Food Safety: Storing Thanksgiving Leftovers

Store your Thanksgiving leftovers safely and quickly with advice from our experts.

Category:
Thanksgiving

How long can you leave Thanksgiving dinner out on the table?

A good rule of thumb for food safety is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. But chances are your dining room isn't set up with restaurant-style warming trays and buffet servers. Take your time around the dinner table, but start packing up and refrigerating the leftovers within two hours.

The Best Way to Store Leftovers

Leftovers should be cooled down as quickly as possible. Pack them into several shallow containers rather than one large one, and make sure you don't stack the containers in the refrigerator (this can trap the heat). The more surface area that's exposed to the cold air, the faster your food will cool.

Remove any stuffing from the turkey cavity and store it in a separate container. Carve the meat from the bones or separate the turkey into smaller pieces and divide it among shallow containers or plastic bags. It may be tempting to keep any leftover sweet potatoes or green beans in the half-empty serving dish and just cover it with plastic wrap, but it's best to put everything in a clean, smaller container. It will also save a lot of space in the refrigerator.