Did you know that 400,000 Americans get sick from their Christmas leftovers each year? No, we don’t mean “sick of” your leftovers, (although must of us get sick of eating the same food for a week straight) but sick FROM.  We wanted to provide you with ways to make sure this doesn’t happen this holiday season!

Here are some guidelines to follow that come directly from the USDA:

Cook Food At the Proper Temperatures

  • Red meats: Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
  • Ground meats: Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160° F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Poultry: Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165° F as measured with a food thermometer.

Keep Food out of the Danger Zone

  • Refrigerate your food within 2 hours of removing it from whatever is keeping it warm. Bacteria can grow rapidly between 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Throw out any food that has been sitting out longer than 2 hours.
  • You must store cool food like chicken salad, at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If it has been sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours, discard it.

Storing Leftovers

  • Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or frozen for 3-4 months. Keep in mind however, that the longer food is frozen, the more it loses its flavor.
  • Make sure to store your food in airtight containers to help retain moisture, keep bacteria out, and prevent odors from other food in the fridge to filter in.

Thawing Leftovers

  • The safe ways to thaw frozen leftovers, is the refrigerator, cold water or the microwave. After thawing, the food should be used within 3-4 days or you should refreeze it.
  • You can reheat leftovers safely without thawing it (via the oven, saucepan, oven, etc.)

Reheating Leftovers

  • When you reheat leftovers, make sure they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can do this with a food thermometer.
  • When you reheat sauces like gravy or soups, bring them to a boil
  • It’s safe to refreeze leftovers that you’ve reheated.

For more food safety tips visit the USDA Page.