How long do Christmas leftovers last?

Store your leftovers properly this Christmas

It seems that one of the time-honoured traditions around Christmas is all the leftovers. From turkey to the cheeseboard, there's usually enough leftovers to keep your family going for a few days. 

However, failing to store any leftover food correctly can cause issues. Not only can incorrect storage mean the food doesn't last long, it can also result in illness, which isn't nice at any time of year, let alone Christmas.

To help keep your family happy and healthy, and to ensure you don't end up having to throw loads of food away, follow our top tips for Christmas leftovers.

Cover properly

Any leftover food should be packed into containers with lids or properly covered with cling film or tin foil. This will help to keep everything fresh for longer, as well as avoid food becoming dry, which can affect the taste. 

It is best to cover everything so that it is as air-tight as possible. This can help stop the spread of bacteria and ensure there is no cross-contamination.

Refrigerate

Leftovers should be put in the fridge as soon as they have reached room temperature. You shouldn't put hot or warm food in the fridge as this can lower its temperature and allow bacteria to spread. 

This also means it takes longer for your fridge to return to its standard temperature, as it has to cool the food down first.

If you are going to eat some of your leftovers, it is advised to take what you want and put the rest back in the fridge straight away rather than leaving it out to warm up. This keeps it fresher for longer and helps stop bacteria from spreading which can cause food poisoning.

Avoid cross-contamination

If you're storing your cooked Christmas leftovers in a fridge with uncooked things, especially meat, you need to ensure you avoid cross-contamination. Cooked and uncooked food should not be stored on the same shelf and everything should be properly covered.

Raw meat should be stored on the bottom of your fridge to ensure that juices won't drip onto any cooked food, which can cause illness. If you suspect that cooked food has come into contact with raw meat, you should throw it away.   

Don't reheat more than once

If you're reheating previously cooked food, you should only do this once. You shouldn't make things like curry with leftover turkey for reheating at a later date. 

It is best to just reheat what you are going to use for a meal, throwing away anything that doesn't get eaten. If you want to make something like turkey curry but suspect it won't all get eaten at once, try making your sauce separately, adding meat to the sauce you are using straight away.

Know your dates

It is a good idea to mark each batch of leftovers with the date it was originally cooked, this will mean you know how long it has been in your fridge and whether it is still safe to be eaten. Every part of your Christmas dinner lasts for a different amount of time after cooking – so long as it is stored correctly – so you should check how many days everything is good for.

Better safe than sorry

If you aren't sure whether something is still okay, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. Anything that looks a bit odd or that has been in the fridge for an extended amount of time, pop it in your bin and avoid any possible illness.

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