How to Safely Store and Reheat Leftovers

There’s nothing better than leftovers! That means you get to enjoy your fine food (or catering) at least one more day after your event! Full enjoyment, however, depends on safely storing and reheating leftovers.

The main goal of safely storing and reheating leftovers is to eliminate the risk of contamination from harmful molds, yeasts and bacteria that can multiply and cause food to spoil. The two types of bacteria found on food are pathogenic bacteria (the one that causes foodborne illnesses) and spoilage bacteria, which causes food deterioration and spoilage.

Bacteria requires four things to grow rapidly: food, moisture, time and favorable temperatures. Foodborne bacteria multiply the fastest in temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, and often cannot be detected. Your food may look, smell and taste like normal.


leftovers - How to Safely Store and Reheat Leftovers


High-risk foods include:

  • Raw and cooked meat, and any food containing meat
  • Dairy and dairy-based desserts
  • Eggs and egg-containing foods; mayonnaise
  • Seafood and seafood-containing foods
  • Prepared salads like coleslaw or pasta salad
  • Fruit salads
  • Ready-to-eat foods like sandwiches

How to Safely Store Leftovers

  • Cover leftovers with plastic wrap, or put them into containers with lids
  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours if possible
  • Eat leftovers within two to three days
  • Always store raw foods in separate containers than cooked or prepared foods
  • Once a can, package or jar is opened, transfer the leftovers into food-safe containers
  • Do not refreeze thawed previously-frozen food

*The best rule of thumb: When in doubt, throw it out!

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How to Safely Reheat Leftovers

  • If reheating in the microwave, use a microwave-safe container. Remove any plastic wrap or foil.
  • Do not reheat food in plastic or Styrofoam containers
  • If your microwave does not have a rotating plate, turn food halfway through the heating process or stir food to ensure thorough heating
  • Reheat leftovers to a minimum temperature of 165°F
  • Gravy and soup should be brought to a rolling boil before consuming

leftovers - How to Safely Store and Reheat Leftovers

What Do “Use By” Dates Mean?

When you purchase food, it generally has one of two date markings: “use by” or “best before.” The best before date indicates that the food will be at its freshest prior to the date marked. The one to pay more attention to is the “use by” date. Certain foods can “go bad” quickly, like dairy, prepared salads and meat products.

According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, “The “use by/best if used by” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.” Consumers should determine whether the food shows sign of spoilage, or looks and smells fresh before consuming it. Infant formula is the exception. It should be used prior to the “use by” date.


Trust Maison Culinaire for the Most Delicious, Fresh Catering

Maison Culinaire takes all safety precautions when preparing, transporting, serving and storing food. Our business relies upon the freshest, tastiest and safest foods! Our food is so good that we aren’t expecting leftovers! But if there are leftovers, we’ll be happy to package them up so you can safely enjoy them later.

When you are catering a wedding, corporate or private event in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, contact Maison Culinaire.