Working For Blue — Donate now for protective police gear

How to safely store those Thanksgiving leftovers

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- So your Thanksgiving feast is complete. Food safety experts say food needs to be placed in the refrigerator no more than two hours after it's been cooked to prevent food-borne illness. They also say that big bird could become a beast, the bacterial kind, if you put it in the refrigerator "as is."

"It's going to take a long time to cool. We don't want to have things in the temperature danger zone which is 40 to 140 degrees," said Londa
Nwadike, a food safety specialist with MU and K-State Extension.

She suggests small, shallow containers to allow leftovers to cool quickly in the fridge. Those containers are good for not only turkey and stuffing but also vegetable dishes.

"It's definitely got a lot of moisture in it and got a lot of things bacteria could potentially grow in," Nwadike said, referring to creamed corn.

Don't leave that slice of pie out either.

"If it's homemade pumpkin pie, it has eggs in it. It has milk in it. You don't really want that at room temperature for more than two hours," she said.

The food safety specialist suggests a refrigerator thermometer to be sure the temperature there is below 40 degrees.

"Because bacteria such as listeria can grow at even temperatures of 50 degrees," Nwadike said.

Stuffing the fridge can prevent air from circulating well, so why not put some of that turkey in the freezer right after the meal? If you do put it in the fridge, "By about Sunday, it's a great idea to put it in the freezer."

Nwadike says eat or freeze all those leftovers by Monday. Re-heat them at 165 degrees to kill any bacteria that could spoil your holiday fun in the days to come.

Signs of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and fever. Illness can occur hours, days or even weeks after you've eaten the bad food.