You’re four days out from Thanksgiving, and you still have some turkey, stuffing and cranberries lingering in your fridge. Are they still edible?
Leftovers past their prime can harbor bacteria and cause foodborne illnesses, so it’s better to be smart about when things are no longer safe to eat. You might have to waste food, but that’s preferable to a miserable bout of food poisoning.
We checked out the info from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Bon Appetit magazine to see which Thanksgiving leftovers are still OK, and which need to go.
Everything is safe in the freezer indefinitely, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, but the first few months are when it tastes best after you defrost.
Turkey: Cooked poultry like your Thanksgiving bird is safe in the fridge for three to four days– so by Monday after the holiday, it’s time to either toss it or freeze it. Frozen turkey it tastes best in the first two to six months.
Salad: One day. You should’ve tossed it by now. And you can’t freeze it. Duh.
Gravy: This is a great candidate for freezing– Bon Appetit suggests you pour it over the turkey you’re freezing, so it will be moist and pre-gravy’d when you defrost it down the road. It’s only good in the fridge for two days.
Stuffing: It’s good for three to four days in the fridge. Two months in the freezer.
Potatoes, sweet and regular: Three to four days in the fridge. Don’t freeze.
Cranberry sauce: This stuff is good for two weeks in the fridge, and can be frozen for three months.
If you’re having trouble eating Thanksgiving dinner each night for three days, Bon Appetit has essentially endless creative ideas for what you can do with the leftovers.
If all this seems like too much to remember, stick to the DHHS’ 2/4 rule: Don’t leave food out for more than two hours, and toss it after 4 days in the fridge. While packing up your food, put it in shallow tupperware containers and cut up things like poultry to shorten the time it needs to cool down, which is prime time for bacterial growth.