Ah leftovers. . . for most of us, a welcome part of a Thanksgiving or Holiday turkey tradition. Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a slab of leftover stuffing and turkey cold cuts to bring a holiday flavor to your lunchbox. And turkey is remarkably versatile. The white meat particularly can be used in a plethora of creative recipes in place of chicken, from soups and casseroles, to enchiladas and chili.
And although it may seem to some of the pickier eaters in the family that leftover Holiday turkey lasts forever, alas, it is not so. According to food safety experts, you have a relatively short window to enjoy the best of the rest of your bird.
Basically, from the time you take the turkey out of the oven, you have 2 hours to serve it, eat it, and then refrigerate or freeze the leftovers – the turkey, stuffing and gravy. Why just two hours? Because bacteria that cause food poisoning can multiply to dangerous levels on perishable food left longer than 2 hours at room temperature.
To preserve the Holiday Turkey flavor safely, do not dawdle. After dinner and before dessert you should remove the meat from the bones, cut large pieces into small pieces, and store in airtight containers. (That’s because food in small amounts will get cold more quickly.) Leftover turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Stuffing and gravy should be used within 1 or 2 days. Just to be on the safe side, you should reheat leftover gravy to a rolling boil before serving.
If you’d like to extend your turkey leftover experience into the new year, put your airtight packages of cooked turkey goodness in the freezer, with the date clearly marked. That will give you up to 6 months to find just the right recipe. . . and May is a lovely time for turkey tetrazzini.
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