Storing leftovers properly can mean the difference between a tasty meal and a couple of days with your head in the toilet.
If you don’t know how long it takes for leftover rice to become inedible or you haven’t a clue whether it’s safe to put hot food straight into the fridge, experts at online food retailer Musclefood.com have your back.
Here are their top tips for storing and serving leftovers safely:
As a rule, any leftover food needs to be put in the freezer or fridge within two hours of being cooked to stop harmful bacteria from spreading.
Store all leftovers in sealable, shallow containers as this will help them to cool quicker.
Most people believe you should wait for your food to cool before refrigerating it, but in fact the opposite is true. Even if it’s hot, it is best to store food in the fridge quickly to stop bacteria from multiplying.
Leftover food must be below 5°C when stored and at least 60°C when reheated. Anything in between is considered the ‘danger zone’, as this is the perfect temperature to allow harmful bacteria to grow.
Rice can make for a tricky leftover meal as it causes severe food poisoning if not heated to the correct temperature.
Unlike other food, rice should be refrigerated or frozen within one hour, and has a shelf life in your fridge of about 4-6 days.
When reheating, make sure to break down any large lumps with a fork so that it cooks evenly and be certain it is over 60°C before serving.
There’s little that refrigerating can do for any leftover bread that might be out of date, but placing it in a reusable bag in your freezer is a great way to keep it edible for several months.
If you have any baguettes or crusty loaves that are stale, sprinkle them with water before placing them in a low-temperature oven, they’ll taste good as new.
Cooked pasta can be safely refrigerated for around three to five days, and lasts for eight months in a freezer.
A good tip is to toss the pasta in a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking together, before storing in an airtight container.
Avoid overcooking pasta if freezing, otherwise it will become mushy when defrosted.
Once unfrozen, leave your pasta for a short amount of time before dropping it straight into boiling water until it is completely heated through.
Regardless of whether it is red or white, meat can be stored in the fridge for a maximum of two days once cooked. Make sure it’s piping hot and above 75°C when reheated.
The best leftover meat to freeze is anything in sauce based meals like soups, stews and spaghetti bolognese. Joints of meat will dry out when frozen and defrosted, whereas meat cooked in sauce will retain its moisture.
The trick with vegetables is to allow them to cool to room temperature before sealing and storing in the fridge. Once refrigerated, consume within a maximum of two days.
If you’re freezing leftover veg, the best solution is to blanch it first. Once your vegetables are boiled, briefly run them under ice cold water to halt the cooking process before draining and placing in a freezer bag.
Never reseal leftover cheese in plastic wrapping, as this will cling to the fats and oils which affect its taste.
The best solution for any cheese is to grate it and place it in a freezer bag. This way, it will take less time to defrost and be kept edible for an extra two to three months, making it perfect to be used in cooking or as a topping.