Published on August 16th, 2010 | by Rachel Fox, RD6
Leftovers: 8 Tips for Safe Reheating
The summer season provides us with bountiful farmer’s markets and overflowing gardens. An easy way to save food dollars is to cook in batches. You can pre-portion meal servings and refrigerate/freeze them for later. Leftovers make for easy lunch planning and are a life saver when you have no time to make dinner. Remember these eight tips when enjoying your leftovers.
- Keep stored food cold. The bacterial danger zone is between 41-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Purchase a refrigerator thermometer to double check your temperature.
- Travel safely. If you need to bring your lunch to work, keep it in a cooler while in transit to your workplace. Maintaining the cold temperature is important in preventing bacterial growth.
- Don’t save food forever. Leftover food should be kept in the refrigerator for 7 days or less. If you need to, put date labels on storage containers.
- When in doubt, throw it out! If your food looks funny, smells funny or feels funny…it’s probably time to pitch it.
- Reheat thoroughly. Your reheated food should be too hot to eat for 2 minutes after cooking. If you can eat your leftovers right out of the oven (toaster oven/microwave) you have not heated it hot enough to kill harmful bacteria.
- Cook low and slow. For “solid” foods (meat, casserole, lasagna, quiche, etc) cook at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. This will prevent the outside from cooking too much while leaving the inside too cold.
- Stir or turn halfway through. “Non-solid” foods (pasta, rice, chopped veggies, etc) can be stirred easily. Stir these foods halfway through cooking to ensure the whole meal is cooked through. If you can’t stir it, flip it.
- Don’t reheat in plastic! Ever wonder why reusable containers turn red after heating tomato sauce? The sauce is melted into the container and yes the container melts into the sauce. Don’t eat your plastic containers anymore; reheat in glass/ceramic.
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