How to Store Thanksgiving Leftovers for Maximum Longevity
So 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. From mashed potatoes to pecan pie to the ginormous turkey, here are the best ways to store each meal.
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.
Solution: 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 of time.
Carve any leftover turkey remaining on the bone before you store it. Before you start hacking away at your prize bird, here's a quick tutorial on how to carve it correctly.
Now, place the 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 40-140°F range that leaves it susceptible to bacteria.
A semi-protip: 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.
We know it's tempting, but don't store the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey in the same container. This 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. This lets cool air circulate around each container, getting them out of the 40-140°F "danger zone" mentioned earlier.
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.
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 the savory cubes slide out easily when you need them. Next, use a ladle 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 the gravy is watery when you reheat it, add cornstarch or try this 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.