How to Store Thanksgiving Leftovers: the 2-2-4 Rule of Food Storage Safety
For me, the best part of Thanksgiving is gobbling up all those tasty leftovers. From turkey and cranberry relish to stuffing and vegetables, leftovers may be delicious but the amount can be a bit overwhelming. First things first: know how to store those treasured post-Thanksgiving morsels properly and safely.
The “2-2-4” Rule of Food Storage Safety
If you don’t remember anything else about food storage safety, remember just three numbers: 2, 2, and 4. These numbers create what is known as the “2-2-4” rule. Let’s get started.
The first “2” of the food storage safety rule: refrigerate or freeze perishables right away!
Hot, perishable foods that sit out longer than two hours are considered unsafe to eat. The USDA recommends throwing out food if it has been at room temperature for over two hours. After that time, the food is considered to be in what is known as the danger zone, where bacteria may rapidly reproduce and contaminate it.
The second “2” of the food storage safety rule: use 2" containers!
Two inches is the desired depth for storage containers. This allows the food to cool quickly and evenly.
The “4” of the food storage safety rule: use food within 4 days of refrigeration.
Four days is the amount of time refrigerated leftovers are safe to eat. Frozen items, wrapped properly, should be consumed within 2 months.
Repurposing Thanksgiving leftovers: Turkey Pot Pie Recipe
Now let’s talk about my favorite after-Thanksgiving recipe. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, my family knows I will be making my famous turkey pot pies. I make them large and small! Although I first posted this recipe last year, it’s good enough to bring back every year.
The best part of my turkey pot pie recipe is that I’ve designed it so the pies can be frozen unbaked, ready to be enjoyed at a later date. They're the perfect meal following a holiday gift shopping trip or a nice surprise for when unexpected visitors stop by.
You can find detailed instructions for freezing the pies (and subsequently cooking them in their frozen form) at the bottom of the recipe. I've also included instructions for making cute little 4-inch versions of the pie, perfect for a quick lunch or dinner for two.
While leftover turkey is the star of the show, the rich and tasty vegetables and sauce mixture is the supporting cast that really makes this dish shine. I add some sautéed fresh vegetables and diced potatoes to the mix. But if you happen to have leftover vegetables and mashed potatoes, feel free to toss them in as well.
Instead of using leftover gravy, I make a sauce using turkey or chicken stock (not turkey broth or chicken broth). I make my own delicious stock using the leftover turkey carcass.