Lots of families gather for meals for Easter and other major holidays. After all, food brings people together. They share memories. They enjoy favorite foods created by family and friends. Traditions are carried through food, too. The flip side of larger gatherings is that people often sit around and visit. That can be especially true at Easter or other holidays. Furthermore, with all the prep time and visiting, food safety can be an afterthought. So, here are some tips to keep your leftovers safe.

Have Leftovers? Remember the Two-Hour Rule

left over food in containers on a dining table.

The USDA website reminds us to refrigerate perishable items within two hours of coming out of the oven or refrigerator. If those deviled eggs are lingering on the table it can be trouble. After two hours, perishable food enters the “Danger Zone” (between 40 F and 140 F), where bacteria can multiply quickly and cause food to become unsafe. Perishable foods like dairy, eggs, salads, and turkey should be discarded if they’ve been left at room temperature for longer than two hours. If you’d like to actually eat those leftovers, be sure to refrigerate or freeze them before that two hours is up. As a result, you and your family can enjoy them later. Furthermore, you’ll be preventing food waste.

Refrigerating or Freezing Leftover

To keep all those delicious leftovers safe, storage is important. First, break down your holiday meal into smaller portions. Then, store leftover food in shallow containers in the refrigerator. If kept refrigerated, they should be safe to eat until the Wednesday after Easter.

The freezer is another option. If you want to keep leftovers longer, freeze them within that four-day period. The sooner the better. Frozen food will stays safe indefinitely, but the quality may decrease. To truly enjoy those leftover goodies, it’s best to eat it within six months.

Reheating Leftovers Safely

The final aspect of safer leftovers involves re-heating them. The USDA suggests making sure your reheated leftovers reach 165 F. You’ll need a food thermometer to make sure. You can reheat sauces, soups, and gravies safely by bringing them to a rolling boil.

If you’re reheating your leftovers in a microwave, be sure to cover and rotate the food for even heating. Arrange food items evenly in a covered microwave safe glass or ceramic dish and add some liquid, if needed. Because microwaves can leave cold spots, check the internal temperature of the food in several places with a food thermometer after allowing a resting time.

Turkeys & Larger Meat Entrees Can Also be a Food Safety Risk

Easter and other holidays can mean larger groups. Turkeys, hams, and roasts are often a featured dish. We know our Storehouse clients are always happy to see these offerings around the holidays. They just make the meal feel a bit more special.

Trouble can arise however. Sometimes people attempt to cook a large turkey or ham and they are unfamiliar with how to do that safely. Food safety issues happen so often with turkeys and larger pieces of meat that the USDA even has a Meat and Poultry Hotline. If in doubt, call 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email MPHotline@usda.gov to reach a food safety expert.

General tips can be found at: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics

The Storehouse has been feeding local families for over 45 years. We keep close track on our food temperatures and food safety, too. Hopefully these tips will help keep you and your family safe. Enjoy Easter and all your meals safely. Cheers to great meals and leftovers!