March 27, 2023
Annapolis, US 59 F

Eat it or Chuck it: Thanksgiving Leftovers

Eat it or chuck it–that is the question for your Thanksgiving Day leftovers. How many days after Thanksgiving can you still eat turkey or ham? Casseroles? Read Evolve Medical’s 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:

  1. Food shouldn’t be left out more than 2 hours from the time of cooking
  2. Food shouldn’t be put in the refrigerator hot–but warm is ok

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 Thanksgiving dinner, 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.

What is the risk?

Really? Only 2 hours? Yes. According to the food safety experts at, “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?

First off, turkey 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 turkey 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 the 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, 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.

What about the desserts?

Pumpkin pie is good for 3-4 days. Apple pie is 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 specific questions? Feel free to email Evolve Medical Clinics at 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: The USDA also has a great resource: 

To learn more about Evolve Medical Clinics, or if you are sick and need help, click here: 

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