State of New Mexico > Environment Department > Food Program
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Refrigerate promptly

Leftovers should be returned to refrigeration within two hours of cooking to limit bacterial growth.

Here are a few tips that will help you cool foods safely:
  • Turkey should be cut into small pieces - cooling a whole turkey is not recommended
  • Food should be stored in shallow containers (glass or metal is recommended) to allow the entire product to cool quickly
  • Food should not be tightly covered until it has reached 41°F or less
  • You may refreeze turkey and trimming - wrap tightly for best quality
Reheating properly

Leftovers must be hot and steamy before serving. Food must be thoroughly reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F. If you are using a microwave oven make sure the product is covered, rotated throughout the cooking process, and is allowed to sit, covered, for 2 minutes before serving. Foods should only be reheated once.

How long are leftovers good for?

Leftovers may be safely stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Turkey and other hot dishes that you store in the refrigerator should be eaten within 3-4 days and gravy within 1-2 days. To preserve your leftovers for a longer period of time you may store them in the freezer. Plain turkey should be eaten within 4 months, stuffing and gravy 1 month, and other poultry dishes 4-6 months.
Tightly wrap leftovers before placing them in the freezer to preserve product moisture and flavor.

Click here for a refrigerator/freezer food storage chart
Home Cooking Tips
Did You Know?
The average used kitchen sponge has 7.2 billion bacteria.
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