Leftovers are just as much a part of Christmas tradition as
stockings, presents and TV specials. No matter what meal you enjoy on December
25th, there will always be more than enough to go around, usually resulting in
an abundance of turkey sandwiches and curry in the days after Christmas.
It also means you can be at risk of food poisoning if you
fail to store everything correctly. From the raw turkey to the cooked gammon,
you need to ensure that you are taking care to put everything away in a safe
and hygienic manner to avoid serious illness this Christmas.
So, it isn't just cooking the bird that you need to get
right this December. You also need to make sure your fridge is filled properly.
Here are some of the important things you need to bear in mind this Christmas
to keep your meat fresh:
Before you get
If you have a mountain of raw meat at the ready for
Christmas Day, you need to make sure it doesn't mix with any other food in your
fridge. Storing raw meat incorrectly can lead to cross-contamination with
cooked food or vegetables, which means bacteria spreads and can make you sick.
You should always store raw meat on the bottom shelf of your
fridge to avoid any juices dripping on other food. It is a good idea to store
your turkey in a dish for extra protection and to pile other raw meat around
it. Avoid removing any packaging until you need to and always wash your hands
after handling raw meat items.
Don't put hot meat in
You might think that getting leftovers in the fridge quickly
is the best plan, but if your food is still hot or warm, it will affect the
temperature of your fridge.
The low temperatures of your fridge help keep food fresher
for longer, but putting food that is above room temperature in it will make the
fridge heat up, which allows bacteria to grow faster. Not only can this mean
your meat doesn't stay fresh, it will also affect anything else in your fridge.
Instead of rushing to put things in the fridge, allow everything
to cool down to room temperature first. Usually, this happens within a couple
of hours, which works out perfectly as, ideally, you don't want to leave things
unrefrigerated for any longer than two hours.
Wrap it all up
To help keep meat fresh and avoid cross-contamination with
anything else in your fridge, you should wrap it all up before putting it in
your fridge. Storing meat in airtight containers is the best option as this
will lock in freshness, but cling film can also be used to cover plates - just
be sure to use a couple of layers for extra protection.
Wrapping an entire turkey up can be quite difficult, so try
and carve the meat from it instead, as this will use less space in your fridge
and allow you to wrap it up fully. Store your turkey slices in a few containers
or on several plates, as this means you don't need to keep taking it out of the
However, you shouldn't wrap anything up until it has reached
room temperature as this can cause bacteria to spread faster.
Ideally, you should only take what you need out of the
fridge to avoid all the meat warming up to room temperature each time you want
to make a sandwich or eat cold cuts. This will stop bacteria growing faster and
keep it fresh for longer.
Don't reheat more
It might be tempting to make a big batch of turkey curry and
live on that for a couple of days, but constantly reheating cooked meat is
dangerous. You should only reheat it once to avoid getting sick, so avoid big
batch meals or cooking leftovers in advance of dinner.
If you don't get through all your ham and turkey pie, either
eat it cold - after having stored it correctly - or pop it in the bin.
Definitely don't reheat it again.
Pop it in the freezer
If you don't think you're going to get through the pile of
leftover turkey that you have, it could be a good idea to freeze some. You can
do this simply by popping it in freezer-proof bags or containers marked with
the date it is going in the freezer.
Make sure you split the meat up into portions so you don't
need to defrost everything just for a small amount, as you can't re-freeze it.
You also have to thaw your frozen cooked meat before heating it up. This is
best done overnight in the fridge.
Be wise with dates
Just because meat is cooked, it doesn't mean that it will be
safe to eat for a finite amount of time. The Food Standards Agency suggests
that you leave your leftovers for no longer than two days, throwing away
anything you haven't consumed after this time. This will protect you from
getting ill, as food doesn't always need to look or smell off to be bad for
Be smart with your leftovers and get rid of anything that
you think might not be safe to eat. You should also ensure you're freezing
anything that you won't get through well before your two days is up, otherwise
it could still contain high levels of potentially harmful bacteria.