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Leftovers: How long are they good for, really?

You may think they're good for a week, but they're not.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Some would argue, the best part of Thanksgiving is eating the leftovers. How long do you think leftovers are good for in the fridge?

Is it three days? How about five days? Maybe you can stretch it to seven days? 

If you guessed three days, you're correct. To make sure those leftovers don't make you sick, you need to clear the buffet table in two hours and get those leftovers in the fridge, and that includes taking the turkey meat off the bone. 

 "Right away would be ideal. But you know, if possible within two hours, you want to refrigerate those leftovers, especially making sure to break down any larger pieces of meat," said Minh Duong, Ph. D, Virginia Tech food safety.

Duong also says you want to avoid is stacking the containers on top of each other, this will allow for uniform distribution of air in your fridge.

You can, however, put your leftovers away even if they are still warm. You don't need to wait until the food cools down.


One thing you don't have to worry about much is fruit pies. These can be stored loosely covered on the counter if you're planning to eat them in one or two days.

Put that pumpkin pie or any other egg-based or custard pie in the fridge. 


The easiest way to make your thanksgiving leftovers last is to freeze them. Frozen leftovers can last three to four months. Once you take them out to eat though, the clock starts ticking. 

 "After you defrost those leftovers to eat again, you have three days to eat them before it needs to be discarded, " said Coren Hayes of the Butterball turkey line.

Need ideas on what to do with all the leftover turkey? Butterball has a whole list from enchiladas to sliders and even dumpling soup.


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