You’re Doing It Wrong: How To Store & Reheat Leftovers


It doesn’t matter if it’s dinner for one or if you have the entire family over, sometimes you’ll have leftovers. And the worst thing you can do is ruin a case of “good” leftovers by not storing them properly. Here’s how to get back to your favorite meal the next day (or the next week) by packing them properly:

Keep Food Out of the “Danger Zone”
Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F. After food is safely cooked, hot food must be kept hot at 140° F or warmer to prevent bacterial growth. Within two hours of cooking food or after it is removed from an appliance keeping it warm, leftovers must be refrigerated. Throw away all perishable foods that have been left in room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is over 90° F, such as at an outdoor picnic during summer).

Cold perishable food, such as chicken salad or a platter of deli meats, should be kept at 40° F or below. When serving food at a buffet, keep food hot in chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Keep food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving trays and replace them often. Discard any cold leftovers that have been left out for more than two hours at room temperature (onen hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).

Cool Food Rapidly
To prevent bacterial growth, it’s important to cool food rapidly so it reaches as fast as possible the safe refrigerator-storage temperature of 40° F or below. To do this, divide large amounts of food into shallow containers. A big pot of soup, for example, will take a long time to cool, inviting bacteria to multiply and increasing the danger of foodborne illness. Instead, divide the pot of soup into smaller containers so it will cool quickly.