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Good to Go: Safely Savor Leftovers From Your Holiday Table

The ultimate guide to storing your holiday leftovers safely. Cook and savor your holiday meals with these food storage tips from NSF experts.

‘Tis the time of year to gather with friends and relatives around the table for a festive feast.

This season, send your guests home (and freeze fixin’s for your family) with these seven tips to choose the best containers that will keep foods fresh and ready-to-eat.

  • One and Done

    It’s easy and tempting, but don’t re-use the food’s original container for leftovers. Most aren’t made for multiple uses. Throw it out or recycle it, and put the leftovers in a storage container instead.
  • Get Fresh

    The best way to preserve the foods you love is to use NSF-certified food storage containers. NSF experts test these containers to be easily cleanable. The lids are tight enough to keep air (and bacteria growth) out or let steam vent when the food is hot. They are also made from food-safe materials. Look for the NSF mark on product packaging when you are shopping.
  • Rubber Meets the Road.

    A 2013 germ study conducted by NSF found that many kitchen items harbor germs if not cleaned properly, including food storage containers with rubber seals. These seals were the eighth germiest place in the kitchen and ripe for Salmonella, yeast and mold. When you’re cleaning your containers, make sure to remove the rubber seals.
  • Suds Up

    If the container is dishwasher safe, remove the rubber seal and place the container, seal and lid in the dishwasher after each use. If you are hand washing, wash the seal, lid and container in hot, soapy water. Pay extra attention to the area where the seal fits into the top and the grooves where the cover attaches to the container.
  • Trot the Turkey. Fast.

    Leftovers that need to be cold should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours to avoid a germ breeding ground. It’s not necessary or safer to cool them to room temp before you refrigerate or freeze.
  • Smaller is Better

    Separate large quantities of food into smaller containers to help speed up cooling. Vent lids slightly when placing containers in the fridge.
  • Serving it Up

    Not all food storage containers are safe for reheating foods. Check the usage instructions on the bottom of the container, visit the manufacturer’s website or consult the retailer for details. Use your thermometer and reheat leftovers to at least 165° F (73° C) before eating.

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