Countless myths surround leftover food. Most of them are related to food security and health issues.
You may have heard some things like:
- All leftovers can cause food poisoning.
- Leftovers are safe until they start to smell bad.
- It is safe to eat cold leftovers.
- Freezing leftovers destroys all bacteria.
- Reheat leftovers in the microwaves to kill bacteria.
All these ideas can make you feel nervous about whether to store some extra food you had for lunch or dinner. There are indeed different types of bacteria in any food that can cause any kind of sickness. Some of them can survive heating and cooling and do not even cause food to smell, taste or look different. Those are the most dangerous.
So, one thing you should keep in mind is to properly cook all your meals and to store them following simple rules like using adequate storage containers and refrigerating them as soon as it can be done.
Learning how to store your leftovers in a safe way
When you end up with some extra food from your family lunch or dinner, your first idea should not be trashing it: you have more options than simply throwing it away.
You can either eat more at that moment, giving it to some neighbors, or refrigerate it and have some leftovers for the next few days. The last option is perhaps the best for you since you could have some meals already done which will save you precious time later.
Storing leftovers does not require scientific knowledge in food safety. You only need to follow simple rules that break all myths you probably have heard about.
These are four valuable tips you should remember:
- Leftovers will last for 3-4 days after cooking if stored in the fridge. However, the freezer will keep them fine for up to 3 – 4 months.
- Food can be left at room temperature for 2 hours after cooking. Then, you have to store it immediately.
- Try to store leftovers into individual portions.
- Use zip-lock bags or plastic storage containers only. Water always present in food will increase in volume when frozen and may break glass or ceramic jars.
Good surprises in your fridge
Having some leftovers in your fridge can save you from having to do more cooking. Even when you are in a hurry, leftovers are your best friend. Imagine you get home late due to a busy day and unexpected errands; the last thing you want to do is cook.
A quick look at your refrigerator could give you the solution: you find a container with some egg-fried rice from last night’s dinner that you forget you had stored.
Let’s get started. You can use the microwave to reheat the egg-fried rice, as you cooked it in the first place, see this to refresh your memory.
Using the microwave is the fastest way of reheating meals. When reheating any food, the idea is to get the same texture and flavor as the original cooking time. As for rice, you should give it the moisture back and take out the dry texture.
Follow these steps for getting better results:
- Place your egg-fried rice in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Add some butter and sprinkle water or broth. Adding broth will give the rice some extra flavor. You can also use pre-cooked vegetables, and incorporate them in this step.
- Heat at high power for 3 minutes. Always place the container off-center on the microwave oven plate for a more even reheating.
- Stir the rice and check if it is evenly heated.
- If needed, heat for 2 more minutes.
Cooking in advance
The concept behind using leftovers is to take advantage of food not eaten during any meal. But, what if you use the same idea but for saving your time in the kitchen?
Some people cook a lot of meals in advance and refrigerate them to have enough prepared food for the rest of the week. This is helpful if you have a busy schedule and can not make enough time for preparing meals three times a day every day.
The storage process is the same when refrigerating leftovers. Follow the tips stated before and you won’t need to be worried about food spoiling.
In this case, you can plan all your meals and dedicate a day to cooking the whole week’s dishes. You can use different recipes and create various meals. For making this process even quicker, make the most use of your microwave and try to cook one-pot easily-storable meals.