How To: Store Thanksgiving Leftovers for Maximum Longevity

Store Thanksgiving Leftovers for Maximum Longevity

By now, you've stuffed yourself with enough cranberry-soaked turkey to last you until next year. Still, there's a formidable amount of leftovers, and you're kidding yourself if you think you won't be craving them when you wake up tomorrow with a food coma/hangover.

So, make the most of your post-Thanksgiving scraps and use the methods below to store your leftover meals properly. Mashed potatoes, pecan pie, the ginormous turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy — all the staples are covered.

1. Leftover Pie

Since it's the easiest thing to pick up at the grocery store, there's always leftover pie at holiday gatherings. Plus, because pie pairs exceptionally well with coffee in the morning (don't judge), you're going to want to extend its lifespan for as long as possible.

You'll be very happy to have a slice of this for a snack or dessert even after Thanksgiving is over. Image by Christa/Flickr

Cut the pie into slices, then individually wrap them in plastic or seal them in an airtight container. This helps keep the bacteria from spoiling your food, and the pies retain moisture. It also prevents you from having to take the entire pie out every time you want to eat a slice.

If you plan on hanging on to them for more than a week, store the pie in the freezer. If not, a refrigerator will do. All types of pie freeze well unless it is made of very delicate components. You might want to scrape off any whipped cream before you store it, though — that does tend to pick up freezer burn after a short period.

2. Leftover Turkey

Carve any leftover turkey remaining on the bone before you store it. Before you start hacking away at your prize bird, learn how to carve it correctly. Now, place the meat in a shallow container, rather than a large one that traps more heat. The quicker the food cools, the less time they spend in the 40ºF–140°F range that leaves it susceptible to bacteria.

Turkey skin doesn't keep well, so you should really eat that ASAP. Image by Matt Chan/Flickr

A semi pro-tip: I splash leftover turkey with gravy before it hits the fridge. It might be entirely in my mind, but I like to think that this keeps it from drying out.

3. Leftover Stuffing & Mashed Potatoes

We know it's tempting, but don't store the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey in the same container. Keeping them separate prevents cross-contamination and, like the individually wrapped pie, makes for easy reheating. Apply the shallow container rule to these side dishes, and if you have room in your fridge, don't stack them. Not stacking them lets cool air circulate around each container, getting them out of the 40ºF–140°F "danger zone" mentioned earlier.

Admit it, you want a plate of leftovers now. Image by jeffreyw/Flickr

When reheating stuffing (and this also works for mashed potatoes), Home Cooking has great advice:

Leftover stuffing can be fluffed, wrapped in foil (or placed in a baking dish), dotted with softened butter and reheated in the oven 15 to 20 minutes at 350°F.

If you go the microwave route, make sure you know all the tricks so it reheats your food properly.

4. Leftover Cranberry Sauce & Gravy

While both can be stored in air-tight containers or heavy-duty bags in the fridge, the gravy can be frozen in an ice cube tray. Before pouring in the gravy, spray or rub the tray's compartments with cooking oil so that the savory cubes slide out easily when you need them. Next, use a ladle or spoon to fill each slot and carefully slip them into the freezer, leaving them there until they're solid. When ready, pop them out and seal them in a bag.

If you've only got a little gravy to store, skip the ice cube tray and put it in a wee container instead. Image by Kelvin Beecroft/Flickr

If the gravy is watery when you reheat it, add cornstarch or try a gingersnap combo. If you need a quick fix when trying to add richness to stew or soup, just throw a few of these cubes in.

As for the cranberry sauce, since it has a high acidity, it'll keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Of course, it doesn't stop here. Take a pause and check out these Thanksgiving leftover re-dos. Leftover sweet potato pie? Don't mind if I do.

More Turkey Day Goodness:

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Cover image via Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

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