• Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

The obligatory guide to knowing what to do with the food that you have left over from your Thanksgiving dinner


Nov 25, 2021

(CNN) – The only thing you can count on the day after dinner is a fridge full of leftover Thanksgiving.

For many, this is easily the best part of all the holidays, but at some point even the most devoted fans of leftovers will wonder if that dish is still in good condition.

Some answers depend on your family’s traditions: If your relatives like to leave the Thanksgiving feast on the table so everyone can eat while watching football, you’re already in trouble. Bacteria grow fast.

All foods should be wrapped or placed in airtight containers and stored in the refrigerator within two hours of being served to keep them fresh and bacteria-free, says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Make sandwiches from the fridge and not from the table: that’s the advice.

Check out this guide to find out how long you can keep Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge and when to throw them away:

Turkey: there will always be leftovers from Thanksgiving

It is preserved by: 3 to 4 days

Leftover cooked turkey, chicken, and duck from Thanksgiving will last three to four days in the refrigerator according to Foodsafety.gov, the place to go if you need food safety information from various government health agencies.

Yes: Freeze leftovers in foil or airtight containers as soon as possible; the fresher the turkey the better. They should be suitable for consumption between 2 and 6 months.

No: Store leftover poultry with the stuffing still in it, as the stuffing will take too long to cool down and bacteria could grow. Instead, remove the stuffing and store it in a separate container before you refrigerate or freeze your turkey meat.


It is preserved by: 3 to 4 days

Those popular spiral cut hams or any wrapped cooked ham will last 3-4 days in the fridge. Cooked hams may be in good condition for a little longer, up to a week.

Yes: Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before refrigerating. If you prefer to freeze, it will be good for a month or two.

No: Trying to save any leftover ham that has a slimy texture is a tell-tale sign that it has gone bad.

Mashed and sweet potatoes

It is preserved by: 3 to 4 days

You have probably prepared them with cream and butter, so you should put the potatoes in the refrigerator for no more than two hours after preparation. If stored in an airtight container, they will last 3-4 days in the fridge (this applies to any type of cooked potato dish, such as potato salad or potato gratin).

Yes: consider freezing your mashed potatoes or gratins in airtight containers or plastic bags in the freezer within three days; They should last up to a month.

No: freezing leftover raw potatoes that didn’t make it to the table without blanching them first; otherwise they will be watery when rejuvenated.

Leftover ‘Thanksgiving’ Stuffing / Dressing and Sauce

It is preserved by: 3 to 4 days

Applies to everything: any broth made with meat will last 3-4 days refrigerated and up to 2 months in the freezer. The same goes for that delicious dressing, if there is anything left.

Yes: store everything within two hours of preparation, in an airtight container. If frozen, it will keep for about a month.

No: forget the stuffing and leave it in the turkey. It is a breeding ground for bacteria.

leftover Thanksgiving Thanksgiving

Cranberry sauce

It is preserved by: 10 to 14 days

You can keep adding that delicious homemade or store-bought cranberry sauce to your sandwiches for up to two weeks if it’s kept refrigerated in an airtight container.

Yes: Refrigerate the homemade cranberry sauce within two hours of cooking. If you want to make more and freeze it will last up to two months.

No: eat if there is an unpleasant smell, taste, or appearance (especially mold).

Bean stew, macaroni and cheese, and corn pudding

It is preserved by: 3-5 days

Bean and corn stews and cooked pasta dishes typically last 3 to 5 days when properly stored in the refrigerator. The same goes for roasted vegetables, kale, and other Thanksgiving dinner favorites.

Yes: Be sure to save any dishes that contain mayonnaise within two hours of preparing or serving them.

No: freeze any macaroni salad (or egg, chicken, ham or tuna salads), says the USDA notes. They just don’t taste good afterwards.

Bread, rolls and croissants

It is preserved by: about a week

Yes: leave the rolls and other leftover Thanksgiving wrapped in plastic in the pantry; They should be fine for a week. To make them last longer, wrap them in aluminum foil and leave them in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.

No: put the breads in the fridge to help them last longer, they will just dry out.

Pumpkin, nut and fruit tarts

It is preserved by: 3 to 4 days

Pumpkin Nut Tarts, or any other cake with an egg-based filling such as chocolate, will keep for 3-4 days if refrigerated within two hours of preparation or when served.

The rule also applies to store-bought cakes: Once you’ve cut them, they need to be refrigerated.

Yes: Consider freezing pumpkin, nut, and fruit pies. If they are firmly in aluminum foil or plastic they will keep for almost 3 months. Defrost before heating to eat.

No: freeze cakes such as custard.

Cakes and cupcakes

It is preserved by: up to a week in the fridge

Cakes and biscuits can be left at room temperature on the table for up to 2 days; you’ll want to cover them loosely with plastic wrap to keep them moist. If they are put in the fridge, they will keep fresh for up to a week.

Yes: Make sure frozen slices are in airtight containers; they will last 2 to 3 months.

No: keep cakes with dairy-based icings or fillings on the table after dessert. They need to go immediately to the fridge.

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard contributed to this story.

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