Be sure to store Thanksgiving leftovers properly

Susan Selasky
Detroit Free Press

Your Thanksgiving feast has ended. The guests are gone. The the dishes are done. But there is one more thing you need to consider: leftovers.

There’s no other holiday where the leftovers play as important a role as the main meal. From the turkey and stuffing to mashed potatoes and veggies, so many parts of the feast are prime candidates for new dishes in the days ahead.

But before that can happen, you must store those leftovers properly. Here are some tips:

Store leftovers within two hours of your meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service website says to toss food that has been left out for longer than two hours at room temperature because it could be unsafe. If the temperature is above 90 degrees (that’s certainly not an issue here), the limit is one hour.

Don’t store the whole turkey with meat still on it in the refrigerator. Pick all the meat from the bones, place in plastic bags or storage containers and store separately. Use the meat within 3 to 4 days or freeze.

When using leftover turkey in a recipe, remember that it just needs to be reheated because it’s already cooked. Prepare other ingredients first, according to your recipe. Then add the leftover turkey.

If you plan on making stock, store the carcass and bones in a plastic bag.

Stuffing and gravy keep two days in the refrigerator. Stuffing can be frozen for one month, gravy up to six months.

Side dishes and casseroles will keep three to four days in the refrigerator.

Cooked mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes keep three to four days in the refrigerator. These also freeze well in airtight containers for 10 to 12 months, but leave about a half-inch of space at the top. Reheat over low-medium heat in a saucepan with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk or water, stirring to prevent sticking.

Store cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Fresh, whole cranberries will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and in the freezer for up to one year.