The UK is gearing up for a busy holiday season and that means a lot of big meals, both in the workplace and at home.
But many are wondering what to do with all the turkey and ham leftovers. The UK’s NHS has this general advice:
It’s especially important to store meat safely in the fridge to stop bacteria from spreading and avoid food poisoning.
Store raw meat and poultry in clean, sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge, so they can’t touch or drip onto other food.
Follow any storage instructions on the label and don’t eat meat after its use-by date.
Keep cooked meat separate from raw meat.
Freezing and defrosting
It’s safe to freeze meat and fish as long as you:
Freeze it before the use-by date.
Defrost meat and fish thoroughly before cooking. Lots of liquid will come out as meat thaws, so stand it in a bowl to stop bacteria in the juice spreading to other things.
Defrost in a microwave if you intend to cook straightaway. Otherwise, put it in the fridge to thaw so that it doesn’t get too warm.
Cook food until it’s piping hot all the way through.
“Make sure the meat is properly wrapped in the freezer or it might get freezer burn, which will make it tough and inedible,” says Hudson.
“Date and label meat in the freezer and eat it within 24 hours of defrosting. Don’t keep food in a freezer indefinitely. Always have a good idea of what’s in your fridge and freezer.”
Never re-freeze raw meat (including poultry) or fish that have been defrosted. It is possible to re-freeze cooked meat once, as long as it has been cooled before going into the freezer. However, if in doubt, don’t re-freeze.
Frozen raw foods can be defrosted once and stored in the fridge for up to two days before they need to be cooked or thrown away. To reduce wastage, divide the meal into portions before freezing and then just defrost what you need.
Cooked food that has been frozen and removed from the freezer must be reheated and eaten immediately once fully defrosted. When defrosted, food should be reheated only once because the more times you cool and reheat a food, the higher the risk of food poisoning. Bacteria can grow and multiply when food is cooled too slowly, and might survive if food isn’t reheated properly.
When reheating food, make sure it reaches a temperature of 70C for two minutes so that it is steaming hot throughout.
Foods stored in the freezer, such as ice cream and frozen desserts, should not be returned to the freezer once they have started to thaw. Only take out from the freezer what you intend to use for that meal.
For more specific information on turkey leftovers and how long you can keep them in the refrigerator, click here for the official advice from the US Dept of Agriculture.