How to Safely Reheat the Best Leftovers
Many people will claim that the leftovers are the best part of a great meal (think Thanksgiving and Christmas). There is nothing better than watching football all weekend with plates of leftover turkey, sides and desserts. But before you dive into that dressing or pumpkin pie, make sure those dishes are safely stored and reheated properly afterwards.
Clear Out Your Refrigerator to Avoid Spoilage and Contamination
One little suggestion for before your big meal is to use up much of what you usually store in your refrigerator. Eat up that deli meat, yogurt, and leftover pizza. Make room for your leftovers.
Once dinner is over, no one wants to clean up. Bellies are full and a nap seems necessary, but it is important to get those leftovers packaged up and stored within two hours.
Portion Your Leftovers as Best Preservation Practices
Divide them into smaller portions, some for sharing and some for keeping at home. Refrigerate what you plan to eat in the near future.
Those that you are saving for use later can go into the freezer. Four days is the cutoff for refrigerated leftovers, otherwise freeze it. Don’t worry about cooling everything to room temperature. They can go into containers or bags while still warm.
When storing the leftovers of all the sides, it is best to put them into smaller containers versus just covering the dish they were served in.
This leaves less chance of bacteria growing, also saves space. Once the leftovers are stored away, try to avoid opening the refrigerator until everything is completely cooled down. Of course, a quick grab of the whipped cream for a slice of pie might be necessary.
Always Reheat in Smaller Portions
Leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees to ensure food safety. It is best to only reheat what you will be eating. Repeated reheating will deplete the flavor and moisture of the food. If reheating in the microwave, be sure to rotate the food and check temp in a few areas.
There are some tricks to safe and tasty reheating.
- Add a dash of liquid to your turkey when you reheat. Some gravy, stock or butter will do. Keep it covered. Microwave on low or medium, not high, or reheat in at 350-degree oven.
- Gravy must be reheated to a boil over low heat, stirring frequently.
- Rolls can get tough when reheating. Reheat in a 350-degree oven until warm or in the microwave for just enough time to get warm. Have a coffee cup with warm water in it in the microwave as well. Some say this helps to keep it from getting chewy.
- Vegetables, dressing and potatoes can all go into the microwave or the oven. Check to see if you need to add any moisture. Heating covered is recommended to hold in the moisture, unless you want a crunchy topping.
- And those pies? Custard, cream and mousse pies must be stored in the refrigerator. They do not freeze well. Pies containing eggs must also be refrigerated; they can be frozen but probably won’t be the same. Fruit pies can be stored at room temp for a couple of days then moved to the refrigerator. They freeze well too. Thaw at room temp then warm at 375.
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