Black Friday could take on a whole new meaning if you're not careful about how you store those Thanksgiving Day leftovers. Food poisoning can turn post-holiday meals — made from turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie that have been left unrefrigerated too long — into a gastrointestinal nightmare, nutritionists say.
Some foods are more likely to cause foodborne illnesses than others, notes registered dietician Liz Weinandy with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
"The gravy and the stuffing are two foods that you really in particular want to cool down quickly," she explains. "They're at high temperatures. They’re kind of a prime foods, they've got moisture, they've got protein in them. They're prime foods for bacterial growth."
To help you stay safe, Weinandy offers the following food-safety tips:
When cooking on Thursday:
- Be sure to wash your hands often to avoid of cross contamination that can occur when you handle raw poultry or meat and vegetables or other foods.
- Don't use the same utensils or unwashed cutting boards to cut meats and vegetables or other foods.
- Be sure to wash all foods, including raw vegetables that can be tainted with bacteria.
- Make sure the turkey is cooked to at least 160 degrees.
Leftover food safety:
- Refrigerate leftovers no later than 2 hours after putting them on the table.
- Remove the turkey from the bone before storing.
- Use shallow storage containers that are 2 inches tall or less to store your food, so it can cool down quickly.
When reheating leftovers:
- Avoid plastic containers, which can burn or melt in a microwave, allowing chemicals to leach into your food.
- Unless you freeze the leftovers, the turkey will only be good in the fridge for three to four days after Thanksgiving.
- Discard gravy, stuffing, and casseroles within two days.
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