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How to Store Your Leftovers (and Never Use the Sniff-Test Again)

How to Store Your Leftovers (and Never Use the Sniff-Test Again)

Words Amalia Safran

The food storage experts at OXO have gathered their tips and best practices when it comes to storing leftovers.

If you’re like me, you save every last bit of food. Maybe there are only three pieces of broccoli left or not even a cup of rice, but it goes in the fridge no matter what. We explored storing fruits and vegetables and now we’re talking about how to store leftover food. The food storage experts at OXO have gathered their tips and best practices when it comes to keeping leftovers because it’s important to know when to say goodbye to questionable takeout and quit Googling how long chicken will last in the fridge.

How to Store Leftovers

Containers

The container used to hold leftovers is the most important part of storing and having a large, versatile set of different sizes is key.

Material

Both glass and plastic can be used in the world of food storage. We like plastic if we’re taking a meal on the go since it’s lighter. If you’re meal prepping, you can freeze and reheat it in the microwave when you’re ready to eat. Glass is great if you’re storing leftovers at home, and these glass containers are made with borosilicate glass, so they can go directly from the freezer to the oven, without having to fully thaw, which saves time if you’re trying to get dinner on the table quickly.

Airtight

Air is the enemy when it comes to leftovers so it’s important to have a good seal on your containers because it keeps bacteria out, moisture in and prevents odors from leaching into your fridge. If you’re planning to keep takeout for a couple of days, transfer it to an airtight container rather than keeping it in the paper or plastic container it came in.

How to Store Leftovers

Leakproof

Leakproof containers are ideal for transporting soups and other liquid leftovers. You’ll have a happier commute knowing you have a leakproof container in your bag.

How to Store Leftovers

Timing

Timing is also extremely important for storing leftovers. Within two hours of cooking a meal you’ll want to store it in the fridge or freezer because foods left out are open to bacteria. Yuck.

Foods that are still warm can be stored away in the fridge or freezer, but they should go in shallow containers and portioned out so the contents can cool down quickly. You’re aiming to get your food 40℉ or below to avoid bacterial growth. So, when you’re done eating your big batch of baked ziti and it’s warm, it’s OK to start dividing it into storage containers and putting away. This may lead to some condensation, which will help keep food moist.

Leftover Scenarios

We spoke to our food storage experts, and checked with the USDA’s recommendations, to come up with a few handy tips when it comes to leftovers. Here are some of the most common leftovers we’ve encountered:

Takeout food – In general, the USDA tells us to follow the four day rule when it comes to storing leftovers in the fridge, so don’t try extending the life of last week’s Chinese.

Hard-Boiled Eggs – If you’ve made a batch of hard-boiled eggs, they’ll last in the fridge up to one week. Good tip: Write the boiling date on the egg carton or right on the egg to keep track!

Rice, beans and other grains – It can be hard to visibly see when cooked grains start to go bad, but we say follow the four day rule as well, or transfer to the freezer after that because they will start to get hard and dry out.

Chicken – Raw chicken that has been thawed in the fridge can last 1-2 days before going bad. If you’ve cooked it, it can keep in a container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Red meat and pork – Raw red meat and pork can be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days. Once you’ve cooked it, store it away in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Fish – Raw fish should be cooked within 3 days of purchasing. If it’s cooked, it’ll last in your fridge up to 3 days.

Pasta – Pasta is OK to eat after 5 days of hanging out in the fridge. If you’ve cooked it with meat, finish it or toss it after day 4.

Read more about food storage and how to store leftover food on the OXO blog here.

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By Amalia Safran

Amalia Safran is part of OXO's Brand Communications team. She enjoys anything outdoors, exploring new cities and has yet to meet a food she doesn’t like.

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