How To Store Thanksgiving Leftovers: The Ultimate Guide

How To Store Thanksgiving Leftovers: The Ultimate Guide

Are you not sure how to store Thanksgiving leftovers properly? Are you wondering how long you should store leftovers? If that’s true, then don’t skip this article. Knowing how to properly store your leftovers is essential to avoid waste and make the most out of your holiday meal. Let’s take a look at the following article with TeeNavi to learn more about these issues!

1. Why is it important to store Thanksgiving leftovers? 

How to store Thanksgiving leftovers is an extremely important thing not only during Thanksgiving but on any eating occasion. Because when your food isn’t stored properly, it can promote the growth of bacteria. Food poisoning may result from this, and in certain cases, it can be extremely dangerous. Along with that, Thanksgiving is often an opportunity for people to reunite and express gratitude for the good things that have come to them. Preserving leftovers helps prevent food waste and saves environmental resources. 

how to store thanksgiving leftovers
The importance of preserving Thanksgiving leftovers

We are living in an era where environmental pollution and climate change are becoming increasingly serious problems. Putting leftover food in the trash not only wastes resources but also creates greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, preserving leftover food will help protect our living environment. Those are the reasons why preserving leftovers is so important!

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2. How to store Thanksgiving leftovers right way?

Thanksgiving is a time of feasting and enjoying delicious food with loved ones. But sometimes, the amount of leftovers can be overwhelming. To keep your Thanksgiving leftovers fresh and safe for later enjoyment, you need to carefully note the helpful following:

2.1. Note the time and temperature

The first how to store Thanksgiving leftovers is to pay attention to the temperature and time. While enjoying your holiday dinner, your food will move through various locations. It starts from the pan and oven, then makes its way to people’s plates, and finally to your fridge. It’s crucial to get to the sweet spot of not storing your food too late or too early. The predominant factor determining whether your food stays delicious or goes bad is the temperature and timing. 

Another important thing you should remember is not to let your food sit out for more than two hours. Especially, if you plan to have a buffet-style dinner or need to transport the meals to your in-laws’ or friend’s house. You must not forget this attention! Moreover, it is equally important not to rush and place your food in the fridge too early. Allowing it to cool down to room temperature first is essential. 

how long to thanksgiving leftovers keep
Pay attention to time and temperature is how to store Thanksgiving leftovers

This is because there is a specific temperature range known as the food temperature danger zone, which is 40 degrees Fahrenheit. During this range, food becomes most susceptible to bacterial growth. Thus, it is advised to let the food cool considerably before refrigerating it. This way, you minimize the risk of bacterial overgrowth and ensure the safety of your food.

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2.2. Make room in our fridge

The next important how to store Thanksgiving leftovers is creating space for each type of food in the refrigerator. It is advisable to clear some space in your refrigerator and freezer before the abundance of leftovers comes. This will make it easier to access the food and reduce the risk of forgetting any dishes. Additionally, take care to keep raw meat separate from leftovers to prevent any cross-contamination. And one more thing, remember that if you plan to freeze something with a liquid content, allow enough space. Because it will expand and potentially break the container.

how to freeze thanksgiving leftovers
The second way to store Thanksgiving leftovers

2.3. Use proper containers

The main adversary for your leftovers is air, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving foods like gravy, grease, sauces, and more. These dishes contain a significant amount of moisture, which can create a favorable environment for bacteria if not properly sealed. Therefore, you should store leftovers in sealed containers where air cannot get in. This not only reduces the risk of leftover food spoiling but also prevents unwanted flavors from mixing with leftover food in the refrigerator.

how to store leftover turkey breast
Place your leftovers in proper containers

Besides, when it comes to how to freeze Thanksgiving leftovers, it’s equally important to protect them from freezer burn by tightly wrapping them as well. You can use some type of plastic wrap and then place it in a container. Or, you can wrap it with aluminum foil to keep moisture out and maintain its quality.

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2.4. Reheating your leftovers properly 

The last how to store Thanksgiving leftovers is to heat them properly. Certainly, while you may find cold leftovers acceptable, consuming them increases a higher risk of food poisoning. You should not be impatient when using the microwave or oven to reheat it. Or you can use leftovers to get creative and prepare other delicious dishes. Besides, you should have a thermometer ready in the kitchen to use when reheating leftovers. Reheated food must have a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).

how long to keep turkey leftovers in fridge
Remember to reheat the Thanksgiving leftovers properly

3. How to freeze Thanksgiving leftovers

Here is how to store Thanksgiving leftovers of some popular dishes in this holiday season:

3.1. Turkey

A traditional and proper Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without turkey. This dish often leads to leftovers. Putting the whole turkey in the fridge and calling it a day is not the best approach. However, simply storing the whole turkey in the refrigerator is not the most effective method. To preserve the turkey effectively, it is advised to divide the meat into smaller portions before refrigeration. This is recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Additionally, it is important that you need to consume the leftovers within three to four days. 

how to keep turkey leftovers moist
How to store the Turkey leftovers

If you choose how to store leftover turkey in freezer, you should use freezer-safe bags or containers. Besides, don’t forget to minimize air space in the packaging to prevent freezer burn. Another option is wrapping the turkey in aluminum foil followed by plastic wrap, which helps prevent freezer burn and retains moisture. According to the USDA, storing leftover turkey in the freezer will remain safe to consume indefinitely. However, for the best quality and flavor, it is recommended you use it within four to six months.

3.2. Ham

If ham is your preferred choice for Thanksgiving, it is advised to divide the leftover portions into small portions and store them in the refrigerator for a period of three to five days. Throughout this duration, you can explore numerous recipes that make use of leftover ham. However, freezing ham is also an option. Although its quality and taste will deteriorate rapidly within one to two months.

how long can you keep thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge
How to preserve leftover ham after Thanksgiving

Should the need arise to freeze leftover ham, it is important to adhere to the same guidelines as those for leftover turkey. They involve utilizing freezer-safe containers with minimal air space. And this is also the next how to store Thanksgiving leftovers with freezing!

3.3. Stuffing

How to store Thanksgiving leftovers stuffing (or dressing) depends on the ingredients used in your recipe. Typically, if kept in a refrigerator, the shelf-life of stuffing is seven days from the day you prepare it. However, if the stuffing includes ingredients that were cooked before being added, the seven-day shelf-life starts from the day those specific ingredients were prepared.

how to store thanksgiving leftovers
Storing the stuffing carefully

3.4. Mashed and scalloped potatoes

Cooked potato dishes such as mashed and scalloped potatoes should be refrigerated for three to four days. So can they be frozen? The answer is yes, but how to freeze Thanksgiving leftovers is trickier. Because the water and starch tend to separate, resulting in a watery texture when reheated. If you need to freeze potato sides, you should shape mashed potatoes into 1/2-inch thick patties. 

how long to thanksgiving leftovers keep
How to store Thanksgiving mashed and scalloped potatoes

Then, you freeze them on a cookie sheet and store them in a freezer-safe container. For scalloped potatoes, cover them with moisture-resistant paper and freeze them in their baking dish. Remember to thaw and consume the leftovers within two to four weeks, or even earlier if possible.

3.5. Vegetable sides

You should refrigerate cooked vegetables of any kind for a duration of three to four days. However, for vegetable sides, how to store Thanksgiving leftovers at freezing is not recommended. Because it can result in a decline in their quality and texture. For example, the dish includes a creamy sauce or breaded toppings, like in the case of green bean casserole.

how to freeze thanksgiving leftovers
Store your vegetable sides

3.6. Cranberry sauce and gravy 

You should store any remaining gravy, sauce, or cranberry sauce in the refrigerator. Don’t forget to use plastic or glass storage containers with lids that fit tightly to this how to store Thanksgiving leftovers. The gravy should be consumed within three to four days. You can use it to incorporate it into enjoyable dishes like soup or shepherd’s pie. Alternatively, it can be stored frozen in an airtight container for a duration of four to six months. Another option is to freeze it in an airtight container for up to 12 months.

how to store leftover turkey breast
Let’s store your leftovers properly

3.7. Pie

The pies that are made with custard or eggs for Thanksgiving, such as pumpkin pie or pecan pie. They should be covered and refrigerated for seven days. Although custard pies won’t fare well in the freezer, pies with eggs can be frozen for approximately two months. In the case of fruit pies made with sugar, like apple pie, you can store them covered at room temperature for one or two days.

how long to keep turkey leftovers in fridge
How to store your Thanksgiving pie leftover

However, if you want them to last longer, you should refrigerate them for about seven days. If you wish to freeze them, simply place them in the freezer until frozen. Then wrap them in plastic and consume them within four months. And that’s all the how to freeze Thanksgiving leftovers that you can refer to!

4. How long can you keep Thanksving leftovers

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three to four days. It will give you until the Monday after Thanksgiving to savor all those delightful remains. Or you preserve them in the freezer for future enjoyment. Freezing leftovers guarantees their optimal quality for a period of 2-6 months. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that food can become hazardous to consume after four days in the refrigerator. Beyond this time, spoilage bacteria may result in an unpleasant odor or taste for your leftovers. Therefore, pay careful attention to these things and how to store Thanksgiving leftovers that we mentioned!

how to store thanksgiving leftovers
How long to keep your leftovers in Thanksgiving dinner

The above article gives you the importance and how to store Thanksgiving leftovers properly. Hopefully, you will gain more useful knowledge about preserving leftovers through the article. Please contact TeeNavi immediately if you need help with any problem!

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