Food Safety Tips For Leftovers And Takeout

Leftovers can be a valuable item for busy families. They can be used for quick and healthy lunches at the office as well as busy weeknight meals. Here are a few important tips for food handling and storage tips for in home prepared leftovers as well as take home leftovers.


  • Place a thermometer in your refrigerator to ensure 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • Refrigerate within two hours or discard the product.
  • Place leftovers in a 2 inch or less container to ensure quick cooling.


  • It is a myth that large pots of soups, beans or other food products should be allowed to cool prior to placing them under refrigeration.
  • The following cooling methods are recommended:
  1. Reduce the size of the containers and place under refrigeration uncovered until cooled to 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place your pot or pan in an ice bath (surrounded by ice) and stir routinely before placing under refrigeration.
  3. Add ice as an ingredient for cooling (example: if a recipe calls for water add it in ice form for recipes such as soups.
  4. Cut large pieces of meat into smaller portions for proper cooling and separate them for proper cooling.
  5. For very large pots a cooling paddle can be utilized. This is recommended if you routinely cook large portions of food product.
  6. Take your food product from 135 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit within 2 hours and from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 41 degrees or below Fahrenheit within 4 hours.


  • Write the date that the food was prepared or the date of purchase on the container. Use the restaurants pen to date your leftovers prior to leaving the restaurant.
  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you discard all leftovers no more than 4 days after preparation and proper storage.


  • Reheat all food products to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • When using a microwave for reheating, be sure to stir the product to ensure that all portions of the product have reached the required 165 degrees Fahrenheit temperature.