How to Store Thanksgiving Leftovers

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Stack of gifts inside refrigerator

Photo by: Ryan McVay ©(c) Ryan McVay

Ryan McVay, (c) Ryan McVay

Leftovers are practically guaranteed after a meal as large as Thanksgiving dinner. In my house, we ensure them by making a small, extra turkey and several batches of stuffing, so that everyone can take some home. But beyond making turkey sandwiches and soup, what can you do with all of that extra meat and how should you use up those spare potatoes and vegetables? We have the answers, plus helpful tips on how to safely store leftovers and inventive recipes for next-day dishes.

Shelf Life: Though there’s no reason to rush through Thanksgiving dinner in order to get the leftovers in the fridge, it is best to start packaging them within two hours of the meal. In general, most leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days. Frozen leftovers, however, are best within 2-3 months, though they’ll remain safe to eat forever, so long as they are kept at 0 degrees F.

Unstuff the Stuffing: If you chose to stuff your turkey, remember to unstuff it before storing. Scoop it out of the cavity of the bird and keep it in one container, and put the carved meat and each of your side dishes in their own separate containers.

Clean Out the Refrigerator: Between pie pans, bottles of champagne and many, many plastic containers, your fridge will likely be filled to the brim on Thanksgiving. Make sure you have enough room to fit everything by clearing out any non-essential food and condiments.

Follow these easy Food Safety tips to ensure the meal you worked so hard to prepare can be enjoyed all weekend long. Then, try out our creative Thanksgiving leftover recipes below and join the conversation: Tell us in the comments how your family uses its Turkey Day leftovers.

Sunny Anderson uses leftover stuffing to make her 5-star Second Day Fried Stuffing Bites With Cranberry Sauce Pesto. This recipe features deep-fried cubes of hearty dressing that are mixed with eggs, coated with breadcrumbs and are served with a spicy cranberry dipping sauce sprinkled with crunchy walnuts.

Put the leftover bird to work in this Turkey Nachos recipe from Cooking Channel. Shredded turkey meat is tossed with lime juice, piled high on tortilla chips and topped with sautéed bell peppers, cumin-laced black beans and cheese. Bake for just a few minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly and serve with sour cream and salsa.

Leftover mashed potatoes undergo an elegant but easy transformation in this Leftover Mashed Potato Soufflé recipe from Food.com. Airy whipped egg whites are incorporated into a mashed potato mixture that includes Monterey Jack cheese and spices. Bake until the soufflé has risen and the top is golden brown and crispy.

For a quick and easy Black Friday breakfast, try this Ham and Eggs Frittata Biscuits recipe from Food 2. Instead of frozen biscuits, use any you have left over to sandwich a red pepper-tomato frittata that boasts fresh basil, Italian cheeses and salty ham.

For more information on Storing Thanksgiving Leftovers and our Top Thanksgiving Leftovers, visit Food Network. 

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