Bacteria thrive between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit – this is known as the “danger zone” for storing food. As soon as food arrives in this area, the bacteria start growing immediately. The less time spent in this area, the safer the food.
Wrap it up!
How should you deal with what’s left?
• Only store food that is known to have been handled safely and that has not been contaminated by double dipping or many hands pecking it. If it were sitting openly in your backyard, you should get rid of it.
• Be honest about what you are likely to eat in the next three or four days. Nobody likes to throw food away, but it’s not worth keeping it in the fridge to end up throwing it away anyway. If you want to save them, freeze them immediately.
• Make sure that food is stored correctly. Pack the meat separately from vegetables and cereals. Label the containers or storage bags with the names of the items and the date you packed them, as well as an expiration date, so you can keep track of what to use and when.
• Cool all foods completely before storing them. Make sure your refrigerator is cold enough, preferably not above 40 degrees. You can help keep the temperature constant by not overloading the refrigerator, which affects efficiency, another reason to choose your savings!
• When heated, the remains must reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 seconds to kill bacteria. It is best to do this on the stove or in the oven as the microwaves do not heat evenly and some areas may be heated correctly and others may not be warm enough. Make sure to use a thermometer to check the temperature and remove the food from the heat source before checking the temperature to make sure you get an accurate reading and not just measure the temperature of your heat source!
Safely storing leftovers not only prevents you from wasting delicious foods, but also prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria and limits your exposure to food-borne diseases. Hot or cold dishes should not be left out for more than 2 hours. Be picky about what you want to save and be sure to consume it within a few days.
If in doubt, throw it out!