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Leftovers? Remember the 2-2-4 rule so you won’t get sick!

When it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers, you only need to remember is 2-2-4:

2 means do not leave food out in room temperature for longer than 2 hours. After 2 hours the leftovers need to be refrigerated or frozen. Your goal is to minimize the time food is in the “danger zone” – between 40-140 degrees F – where bacteria quickly multiple and risk of food poisoning is increased.  If left out longer than 2 hours, throw them away!!

Size does matter! The second 2 means when storing your leftovers, separate food into smaller portions and place in containers not deeper than 2 inches. As far as the turkey, leftover turkey should be cut into smaller pieces, to decrease its surface area, and refrigerated or frozen.  Legs and wings can be kept whole.

4 stands for the number of day’s leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator. After 4 days the risk of food poisoning increases because you have been opening and closing the refrigerator, taking the leftovers out to eat, and handling them a lot. The only exception to this rule is the gravy and the stuffing must be eaten within 2 days.

Most people put stuffing inside the turkey, that is great but make sure the inside gets to a temperature of 165 degrees.   After the 2 hour limit, remove all the stuffing from the turkey, place in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze. If turkey and stuffing are stored together, there is a risk of salmonella bacteria contaminating the stuffing.

When it comes to reheating your leftovers, reheat them on the stove, in the oven or microwave, but make sure they are heated thoroughly and evenly.  Sauces, soups and gravies need to come to a full boil.

In the freezer, leftovers should be eaten within 6 months.

Happy Thanksgiving!