While leftovers can be a lifesaver for figuring out lunch the next day or dinner when you’re in a time crunch, it is important to remember safe food handling practices including eating, freezing or tossing out refrigerated leftovers within 3-4 days.
Limits to leftovers
Put leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible; make sure your refrigerator temperature is 40o F or colder. When possible, label your leftovers with a date and eat within 4 days. If you want to enjoy your leftovers longer than 4 days, transfer them to the freezer. TIP: When placing hot foods directly in the refrigerator, separate the food into small, shallow containers. This allows the food to cool more quickly.
Storage for Leftover Foods – Best Quality
|Product||Refrigerator (40o F)||Freezer (0o F)|
|Casserole, quiche, omelet||3-4 days||2 months|
|Hard-cooked||1 weeks||Do not freeze|
|Soups & Stews:|
|Vegetables||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Meat added||1-2 days||2-3 months|
|Cooked meat & meat dishes||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Gravy & meat broth||1-2 days||2-3 months|
|Fried Chicken, plain pieces, cooked poultry dishes||3-4 days||4 months|
|Pieces, with broth/gravy||1-2 days||6 months|
|Chicken nuggets, patties||1-2 days||1-3 months|
|Fish||3-4 days||3 months|
|Crab||1-2 days||3 months|
|Shrimp||3-4 days||2 months|
Follow these four safe food handling practices to keep your foods safe from bacteria:
- Clean: Wash surfaces and hands before and after handling food products.
- Separate: Keep foods separate and don’t cross-contaminate.
- Cook: Cook and reheat food to at least 165o F (gravy, soups, and sauces should be reheated to a boil). Measure temperatures with a food thermometer.
- Chill: Bacteria grow quickly between 41o F and 140o F. Keep your food out of the danger zone by refrigerating it promptly.
For additional food safety information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Faculty member in your area.
Partnership for Food Safety Education. www.fightbac.org
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. August 2013. Basics for Handling Food Safely. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/basics-for-handling-food-safely/