 F (74 C).
Sending leftovers home with guests is nice and lessens the amount of space taken up in your refrigerator but the two-hour rule should still apply. If your guests have a long drive ahead of them, suggest they use a cooler with some ice.
Be aware that foodborne illnesses are caused by harmful organisms, such as bacteria in contaminated food. Because bacteria typically don't change the taste, smell or look of food, you can't tell whether the food is dangerous to eat. In short, if you're in doubt about a food's safety, it's best to just throw it out.
A few of our favorite recipes for your leftovers
|Turkey and Broccoli Turnovers|
|Hot Open Faced Turkey Sandwich|