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Food Hygiene Certificate Blog

Storing food: Keeping your Christmas meat fresh

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 cooking


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 your fridge


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 fridge constantly.


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 than once


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 you.


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.






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