(COLORADO) — Before putting away your favorite Thanksgiving meals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds the public of food health safety guidelines for properly storing your leftovers.
Depending on whether you’re planning to stash your food in the fridge or freezer, Thanksgiving leftovers can last three to four days or two to six months. The USDA recommends dividing up dishes into shallow containers within two hours of cooking before any harmful bacteria can form.
Turkey & other proteins
The USDA recommends using cooked turkey within 3 to 4 days, kept refrigerated at 40°F or less. This is true for other proteins including cooked chicken, pork and beef.
Refrigeration slows but does not stop bacterial growth. You should never leave leftovers at room temperature. USDA says pathogenic bacteria can grow rapidly in the “Danger Zone,” (temperature range between 40°F and 140°F). It is difficult to recognize the presence of a pathogen because they do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of a food, according to USDA.
Mashed potatoes & other vegetables
Mashed potatoes and other Thanksgiving vegetables including green beans and yams can last three or four days when stored in the fridge.
USDA says Gravy can be stored in the fridge for three to four days or a freezer for four to six months.
Gravy should be reheated by boiling it to ensure its safety, recommends USDA. The same is true for soups and sauces.
Homemade cranberry sauce can be refrigerated seven to ten days after opening while canned cranberry sauce can be refrigerated for one to two weeks after opening.
Stuffing should be consumed within three or four days after being stored in the fridge. When frozen, leftover stuffing can last between two and three months. Uncooked stuffing should be cooked immediately at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pies that contain dairy such as eggs, cream or chiffon can be consumed three to four days after being stored in the fridge. This includes pumpkin, pecan, lemon meringue and custard pies.
Fruit-based pies can be stored at room temperature for one to two days or in a fridge for up to a week. The packaging on store-bought pies should be consulted for proper storage.