Thanksgiving leftovers: How long are they good for?

Home for the Holidays

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The turkey has been carved, the potatoes mashed, the green bean casserole baked and everyone at your festive Thanksgiving celebration is full and ready to fall asleep to some football.

But now, what do you do with those leftovers?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the bacteria that grows in cooked food left at room temperature, called Clostridium perfringens, is the second most common cause of food poisoning, causing stomach cramps and vomiting within six to 24 hours after eating. Outbreaks involving the bacteria most commonly occur in November and December, and are often linked to foods commonly served throughout the holidays, like turkey and roast beef, according to the CDC.

Leftovers should be chilled at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder “as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning.” The CDC says that cuts of meat should be sliced or divided into small quantities to be refrigerated so it can be cooled quicker.

All leftovers should be reheated to at least 165 degrees before serving.

According to USA Today, leftovers can stay good for three to four days in a refrigerator. If leftover food is frozen, it will last three to four months.

Here are some tips as to how long some Thanksgiving favorites that may be on your table are good for, according to The Food Network:

  • Turkey: Leftover Thanksgiving turkey should be frozen or eaten by five days to one week after Thanksgiving.
  • Cooked vegetables: Roasted, steamed or fried veggies should be eaten within three to four days after Thanksgiving.
  • Mashed potatoes: Should be eaten within three to four days.
  • Stuffing: Should be eaten within three to four days.
  • Gravy: Should be eaten within three to four days.
  • Baked casseroles: The Food Network references gratins or lasagna, and says they should be eaten within four to five days.
  • Pies: Traditional Thanksgiving pies should also be eaten within four to five days.
  • Cranberry sauce: It will take two weeks after Thanksgiving for cranberry sauce to go bad.

If you’re still on the fence or worried about your Thanksgiving meal and the leftovers it brings you an contact the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline or live chat with a USDA-FSIS food safety specialist online from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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