Storing Your Thanksgiving Leftovers Safely

(Photo: Getty Images)(Photo: Getty Images)One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. In my family, my grandmother makes an extra apple pie just so there will be enough for breakfast. And who doesn't love a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce, gravy, and stuffing?

Related link: 5 ways to turn Thanksgiving leftovers into healthy meals

There are some food safety issues to be aware of when it comes to storing your Thanksgiving meal. Leftovers can harbor bacteria that cause food poisoning if not handled properly. We spoke with Pat Singleton, consumer scientist associate at Whirlpool Corporation, to find out more. The USDA also provides a wealth of information as well as a nifty virtual expert called Ask Karen.

How to store your leftovers:

In general, your refrigerator should be set below 40 degrees, and freezer should be set below zero degrees. Cooked turkey and other dishes need to be returned to the refrigerator within two hours of serving.


Cut cooked turkey into smaller pieces and store in shallow airtight containers (which allow food to cool quickly) in the fridge. It will last for three to four days. You can freeze portions for up to three months. Wrap in heavy-duty foil or freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.


Stuffing lasts for three to four days in the fridge. Or divide into smaller portions and freeze for up to three months.


Gravy lasts for only one to two days in the fridge. It's safest to divide into small containers and freeze for up to three months.

Cranberry sauce

Sugar acts as a preservative, so cranberry sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Mashed potatoes and squash

Cooked starchy vegetables last for up to five days in the fridge. They don't freeze well.

Green vegetables

Cooked green vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and peas will last for up to five days in the fridge. You can also freeze for up to a year. Green beans don't freeze well.

Fruit pies

Baked fruit pies should be wrapped well in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before storing. In the refrigerator, they will last for one to two days; however, frozen they will last up to a year.

Turkey carcass (for making soup)

If you like to make soup out of the turkey carcass, do so within three days or freeze for up to three months and use later.

Reheating leftovers

Meat and side dishes should be reheated to 325 degrees. Liquids, such as soup or gravy, need to be brought up to a full boil to kill any bacteria.

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