Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving leftovers yummy, but they must be stored safely

TAHLEQUAH — For many families, Thanksgiving means a plateful of delicious food – for several days.

Because nobody hosting a Thanksgiving feast wants to run out of servings, food is prepared in substantial amounts, inevitably resulting in leftovers.

Heather Winn, a family and consumer science educator for the Cherokee County Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, said eating leftovers avoids waste and extends food budgets, but they must be handled safely.

“It is important to remember that food is often left out after eating,” Winn said. “Leftovers should not be eaten if allowed to stand more than two hours, and that means two hours from the time it comes out of the oven or refrigerator, not from the end of the meal.”

Winn added that care should be taken when storing leftovers in the refrigerator.

“Egg and potato salads, liquids such as gravy, should be eaten within 24 hours,” she said. “It is best to remove turkey from the bone, because the bones retain heat and can slow the cooling of the meat. Freezing leftovers is the safest option.”

Leftovers can keep for up to six months in the freezer. If stored in the refrigerator, turkey and stuffing should be eaten within 72 hours. Storage should be in small portions in shallow covered containers.

There is a persistent myth that food should be cooled to room temperature before going in the refrigerator. This practice dates to the early days of refrigerators when an influx of warm food might upset the temperature inside the appliance and spoil milk. Such problems passed decades ago with improved designs.

When reheating leftovers, they should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Oven temperature should be at least 325 degrees to reheat. If using a microwave, check the owner’s manual for recommended times and settings.

“If you have frozen leftovers, a lot of people leave them on the counter to thaw,” Winn said. “That can allow bacteria to grow. It is best to take the extra time to thaw in the refrigerator, or put them in something watertight and run water over them.”

Once the leftovers are safely prepared, it isn’t necessary to eat turkey sandwiches for a week. There are lots of delicious recipes for Thanksgiving scraps.

Here is a simple dish from Delish.com:

Curried Turkey Salad with Dried Cranberries

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise

• 1 teaspoon curry powder

• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper

• 2 cups cooked turkey, chopped

• 3 tablespoons dried apricots, sliced

• 3 tablespoons dried cranberries

• 1 tablespoons shelled pepitas

(Pepitas are hulled pumpkin seeds. If unavailable, use a favorite chopped nut)

• 1 apple, cored and chopped


1. Mix together the mayonnaise, curry powder, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and gently toss to combine.

For leftover mashed potatoes, try this from Allrecipes.com:

Potato Pancakes II

• 2 cups mashed potatoes

• 1 egg, beaten

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

• 1 tablespoon butter


1. In a medium bowl, mix together potatoes, egg, salt and cheese. Melt butter on a large griddle at medium heat. Drop potato mixture onto griddle 1/4 cup at a time. Flatten with a spatula to 1/2 inch thick. Fry approximately 5 minutes on each side. Serve hot. Makes 10 pancakes.


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