Proper storage of leftovers and other previously cooked foods is imperative for food safety. This category includes foods from a supermarket deli or restaurant, convenience foods or a planned extra batch of a recipe. Follow these steps to keep foods properly chilled:

– Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Foods left out longer should be discarded.

– Set the refrigerator at 34 to 40 degrees and the freezer unit at 0 F and occasionally check these temperatures with a thermometer.

– Never defrost (or marinate) food on the kitchen counter. Use the refrigerator, cold running water or the microwave.

– Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.

– With poultry and other stuffed meats, remove the stuffing and refrigerate it in a separate container.

– Hot foods may be put directly into the refrigerator or freezer, but don’t overload. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.

– Use refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. Freeze quantities that can’t be used by then.

– Since bacteria can’t grow at freezer temperatures, food is generally safe indefinitely while frozen. However, use frozen foods in a reasonable length of time for best quality.

– Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees or until hot and steaming.

– Soups and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil.

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