Ask the experts: Storing cooked leftovers

Q: "How long can I keep cooked leftovers in the fridge?"

A: The general rule is to eat leftovers within two days, but if in doubt, throw it out. Leftovers can become unsafe if they stay in the temperature danger zone (between four and 60 degrees Celsius) for too long, or are contaminated, for example, by unclean hands or implements.

Here are the NZFSA safety rules for leftovers:

  • Refrigerate leftovers in clean, covered containers within two hours of leaving the stove, oven or (for your doggie bag) the chiller at the restaurant. If you do this, you can keep food for up to two days
  • Either serve leftovers straight from the fridge or reheat to steaming hot and then eat straight away
  • Never reheat food more than once.
  • If you’re taking leftovers to work or school use a chiller bag and a frozen chiller pad (or frozen drink) to keep it cool in transit.
First published: Jun 2010

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