Leftovers Guide: How Long Can You Keep It?

Istock/Mr.PliskinIstock/Mr.PliskinWhether you were overzealous when making dinner, or opted for a night out instead of cooking that fish fillet, we've all been there - stuck with a refrigerator full of leftovers. From the best way to store fresh herbs like basil and cilantro, to how long a cut onion will last in the fridge, we've compiled a list of common leftovers and how long you can safely keep them.

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Follow the guidelines closely, and as a general rule, if you're worried about something it's safer to throw it out then risk getting a foodborne illness.

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Cooked Food: Leftover, cooked foods should be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container and eaten within 4-5 days. Food, whether cooked or not, should not be left at room temperature for more than 4 hours otherwise the risk of food poisoning increases. If foods are in an abnormally hot room, then the time should be greatly reduced as bacteria grow in warmer temperatures. When storing food in the refrigerator or freezer, make sure it's in an airtight container or bag.

Prepared Salads: These salads, like tuna or chicken, can generally be stored for up to 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

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Poultry/Ground Meats/Stew Meats/Lamb or Pork Chops: These raw ingredients can be kept, wrapped well, in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

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Most seafood is best consumed as fresh as possible and should only be refrigerated for up to 2 days before use.

Fresh mussels: Whether live or shucked, mussels should be refrigerated and used in 1-2 days.

Crab: Raw crabmeat should be cooked within a day of the crab dying, while pasteurized or canned crabmeat should be eaten within 4 days of opening.

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Lobsters: Should be cooked live or killed immediately before cooking. (Quick tip: When buying a whole cooked lobster, make sure that the tail is curled, which is a sign that it was alive when killed - meaning it's very fresh)

Raw scallops and shrimp should be tightly covered, refrigerated and used within 2 days. Cooked shrimp can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


Flour: Can be stored for up to 6 months at room temperature because higher temperatures create a hospitable environment to bugs and mold. (It's not a bad idea to store it inside a plastic bag just to be safe in case you forget to throw it out in time.)

Rice: No matter what type of rice, it should be stored in a cool, dark place (much like oils, wine, and spices). White rice can be stored almost indefinitely, while brown rice will only keep up to 6 months.

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-Yasmin Fahr, The Daily Meal