How can I keep leftovers safe for eating?

Deborah Beauvais
Nutrition & Dietetics
Whether you’re microwaving leftovers or reheating them in the oven, the only accurate way to gauge the doneness of food is to use a meat thermometer to make sure foods reach a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. And adults aren’t the only ones who should take heed of heat-and-eat tips. According to the ADA survey, 32 percent of parents say their children occasionally reheat leftovers on their own.

With kids taking on more responsibility in the kitchen, it’s increasingly important for parents to be ‘re-heater role models’ and practice proper food safety techniques at home.
When leftovers are handled improperly, yesterday's delicious meal can sour quickly. Follow these simple steps to make your doggie bag as good the second time around as the first:
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking.
  • Store leftovers in airtight, shallow containers (2 inches deep or less).
  • When you reheat, use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of your leftovers reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If reheating in a microwave without a turntable, rotate the plate midway through the heating and give a stir to eliminate cold spots where bacteria can survive.
  • Consume within three to five days.

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Food Storage & Health

Prompt refrigeration of perishables is very important, but so is proper handling of food prior to storage. Foods should be separated to avoid cross-contamination. They should be clean, and they should have been cooked properly. Ev...

en after doing the above, there are important things you should remember. Outside temperature is important, leaving food in the car on a hot day can give spoilage and bacteria a head start. Leftovers should be cleared and stored promptly. Get a thermometer that can check your freezer and fridge for correct temperatures.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.