The longer the leftovers are out, the more opportunity bacteria have to grow, according to an MU Extension food specialist.

A rule of thumb for food safety is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. That rule applies to Thanksgiving leftovers too.

Before you succumb to the after-the-meal stupor, get those leftovers into the refrigerator.

“Food should not be left out more than two hours — that’s a maximum,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “And place leftovers in shallow containers so they cool down quickly.”



If leftovers aren’t put away soon enough, it’s an open invitation for microbes that can make you sick.

“At room temperature, bacteria can start to grow immediately,” Roberts said. “So the longer the leftovers are out, the more opportunity bacteria have to grow.”

Even in the refrigerator, leftovers have a shelf life. Roberts suggested eating leftover turkey and stuffing within three to four days, and leftover gravy within one or two days.

“When you reheat turkey, you want to make sure it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees,” Roberts said. “If you use leftover gravy, you want to make sure it boils before you serve it.”

The leftover turkey can be frozen and stored for up to six months, Roberts said. Just make sure you thaw it safely in the refrigerator and reheat it thoroughly.

•2 teaspoons cooking oil

•1/4 cup chopped onion

•1/3 cup chopped celery

•2 cups cubed, cooked turkey

•1 15-ounce can of white beans

1 11-ounce can of white corn

•1 4-ounce can of chopped green chilies

•12 ounces of fat-free chicken broth

•1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Sauté onions in oil over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

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