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How to properly store Thanksgiving leftovers

(COLORADO) — Before you put away your favorite Thanksgiving dishes, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reminding the public of food safety guidelines for properly storing your leftovers.

Depending on whether you choose to store your groceries in the fridge or freezer, Thanksgiving leftovers can last three to four days or two to six months. The USDA recommends dividing dishes into shallow containers within two hours of cooking, before harmful bacteria can develop.

Turkey & other proteins

The USDA recommends using cooked turkey within 3 to 4 days, keeping refrigerated at 40°F or less. This applies to other proteins, including cooked chicken, pork, and beef.

Refrigeration slows bacterial growth but does not stop it. You should never leave leftovers at room temperature. According to the USDA, pathogenic bacteria can grow rapidly in the “danger zone” (temperature range between 40°F and 140°F). It’s difficult to detect the presence of a pathogen because they generally don’t affect a food’s taste, smell, or appearance, according to the USDA.

Mashed potatoes and other vegetables

Mashed potatoes and other Thanksgiving vegetables, including green beans and yams, can last for three or four days if refrigerated.


According to the USDA, gravy can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days or in the freezer for four to six months.

Gravy should be reheated by boiling to ensure its safety, USDA recommends. The same goes for soups and sauces.

cranberry sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce can be refrigerated for seven to 10 days after opening, while canned cranberry sauce can be refrigerated for one to two weeks after opening.


The filling should be consumed within three to four days of being refrigerated. Leftover filling will keep frozen for two to three months. Uncooked stuffing should be cooked immediately at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.


Pies that contain dairy products such as eggs, cream, or chiffon can be consumed three to four days after being refrigerated. These include pumpkin, pecan, lemon meringue, and custard pies.

Fruit-based cakes can be kept at room temperature for a day or two, or in the fridge for up to a week. The packaging of store-bought cakes should be consulted for proper storage.

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