How long can you safely eat Thanksgiving leftovers?

RICHMOND, Va. — There are many things to love about Thanksgiving. Spending time with your family. Reflecting on what you’re thankful for. And, indulging in that Thanksgiving meal.

But some will argue that Thanksgiving leftovers is their favorite party of the holiday.

So, how long it’s safe for you to eat them? Also, how do you store your leftovers?

Doctors with Patient First recommend you follow these rules:

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving.
  • Divide large amounts of hot food into smaller portions so they cool quickly.
  • Refrigerate leftovers in airtight packaging or containers.
  • Freeze leftovers that will not be eaten within four days.
  • Dispose of foods that sit at room temperature longer than two hours.

How long will leftovers last when stored properly?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests these guidelines for refrigerated leftovers:

  • Cooked turkey should be eaten within three to four days.
  • Stuffing and gravy will last up to two days.
  • Casseroles and cooked vegetables will be good up to three or four days.
  • Fruit and cream pies should be eaten within two to three days.
  • Frozen leftovers last longer. For example, meat lasts up to three months in a freezer.

One way to reduce your risk of getting sick is proper storage of your Thanksgiving leftovers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 6 people gets sick by consuming contaminated food and beverages.

These four steps can help prevent foodborne illness:

  1. Cook to the right temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure food is heated to a temperature that kills harmful bacteria.
  2. Wash your hands and cooking surfaces often.
  3. Do not cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs separate from other foods in the fridge.  Dripping juices can spread bacteria.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly.