University of Illinois Extension

Storing Leftovers

  • Plan ahead, clean out the refrigerator and make room for leftovers several days before the holiday feast.

  • Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator within 2 hours after cooking is completed. Why just 2 hours? Because bacteria that cause food poisoning can multiply to undesirable levels on perishable foods left at room temperature for longer than that.

  • Large quantities should be divided into smaller portions and stored in several shallow containers. Food in small amounts will chill faster keeping it safer and fresher.

  • If a large amount of turkey is left, consider freezing some for later use. Do not wait until the turkey has been in the refrigerator for 4 days to freeze it. Freezing will not improve the quality of the turkey. If the turkey is frozen while it is fresh the quality will be better upon defrosting.