Leftovers: How to handle all those Thanksgiving feast remnants

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Learn tips about Thanksgiving leftovers storage and safety. (Photo/Cleveland Clinic)

If you want to protect your family from foodborne illness after Thanksgiving, there are some important things you should do to pack up those leftovers.

One thing medical professionals suggest you is someone watch the clock even before you start eating. Once food is done cooking, it should be refrigerated within two hours to avoid bacteria growth.

If it's packed up correctly, most food will last about three to four days in the refrigerator, according to Lindsay Malone, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic.

Dairy, meat and poultry products tend to have bacteria build on them faster than other foods, she said.

Below are some things to do and not do when it comes to packing up your leftovers:

WHAT TO DO:

DO: Use air-tight, shallow containers to store leftovers

DO: Bring food back to room temperature before putting it away

DO: Break down the turkey before putting it into the refrigerator. Take the meat off the bone

DO: Take the stuffing out of the turkey -- Never store it with the stuffing inside

DO: Pack the food in a cooler in ice if guests are taking home leftovers and are traveling more than two hours away

WHAT NOT TO DO:

DO NOT: Just throw foil over a plate of food and put it in the refrigerator

"When air is present, that allows the bacteria to grow faster," Malone said. "So you really want to get the proper containers and pack things appropriately, otherwise, your food isn't going to last the four days."

DO NOT: Put the entire turkey into the refrigerator

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Too many leftovers? If you have a lot of food leftovers that could last you more than a few days, you may want to freeze some of it.

"If you have an abundance of food leftover, the smartest thing to do would be to put a portion of it in the refrigerator, and then pack a portion of it really nice in air-tight containers, and put it into the freezer," Malone said. "And then when you're ready to eat it, take it out."

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