Food Safety

Handling Leftovers

Improper food handling is the cause of many food borne illnesses and yet it is something that can be easily prevented. Safe handling of leftovers are no exception. If planning to use leftovers for another meal, especially those that are perishable, they must be stored under refrigeration at least within two hours. If the food has remained at room temperature for more than two hours, it must be discarded.

Some examples of perishable foods includes meat, fish and poultry, dairy products, cooked rice and pasta, beans, eggs, cooked potatoes, sauces and gravies, soups and stews, and soy protein products. Any cooked ready-to-eat foods such as those from meal sites or home delivered meals, meals picked up at the local supermarket or fast food restaurant must be eaten promptly or refrigerated within two hours.

The following is a list of selected cooked leftovers and recommended refrigerator storage times:

soups and stews- 3 to 4 days
gravy and meat broth- 1 to 2 days
cooked meat and meat dishes- 3 to 4 days
cooked poultry dishes- 3 to 4 days
fried chicken- 3 to 4 days

This is only a partial list. Beyond cooked meat, fish, poultry and egg dishes- pasta, rice, potatoes and beans that have been cooked are considered potentially hazardous foods and should be handled quickly and with care. If items cannot be refrigerated within two hours of cooking, they must be discarded.

For additional information on food storage and food safety contact your local Extension office.


Fried Chicken BitsFried Chicken Leftovers

Meg McAlpine
Contributing Editor