Storing and using leftover turkey

Keep those turkey dinner leftovers safe to eat.

Some might argue that the leftover turkey after Thanksgiving dinner is the best part of the Thanksgiving holiday. Adding turkey into soups, stews, casseroles or even making a turkey sandwich is a great way to enjoy the turkey leftovers. Before using your leftover turkey after your holiday meal there are a few food safety tips Michigan State University Extension recommends:

  • After the big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, make sure the leftover turkey (and all the other food as well) is handled properly. Food must be kept out of the danger zone temperature range of 40-135 degrees to be safe to eat. This means foods must be refrigerated quickly (within two hours) after the meal is over or kept in a roaster or hot-holding unit to keep temperatures above 135 degrees.
  • When storing the turkey in the refrigerator, cut the meat into smaller pieces and store in shallow, covered containers. Place leftover stuffing and gravy in shallow, covered containers as well. Leftover turkey in the refrigerator should be used within three to four days and leftover stuffing and gravy within one to two days.
  • When preparing the leftover turkey, stuffing or gravy, reheat to a temperature of 165 degrees (checking the temperature with your food thermometer) before serving.
  • Freezing the leftovers is a great way to enjoy the food later on. Frozen turkey, stuffing and gravy should be used within one month.

After enjoying Thanksgiving dinner and before sitting back to watch the football game or enjoy spending time with family and friends, it is critical to get those holiday dinner leftovers into refrigeration. Keeping the food out of the temperature danger zone will allow you to enjoy a few meals made with delicious turkey leftovers.

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