Tips for the Renal Gourmet
How To Use Your Leftovers Safely
(Spice It Up! Issue Spring 2012)

You made our delicious meat loaf, half is leftover to be eaten sometime later, and now you need to know how to use your
leftovers safely. So we asked our experts for answers, talked to people who look after food safety in Canada and explored the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency website at Here is their advice for the safe handling and storing of your leftovers.

Handling leftovers
  • Before and after handling leftovers, wash your hands and sanitize all utensils, dishes and work surfaces with a mild
    bleach solution ( 5 ml/1 tsp. bleach per 750 ml / 3 cups water ).
  • Keep foods cold and out of the temperature danger zone which is between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F). This
    will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria on the food.
  • Throw away any cooked food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Never rely on your nose, eyes or taste buds to judge the safety of food. You cannot tell if food is contaminated by its smell, look, or taste.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

    Cooling leftovers
  • Refrigerate all leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly. Once cooled, you can cover the containers.
  • Cool very hot items at room temperature. Refrigerate once the food has stopped steaming.
  • Leave the lid off the container or wrap it loosely until the food is cooled to refrigeration temperature.
  • Avoid overstocking the refrigerator to allow cool air to circulate freely.

    Storing leftovers
  • Always use a clean container for leftovers, or wrap them in leak-proof plastic bags to prevent cross-contamination. Keep different leftovers in separate containers.
  • Eat refrigerated leftovers within 2 to 3 days, or freeze them immediately for later use.
  • Write the date on the containers to identify the contents and to ensure they are not kept too long.

    Defrosting leftovers
  • Thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator or in the microwave. When using a microwave, make sure the food container can allow steam to escape.
  • Heat and eat leftovers immediately after they have thawed.

    Defrosting food in the refrigerator
  • Place the container or platter on the bottom shelf because this is the "warmest" place in the refrigerator, and you will also avoid spillage onto other foods during thawing.

    Defrosting in the microwave
  • Before defrosting, remove leftovers from any packaging or containers that are not microwave-safe (such as plastic wrap, freezer cartons, and Styrofoam trays). You should only use containers and wrappings that are microwave safe.
  • Use the defrost setting of your microwave and make sure leftovers are completely defrosted before reheating.
  • Reheat leftovers immediately after defrosting. Don't re-freeze foods that you've already defrosted in the microwave.

    Reheating leftovers
  • Reheat leftovers to a safe internal temperature of 74°C (165°F ).
  • Use a digital food thermometer to check the temperature.
  • Bring gravies, soups and sauces to a full, rolling boil and stir during the process.
  • Discard or compost any uneaten leftovers; never reheat for later use.

    Reheating in the microwave
  • Only use containers and plastic wrap designed for use in the microwave.
  • Loosen the lid or wrap to allow steam to escape.
  • Stop the microwave midway through the reheating cycle and stir the food so that the heat is evenly distributed.
  • Rotate the plate several times during cooking if your microwave does not have a rotating tray.

    How to store your leftovers safely

    Here are some questions we have been asked:
  • Can I freeze cheese or tomatoes?
  • How long can I keep shrimps and unsalted butter in the freezer?

    We found a handy "Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart" on the "Mrs. Cookwell" page of the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Information website:

    Print out the list of foods and their maximum safe storage time for the fridge or freezer. It's a great reference.

    How about storing fresh herbs?
    When buying fresh herbs to use in our recipes, chances are you will have some left over. Here are some tips to keep them fresh for later use.

    Basil, Parsley, and Cilantro

    Treat herbs like a bouquet of fresh flowers: trim the ends, place in a glass of water, and leave on the counter at room temperature. Do not refrigerate them, and herbs will stay fresh for up to a week if you change the water regularly.

    Chives, Thyme, and Rosemary
    Wrap loosely in plastic wrap and place in one of the closed compartments on the refrigerator door where the temperature is the warmest. Do not wrap herbs tightly because the trapped moisture may cause them to develop mould. It's a good idea to add a piece of paper towel to the package to absorb any moisture. Do not rinse herbs until just before using. Stored like this, these herbs can stay fresh for more than a week.

    How about freezing fresh herbs?
    Herbs with higher water content, such as chives, basil, mint or tarragon can be frozen with water as ice cubes and kept in the freezer for many months. You can use these frozen "herb cubes" by adding them to your recipes as needed. Here's how:
  • Always choose the freshest leaves
  • Wash them and pat them dry using paper towel
  • Place a few leaves (whole or chopped) in each compartment of the ice cube tray. Half fill the tray with water to submerge the leaves
  • Place the tray in the freezer and once the tray is semi-frozen, add more water to fill it to the top
  • Once the "herb cubes" are completely frozen, transfer them to a zippered freezer bag, or a covered container.

    For more information on food safety we recommend the following websites:

    For the download/print version, click here.

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