How long can you leave leftovers in the fridge?

By July 17, 2020

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Leftovers can be saved in the fridge and reheated the next time we want to eat them. But do you know how long can you keep them in the refrigerator? Appearing, smelling, and tasting normal, some food can have had harmful bacteria that may cause food poisoning. Generally, if the food has been kept in the fridge for more than three or four days, you’d better throw it away.

It’s important to know that food is always on the way to “go bad” because bacteria grow very fast during the temperature of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerators, which is 40 degrees or lower, just slows such a process but never halt it. Freezers are at a temperature of 32 degrees, so keeping the food in the freezer can actually prevent bacteria growth.

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The bacteria is the most active on protein-rich foods, so foods like meat, fish, dairy, and poultry should be quickly refrigerated or frozen to prevent corruption. Uncooked foods like sandwiches and salads are not that easy to get corrupted, but you should also try best to reduce the time this food is in the “danger zone”, and never put them at room temperature more than two hours. Carbohydrate-rich foods, sugary foods, and dry foods are relatively less susceptible to room temperature, so generally, you just need to refrigerate them in the fridge.

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If you are going to eat the leftovers, be sure to heat them in the microwave or on the stove until they hit a temperature of over 165F (or 74 C). Slow cooking the leftovers is not recommended, because it may not hit the temperature that is high enough to kill all the bacteria. On the other hand, though it’s OK to eat leftovers within three days, it’s never good to reheat them more than once. The more you reheat, the higher chance there will be that the food grows bacteria at room temperature.

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Following all these guidelines can be hard, and you sometimes will risk yourself in eating foods that are kept outside the fridge for days. In most cases, you will be good as usual. But that doesn’t mean that something will not happen to you for all time. For your health, it’s safe to leave foods in the refrigerator and eat them within three days. And as long as you feel the food is dangerous to eat, just throw it away.


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