Ways to Tell If Your Leftovers Are Still OK to Eat
When you reach into your refrigerator to nosh on those moo shu pork leftovers, you probably first check to see if it’s still “OK” to eat, right? Give it a sniff, look for any signs of mold, and if it passes the smell and sight test, next comes taste. But food safety isn’t always that simple, and a miscalculation in the slightest can result in a nasty, unwanted case of food poisoning. Knowing how long and what to check for can save you from unpleasant foodborne illnesses.
Obviously, if milk tastes sour, we stop drinking it, but often the most severe foodborne illnesses are colorless and odorless. Scientists have methods to test for spoilage that we can’t detect using our senses, but as we don’t have access to these sophisticated tools that sniff out dangerous pathogens in our food, we need markers to determine just how many days after you first laid eyes on that pizza it is still safe to eat.
The first step is to always look for obvious signs of mold, texture changes, or unpleasant smells. Next, consider time and temperature. All food has a shelf life. Bacteria growth is slowed in the cold temperatures of your fridge, but a staggering 25 percent of refrigerators in the U.S. are kept at unsafe temperatures (above 40 degrees F). Regularly check the temperature of your fridge with a thermometer and adjust the settings accordingly to prevent unwanted food spoilage.
When storing leftovers, make sure you cool them down to at least 40 degrees F within two hours. An ice bath is a great way to do this without the risk of raising the temperature of your fridge or freezer with hot food. Finally, different foods just last longer than others, which is why we have broken down just how long you can safely eat these leftovers.
Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.
Additional reporting by Yasmin Fahr in the accompanying slideshow.