🔓 Leftovers: How long do they last in the fridge?

US Department of Agriculture says leftovers should be consumed or frozen within four days

You may have a fridge full of Thanksgiving leftovers, but they won’t last as long as you may think.

Before learning how long to store your leftovers, watch celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse give tips for utilizing Thanksgiving leftovers in the video at the top of the page.

Health experts say you should consume or freeze leftovers within four days. Here are some food safety recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Remember the Two-Hour Rule: Refrigerate perishable items within two hours of coming out of the oven or refrigerator. After two hours, perishable food enters the “Danger Zone” (between 40 and 140 degrees F), where bacteria can multiply quickly and cause food to become unsafe. Perishable food should be discarded if left out for longer than two hours, so refrigerate or freeze items to prevent food waste.
  • Use Shallow Containers: After you break down your Thanksgiving meal into smaller portions, store leftover food in shallow containers in the refrigerator until the Monday after Thanksgiving, or in the freezer for later use.
  • Freeze or Consume Within Four Days: Use the Monday after Thanksgiving as a reminder that it is the last day you can safely eat leftovers. If you want to keep leftovers longer, freeze them within that four-day period. Frozen food stays safe indefinitely, though the quality may decrease over time (best quality if eaten within six months).
  • Reheat to 165 degrees F: Make sure your reheated leftovers reach 165 F as measured with a food thermometer. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies safely by bringing them to a rolling boil.
  • Microwave Food Safely: When reheating in the microwave, cover and rotate the food for even heating. Arrange food items evenly in a covered microwave-safe glass or ceramic dish and add some liquid, if needed. Because microwaves have cold spots, check the internal temperature of the food in several places with a food thermometer after allowing a resting time.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.