Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet, and already, I’m thinking about the leftovers—for ourselves and our guests.
If you saw my post last week, you know I’m roasting one turkey the day before, for leftovers to share and to give me drippings to make gravy in advance. I’ll be able to carve that turkey without distractions, sort the pieces, bag and refrigerate them, cutting down on Thanksgiving Day stress. The second turkey will be roasted on Thanksgiving Day—that’s the one we will have for dinner. We’ll see how this plan works out….
Food Safety Tips for Leftovers
Growing up, we were never quick to refrigerate Thanksgiving leftovers, the better to have seconds—and even thirds—later in the evening. We didn’t know the danger, and the specific rules of refrigeration.
According to the U.S. Government food safety site, the most important thing to remember is this: “Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F. After food is safely cooked, leftovers must be refrigerated within TWO hours.”
How to Organize Leftovers
As soon as dinner is over, carve all remaining turkey from the carcass.
- Cut the big chunks into slices for sandwiches or to reheat with gravy for another meal.
- Peel off the remaining meat from the carcass. Shreds and small pieces can be used for casseroles or soups.
- After you’ve picked the carcass clean, break it half; this will make it easier to store in the fridge and enable the carcass to fit in a stew pot or slow cooker, to be simmered for stock.
- Bag all turkey meat by size of pieces—shreds, slices and so forth—and refrigerate; do not stack the bags—you want good cold air circulation so the turkey can chill quickly.
Refrigerated leftover turkey can be kept for three to four days; for longer storage, freeze turkey for up to three or four months. Freezing longer than that can adversely affect taste and texture.
Spoon leftover side dishes into shallow containers and chill immediately after dinner. It’s a good idea to take care of leftovers first, before starting dessert.
If you plan to share leftovers with your guests, have storage items ready: plastic zipper bags of various sizes, throwaway sealable plastic containers, and/or paper plates that you can wrap with Glad Press ‘n Seal Wrap or heavy duty foil. The Press ‘n Seal will adhere to paper or plastic—as long as it’s dry—so leftovers on a paper plate can be covered securely. It’s a smart idea to have shopping bags on hand, too, for easy transportation to the car. If guests aren’t going home immediately, store their leftovers in the refrigerator until they depart.
What to Make with Leftover Turkey
- Here are some easy soup recipes from the Special Fork database, along with some tasty sandwich ideas:
- Give turkey a south-of-the-border flavor profile with zesty Turkey Tortilla Soup, developed by Katie Barriera.
- Turkey Mushroom Soup combines button mushrooms, cannellini beans and spinach for a warming, one-bowl meal.
- Popo’s Turkey Jook is a thrifty way to turn a turkey carcass into stick-to-the-ribs Chinese comfort food.
- And how about a turkey sandwich to go with your soup? Revist this previous post for 13 Terrific Turkey Sandwiches.
As we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, we have so much to be thankful for, including you, our Special Fork friends. We treasure your continued support!
Photo by Katie Barreira
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