Be it for a family get-together, party, or just a regular supper, all of us are often guilty of making too much food on days. And then we struggle with what to do with the leftover cooked food. We try to figure out ways to keep the food stored and not to let it go bad. To keep the food edible for a long time, it is necessary to store it in a safe place.
But how? What are the best and safest ways to keep and consume leftovers, nevertheless, rather than wasting the excess food?
In this article, we have discussed expert-declared food safety tips for leftovers.
5 General Tips For Safe And Hygienic Preservation Of Leftover Food Items
1. Safety Tips To Follow For Storing Food
Not all food that we cook or eat can be stored for days. For storing food, you must follow the guidelines mentioned below:
Maintain Proper Hand Hygiene During Cooking
Hand hygiene is essential whenever you are handling any type of food. Make sure to wash and clean your hands using soap and water before preparing food you intend to store for later.
Use Of Clean Utensils For Cooking
To avoid the risk of contamination, use clean cooking utensils and containers as well. Unless the container has been thoroughly cleaned with soap and water, try not to place the cooked food back in the same container it was in before cooking. Also, remember to put the food on a thoroughly cleaned and/or sanitized cutting board or counter.
2. Effective Methods To Store Foods For Later
There are multiple ways to store leftovers for later.
Foods like beans, grains, and cereals can be dried using the dry-canned method by being placed in jars and heated to a temperature of about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, you can simply use a dry canning machine.
The food has a longer shelf life since the heat destroys any microbes. Dry canning is not the same as canning, despite the name. Dry canning sanitizes the food, eliminating all the previous pathogens.
Due to its ability to promote microbial colonization and growth in food, oxygen plays a huge role in food deterioration. The microbes are bacteria, fungi, and molds. However, vacuum sealing extends the life of the food without affecting its colors, flavors, and texture. It is a particularly advantageous method of food preservation.
Vacuum sealing is a food preservation technique that includes drawing oxygen out of a food container to increase the meal’s shelf life. Although it is hard to completely remove all of the oxygen from the jar, there is still enough for preservation to be effective.
Use Small, Air-tight Containers
As mentioned above, air can cause food to spoil. So, if you plan to store foods in containers, use small, shallow containers with a maximum height of three inches. Cover the lids entirely and make them air-tight. If you do not have such containers, you can go to the market and buy a few, Or you may contact local glass jar and bottle suppliers to customize them. Glass jars are the best containers for storing food.
Once the food is placed inside the jars, place the container in a refrigerator.
3. The Best Place To Store Food
Any leftover or extra food should be frozen or refrigerated within two hours of cooking. This will stop the spread of dangerous microorganisms.
While refrigerating, leave some distance between these containers instead of stacking them straight next to one another. This would help in cooling down the food much faster. Otherwise, you may encourage the growth of deadly bacteria since the container placed in the middle will stay hot for much longer.
4. The Right Time To Store In Leftovers
Contrary to popular belief, food shouldn’t be placed in the refrigerator until it has been totally cooled. Even if it’s still hot, you should put it in the refrigerator right away. This prevents bacteria from growing.
5. The Correct Temperature For Storing And Reheating Food
Food leftovers must be kept at or below 5°C and cooked to at least 60°C. Any in-between temperature is the “danger zone” where germs and bacteria can flourish.
Food-Specific Tips For Safe Storing Of Food
Just as a valves manufacturer makes specific valves to use in different situations and purposes, similarly, there are food-specific guidelines for storing different kinds of food.
Preserving leftover food like rice that contains starch is the trickiest. It can cause severe food poisoning if not stored and then reheated properly. Rice shouldn’t be kept in the refrigerator for more than six days and should be frozen or stored in the refrigerator immediately, within an hour of cooking.
Once prepared, red or white meat shouldn’t be kept for more than two days in the refrigerator. Meats should always be served sizzling hot and reheated above 75°C.
Dipped in soup or pasta sauce is the easiest way to freeze leftover meat. This way, the meat retains more moisture and tastes better after defrosting.
It’s important to let cooked vegetables cool to room temperature before sealing and putting them in the refrigerator. Vegetable leftovers should be used within two days after being refrigerated.
As for freezing, vegetables should be boiled before being run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain after that, and put in a freezer bag.
Although there are few specific guidelines for storing different types of leftover foods, you must always follow the general guidelines. You are also advised to never keep any leftover food items for more than four days.
Discard food whenever you have any doubts about its safety or freshness. This is crucial for leftover meals in particular. Any potentially dangerous food should be disposed of in the garbage or in a tightly sealed package so that no one else or animals can consume it.