Food Safety: Storing Thanksgiving Leftovers

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

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Additional Storage Tips

1. Make room in your refrigerator and freezer ahead of time to avoid shuffling things around after dinner. Use up lunchmeats, cheeses, yogurt, drinks and condiments the week before.

2. Make sure you have plenty of small and large freezer bags, and freezer-safe containers. Organize them before the meal (make sure they all have a lid) so that everyone can pitch in with the cleanup soon after dinner is finished.

3. Round plastic pie storage containers help save space in the refrigerator. You can stack them, plus you won't worry about anything falling and crushing the pies.

4. Once your leftovers are packed away, avoid opening and closing the refrigerator door until the food has had time to cool down.

5. Have extra ice on hand in case you need it for cooling down soups and gravies (a pot of hot soup can warm up the fridge pretty quickly).

Should you let food come to room temperature or put it straight in the refrigerator?

Food never has to come to room temperature before storing it. In fact, the less time it spends at room temperature the better. Chances are that by the time you're finished eating Thanksgiving dinner, it will be close to cool anyway, so wrap it and refrigerate it immediately. If one of your dishes is still steaming hot, you may want to chill it uncovered until it cools down, then cover it (otherwise it will take longer to cool). It's even fine to send hot soup or gravy straight to the fridge; the only problem is that it may raise the temperature inside your refrigerator, causing everything to take longer to cool. You can quick-chill the soup or gravy first by setting the container in a bowl of ice water and stirring often until it cools down, then cover it and move it to the refrigerator.