Giving Leftovers The Green Light

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When it comes to reheating your Sunday night cooking bounty, use these tips from Jennifer Cleveland McEntire, Ph.D., senior staff scientist and director of science and technology projects at the Institute of Food Technologists in Chicago, to make sure that your meal provides nourishment, not foodborne illnesses.

• Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. That way your food more quickly gets to and remains at temperatures that do not allow bacteria growth. Warmer than this and your food may be able to produce bacteria rapidly. Which is another reason you’ll want to …

• Refrigerate food within two hours of preparation. The clock starts ticking as soon as the food is finished cooking.

• For quick cooking, store leftovers in shallow glass containers — less than 2 inches deep, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “The smaller the portion size, the faster it will cool in the refrigerator,” McEntire says. “And when you go to heat it up in the microwave, it will heat much more quickly and evenly, too.”

• Reheat food thoroughly to ensure that all parts of the food reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating. To do this, McEntire suggests stirring the food in the middle of heating, then letting it sit for a few minutes after it finishes in the microwave to ensure the food cooks evenly. “During this ‘standing time,’ the cold parts of the food will absorb some heat from the hotter portions,” she says. Lastly, after the “standing time,” check the food with a food thermometer.