How to safely store your Thanksgiving food after the meal is over

Food Giant in Cape Girardeau turkey
Food Giant in Cape Girardeau turkey(Tayler Davis)
Updated: Nov. 28, 2019 at 2:34 AM EST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - What do you do with all your leftovers after Thanksgiving? Experts suggest having a plan to keep the bacteria away.

Karan Clifton, with Cape County Public Health Center, said this plan should be even more top of mind before you serve-up your biggest family meal of the year, Thanksgiving.

“Foodborne illness occur every single day we don’t think they do but they do,” she said. “When you go to cooking that food make sure you’re cooking it at the right temperature. That’s going to determine the safety of your leftovers."

Clifton said your first action should be making sure your leftovers are ready to be put in the refrigerator.

“If it’s not cooled properly, if it doesn’t get down to that 41 degrees and below in the correct amount of time, bacteria will start to grow.”

Once you put the food away, Clifton said it will probably keep for about a week.

Last minute shopper Tana Howard said her leftovers never last that long.

“Usually there’s a lot of turkey leftover because of that we always make a turkey pot pie for afterwards, and the rest of it goes into turkey salad for sandwiches," said Howard. “By the end of the week there’s no turkey left.”

After a week, experts suggest storing the food items in the freezer. This will keep bacteria from growing.

“Once you put them in the freezer, it will kill them. There are a few bacteria that can live in frozen food. When you get it out the freezer make sure you thaw it properly,” Clifton said.

According to the FDA, poultry dishes should only be in the freezer for four to six months.

Peggy Rauh said she makes sure her leftover turkey isn’t in there too long.

“We have a lot of turkey leftover, and what we do is freeze it if we don’t want to eat it right then," said Rauh. “Later on I get it out and warm it up in my crock pot. Then put I barbecue sauce on it.”

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