Preparing a feast for your family get together or cookout? You may send lefovers home with the family, but just how long can foods be stored before they go bad? Follow this simple guide to ensure your food is safe and tasty days later:

Proper Storage

Follow these simple rules to ensure your food will be just as great days after:

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving.
  • Divide large amounts of hot food into smaller portions so they cool quickly.
  • Refrigerate leftovers in airtight packaging or containers.
  • Freeze leftovers that will not be eaten within four days.
  • Dispose of foods that sit at room temperature longer than two hours.

Reduce the Risk

Proper storage also helps reduce the risk of foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 6 people gets sick by consuming contaminated food and beverages. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. These four steps can help prevent foodborne illness:

  1. Cook to the right temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure food is heated to a temperature that kills harmful bacteria.
  2. Wash your hands and cooking surfaces often.
  3. Do not cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs separate from other foods in the fridge. Dripping juices can spread bacteria.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly.

Remember, no matter how long leftovers have been in your refrigerator or freezer, if in doubt – throw it out. To learn more about food safety, please visit the CDC's  website.


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