Let's paint you a (delicious) scenario: You've eaten yourself silly at the latest holiday season feast and you're coming out of that well-earned food coma when you realise that you need to figure out what to do with all the mouthwatering leftovers.

To avoid wasting food while ensuring everything is safe to eat for the next few days, we're going to look at what you can do to safely store all your leftovers and not have to worry about potential food poisoning.

Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.


Hot food and cold food

The temperature range between 5°C and 60°C is known as the 'Temperature Danger Zone' (Insert Kenny Loggins reference here). This is because the temperature between 5°C and 60°C is the ideal zone in which food-poisoning bacteria can grow to unsafe levels that can result in illness. As such, it's important to understand how to handle hot and cold food properly to avoid any food poisoning incidents.

For hot food:

  • Hot food needs to be kept and served at 60°C or above, and can be left out for two hours once it drops below 60°C.

    • Freshly cooked food should be cooled down to below the danger zone as quickly as possible if it is not intended to be eaten immediately. Divide the food into smaller containers and put them in the fridge or freezer as soon as it stops steaming.

  • If you're keeping food warm for someone, put it in the oven at 60°C.

  • When reheating food, make sure it is reheated to at least 75°C.

  • DO NOT put hot food in the fridge as this will heat up everything in it and cause it to spoil. Let the food cool down first before refrigerating.

For cold food:

  • Make sure your fridge is below 5°C so your cold food is kept under the temperature danger zone.

  • Make sure your fridge has enough space as cold air won't circulate properly in tightly-packed fridges.

Make sure you always stick to the two-hour/four-hour guide to work out what you need to do without leftovers.

Temperature Danger Zone graph 3

What to do with leftover meats

It's important to plan ahead with your meats so that you can properly store them later if needed. Once your meat is cooked and ready to be served, separate out only what you need for the meal and wrap the remainder and let it cool on your kitchen bench for about 30 minutes or until it stops steaming before putting it in the fridge or freezer.

Refrigerated leftover meats can be kept safely for two to three days or up to one month in the freezer. Once you defrost your leftover meats, it cannot be frozen again. To minimise wastage, freeze your meats in portion sizes that you will use in a single meal.

When reheating defrosted leftover meats, make sure it is hot and steaming all the way through, which is usually about 75°C or so.

Okay, what about seafood?

Seafood is best consumed as fresh is possible and should be stored in the fridge for only a couple of days before use.

Storing seafood leftovers after it has been left out for a few hours is not recommended due to the high risk of food poisoning. For cooked seafood dishes, these will last a couple of days in the fridge.

Other important food safety tips

Cleanliness and hygiene is very important, so make sure you're frequently washing hands and wiping down counters and preparation surfaces thoroughly in order to prevent cross-contamination.

Make sure all leftover food is stored in clean, airtight containers. When reheating leftover food in a microwave, always use a cover and stir or rotate the food mid-way through cooking to ensure it is reheated evenly.

Just remember, if there's any doubt over how long food has been in the temperature danger zone then just throw it away. Yes, it sucks to throw away food like that but it's better than getting a nasty case of food poisoning!


If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: Australian Institute of Food Safety, Food Safety Information Council #1, Food Safety Information Council #2, Queensland Government, and Safefood Queensland

Image credit: Spirited Away

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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