Eating leftovers is a great way to reduce food waste and save precious time. It’s important to practice proper food safety techniques when dealing with leftovers, starting from when you store them away. When you store cooked food properly, you elongate its shelf life and it can be enjoyed at a later time. The United States Department of Agriculture has set some food safety guidelines to ensure best practices when handling cooked foods. According to the USDA, bacteria grows the fastest between the temperatures of 40 and 140 degrees fahrenheit, also known as the “danger zone.” This means cold food must be kept below 40 degrees fahrenheit, and hot foods must be kept at temperatures above 140 degrees fahrenheit. You want to make sure the food is moderately cooled down before it is stored in the fridge or freezer, but it needs to be within two hours from removing it off the heat.
The USDA suggests the safest way to store cooked food is by cooling it rapidly and storing it in an airtight container. You can get a nice set of plastic or glass containers, and while there are pros and cons to both, it all comes down to preference. Both are adequate for proper food storage. Our pro tip would be to invest in glass containers! They are safer for the environment and are way easier to clean. Glass containers do not absorb odors or oils like some plastic containers do, although plastic containers are more cost-effective. The fastest way to cool down food is by dividing it up into smaller parts and containers or Ziploc bags. Extremely hot containers can mess with the temperature inside the fridge, which may or may not taint the already stored foods. It’s not worth the risk, so please make sure the your leftovers are cooled down and stored in the fridge within two hours. It’s important to properly cover, seal and wrap your leftovers before putting it in the fridge or freezer to keep bacteria out, to keep moisture in, and to prevent odor absorption. Remember, after 3 or 4 days in the fridge, your leftovers might not be good, so take caution when assessing your containers of food. According to the USDA, food is safe to eat in the freezer indefinitely, but after 3 or 4 months it might lose flavor/nutrients. Keep this in mind when choosing which foods are still safe for your family to enjoy. In the fridge or freezer, your leftovers shelf life is preserved, if not extended. You can use this to your advantage as long as proper food safety techniques are applied when you store your leftovers. With properly stored leftovers, you can repurpose a meal and save time! Take it for lunch the next day or add some fresh ingredients for a fresh twist.
Another pro tip is to not eat out of the container that you store the food in. So, if you cooked a stirfry on Sunday and plan to eat it over the next couple of days, you want to take a clean utensil and move the food that you want to eat onto a separate plate to eat off of. Human saliva contains bacteria that can make leftover food go bad faster so you want to avoid contaminating the food and storage container that goes back in the refrigerator.
Lastly, if you are storing food in the freezer, try to squeeze out the air out of the ziploc bag before freezing. It will not only save room in your freezer but can also help prevent freezer burn.
At SomaFare.com, we use blast-chillers (which are specialized commercial grade machines that chill food very rapidly) soon after cooking the dishes which helps preserve maximum flavor and freshness of our dishes. All our meals are brought down to below 40 degrees well within the recommended time frames, allowing our customers to enjoy our meals throughout the week.
By: Leticia T.