Avoid “Blech” Friday: Carefully Handle the Leftovers!

Source: Food Network

Source: Food Network

In our house, there are two camps when “Black Friday” hits: the “Dedicated Shoppers” and, those like myself, the “Thanks, I’m Not Giving Up” eaters.

The “Thanks, I’m Not Giving Up,” population, still basking in the glory of the stomach-stuffing of the previous day, shuns leaving the home in favor of recreating the glory of Thanksgiving though various helpings of leftovers throughout the day. Often, this is done in a traditional wardrobe of elastic-waist fleece pants and a hooded sweatshirt. In such regalia, the following exchanges may take place (in one’s head):

Q: “Would I like a mound of reheated green bean casserole?”
A: “Please…I think it only gets better on the second day!”

Q: “Care for some stuffing reanimated with a healthy dose of leftover gravy?”
A: “Well, it is the holiday season…”

Q: “Can I fit the rest of the turkey leftovers into one sandwich?”
A: “Well, I suppose everyone else ate while they were out shopping…”

Much like with Black Friday shoppers, it pays to plan, my fellow “Thanks, I’m Not Giving Up” eaters! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, start thinking strategy! To avoid making it a “Blech Friday,” (the natural enemy of seasonal reheat-aficionados) consider some of these tips from Diane Van, Food Safety Education Staff Deputy Director of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service:

  • Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F. After food is safely cooked, leftovers must be refrigerated within two hours.
  • Throw away any hot or cold leftovers that have been left out for more than two hours at room temperature (one hour when the temperature is above 90 °F, such as at an outdoor event).
  • Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator, or it can be rapidly chilled in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating.
  • Cover leftovers, wrap them in airtight packaging, or seal them in storage containers. These practices help keep bacteria out, retain moisture, and prevent leftovers from picking up odors from other food in the refrigerator. Immediately refrigerate or freeze the wrapped leftovers for rapid cooling.

Follow these tips, and you’re halfway to a joyous “Thanks, I’m Not Giving Up Feast”! But to truly avoid a “Blech Friday”, one must concentrate on proper reheating techniques. Van says to make sure that foods “reach 165° F, (and to) use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of…food(s). Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil, (and) cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through.”

These are just a few of a whole cadre of tips meant to make leftovers a welcome, safe, “blech-free” part of the holiday season. You can check out more of Van’s tips right here. Happy eating!

A Picture of Mathew J. Bartkowiak, Ph.D.

About Mathew J. Bartkowiak, Ph.D.

Laboratory Products Department Manager, Nelson-Jameson, Inc.
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