As we all loosen our belts a notch and hobble to the nearest couch to sleep through our food coma, the last thing we want to think about is what we’re going to do with the leftover turkey and gravy.While you can find a zillion recipes on the Interwebs for how to creatively reinvent your Thanksgiving dinner, the fabulous Laura Willard over at SheKnows dishes out Thanksgiving advice on how to properly handle leftovers to avoid food poisoning.

Over 400,000 people get sick from Thanksgiving leftovers each year, she says.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one in six Americans will get a foodborne illness this year with Thanksgiving being a peak for disease.
And the Centers for Disease Control say that there are 325,000 hospitalizations each year because of foodborne illnesses, 90 percent of which could have been avoided with proper food handling.+ Once the food is cooked, make sure to store it properly. Temperatures between 40F and 140F can help bacteria to grow, so refrigerate leftovers promptly.

+ If you’ve left your food out in the open for more than 2 hours at room temperature before refrigerating it, it might be time to toss the food into the compost.

+ When in doubt, throw it out, says Willard. “Better to miss out on that fantastic calorie-laden leftovers sandwich than endure food poisoning.”

+ Use refrigerated leftovers within three to four days, or freeze them, says the Food Safety Inspection Service.

+ Reheat leftovers to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steaming.

Don’t forget to clean, separate, cook and chill. Watch the video below for more information on the 4-step safe-cooking process.



Also, make sure your leftovers don’t become your pet’s main course. These foods can be especially harmful to dogs:

  • Bones
  • Raw or undercooked turkey
  • Turkey skin
  • Dough and cake batter
  • Beer
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Sage
  • Nutmeg