Safe Holiday Cooking Techniques

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Serving and Storing

  • Don't leave cooked food unrefrigerated longer than two hours.
  • Acidic foods such as cranberry sauce can pick up a metallic taste from foil. Use plastic wrap on plastic or glass containers.
  • Did you make a big pot of turkey-bone soup? Bring it to a rolling boil before serving.
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within four days. It's safe to eat them cold, but if you reheat, food should hit a bacteria-killing 165 degrees F.
  • Frozen leftovers keep almost indefinitely but taste best served within six months. Date packages.
  • Don't eat leftovers that stayed on the counter overnight, even if they look or smell fine. Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees F. Some produce toxins not destroyed by additional cooking.
  • Why three containers are better than one: Bigger isn't better. If you end up with lots of leftovers, refrigerate or freeze them by dividing the food among multiple containers -- shallow is better than deep. The reason? Smaller or shallower containers increase the speed at which the stored food cools. The cooler it gets, the faster it stops the bacteria that inevitably grow in room-temperature food.


Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, November 2008.


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