Holiday leftovers: how long are they safe to eat? One in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year. Most of them will recover without any lasting effects from their illness but rarely there are serious consequences. How many days after Christmas can you still eat turkey or ham? Desserts? Read Evolve Medical’s quick tips for food safety.
Two Critical Factors
The first major question is how long the food sat out. Food safety experts all agree that there are 2 critical factors for keeping leftovers safe:
- Food shouldn’t be left out more than 2 hours from the time of cooking
- Reheat food properly
According to the FoodNetwork, “Food never has to come to room temperature before storing it. In fact, the less time it spends at room temperature the better. Chances are that by the time you’re finished eating your holiday meal, it will be close to cool anyway, so wrap it and refrigerate it immediately. It’s even fine to send hot soup or gravy straight to the fridge; the only problem is that it may raise the temperature inside your refrigerator, causing everything to take longer to cool.”
If time from cooking to storing is over 2 hours, sadly, it must be tossed out. This Holiday Season, with ridiculously warm weather, those leftovers you drove 1-2 hours home with are almost certainly not ok to eat (unless they were in a good ice cooler at 32 degrees).
What is the risk?
Really? Only 2 hours? Yes. According to the food safety experts at foodsafety.gov, “Bacteria in food left out for more than 2 hours double in number every 20 minutes, and some bacteria make a poison or toxin that can make you ill, hence the term “food poisoning.” Salmonella, botulism, clostridium…they love your food too.
How long is it safe to still eat turkey, ham and meats?
First off, turkey, ham and meats should be stored by themselves–never with stuffing or other foods. Ideally, they should be stored in a shallow container and cut off the bone.
When re-heating, make sure the meat is heated up to at least 165 degrees using a food thermometer.
The maximum number of days turkey is safe to eat, assuming the above advice has been followed, is 3-4 days. If the turkey has been stored in the freezer, it is safe for at least 2 months–and some experts safe forever.
How about the gravy or soups?
Soup, gravy and sauces should be heated to a boil either on the stove or if using a microwave, stirring regularly to make sure all of it is heated to a boil. According to StillTasty.com, gravy should only be kept for 1-2 days.
Stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole or yams?
Maximum storage time is only 3-4 days. Pitch it after then.
Apple pie, cheesecake and parfaits are good for a day less. The general rule of thumb is that if it has eggs and cream, beware trying to save it too long!
Still have questions?
Still have specific questions? Feel free to email Evolve Medical Clinics at info.emc4me.com. Or, a great site to get the answer is Still Tasty “Your ultimate shelf life guide” (a great resource to bookmark) which can be found here: stilltasty.com. The USDA also has a great resource: USDA.gov.