FORT MYERS, Fla. — If you're a foodie for Thanksgiving or a junkie for your favorite holiday dish, Fox 4 is asking the tough questions so that families know how to handle holiday leftovers in a safe way.
“It can start sporing and E. coli can start forming," said Chef Nikki Harbester with Kitchen Social in Fort Myers.
The chef has her ServSafe Manager Certification for food safety.
She says leftovers are fine as long as they're safe, so before storage be sure to double check food items.
“Definitely check the items that have any dairy so any creams or any of those Campbell Soup mixes, like our cream of mushroom soup for green bean casserole.”
According to FoodSafety.gov, dishes containing perishable items shouldn't be left out longer than two hours.
Harbester says be careful with food ranging between 40 to 140 degrees fahrenheit because they can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and foodborne illness.
If food is left out, throw it out. She says leftovers in the fridge only stay fresh for up to four days.
"I do like to freeze and save some of my things because I am a very cost effective person so I’m always thinking I can save this and use it for something else."
Harbester says it's always safe to store leftover food in the freezer. Just make sure the container is airtight to keep out moisture.
If it's in a storage bag, make sure it's vacuum sealed. She says there's an easy way that works at home with only a straw.
“You can put a clean straw in the side of your Ziploc bag and zip it up to that straw then suck out that air yourself. Pull out the straw and zip it up the rest of the way.”
Whether it's a holiday ham or casserole, food safety experts say frozen food stays safe indefinitely.
They recommend eating it within 2 to 6 months, but the chef says your leftovers might taste better if it's around 3 or 4.
“If you didn’t use it for Christmas, but you wanted it because you have nothing to eat in February then your green bean casserole will be good in February."
With Christmas around the corner, find ways to enjoy your favorite meal a little longer by visiting FoodSafety.gov here.
They also have a Food Keeper app to help with storing food properly you can find here.