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How Long are Leftovers Good?

Are you concerned about food safety? We all should be.

Bacteria can grow in food that’s not stored at the right temperature or that’s kept for too long.

Leftover Thanksgiving Enchiladas Photo

Bacteria can cause food-borne illnesses, which are not only unpleasant, but can be dangerous for infants, the elderly, those with chronic diseases and those with weakened immune systems.

No one wants to get sick from eating food past its prime.

So, what do you need to know? We’ll go over each of the main types of food you might have leftovers from, but please see the U.S. guidelines for food storage for a complete list.

Turkey Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup Photo

How Long Does Cooked Chicken or Poultry Last in the Fridge?

Cooked chicken can stay in the fridge for 3-4 days. After that, you’ll need to toss it to avoid food poisoning.

Make sure you refrigerate your chicken within two hours of cooking it. Store the cooked chicken in a sealed container or in a dish covered with plastic wrap or foil.

Leftover Turkey Puff Pastry Pot Pies Image

Freezing Cooked Chicken or Poultry

If you have leftover, cooked chicken that won’t be consumed within 3-4 days, you can freeze it. Place the chicken in one or more freezer bags and press out the air before sealing.

For best quality, eat the chicken within 2-6 months. Frozen chicken nuggets or patties should be consumed within 1-3 months.

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Storing Cooked Beef/Pork/Red Meat

Leftover cooked beef can be refrigerated for 3-4 four days. Make sure to store it in the fridge within two hours of cooking it.

Cooked beef can be frozen for 2-6 months for best quality.

Bacon Pic

Storing Cooked Bacon

If there is such a thing as leftover bacon in your household, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze it as described above.

To freeze cooked bacon, lay the strips on a wax-paper lined baking sheet and cover with more wax paper. Freeze for 30 minutes before placing the strips in a freezer bag. For best quality, use the bacon within four months, but it will remain safe indefinitely

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Luncheon Meat

Meat sliced from the deli or an opened package of luncheon meat for sandwiches can stay in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. An unopened package can stay in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Luncheon meat can be frozen for 1-2 months.

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Storing Cooked Fish/Seafood

Store leftover cooked fish or seafood in the refrigerator for up to three days. Freeze leftovers for 4-6 months.

Storing Cooked Vegetables

If you have leftover vegetables, you can store them in the fridge for up to four days.

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If you’re wondering about other specific types of food, please see our other resource articles: