You Could Be Risking Your Health If You Store Your Meat Like This

A sizable amount of meat can supply you with leftovers for days. Whether it's a pot of chili, a pork roast, or a platter of Thanksgiving turkey, all kinds of meat can be reused in a meal makeover in a variety of delicious ways. But first, let's discuss what qualifies as "leftovers."

Foods that can safely be used as leftovers are items that have been cooled within two hours after cooking (via the U.K.'s National Health Service). For food left sitting out in warm temperatures, the time frame decreases to one hour — factoring in time elapsed before serving, while eating, and how long food is left out for after the meal, according to What's Cooking America

The longer a food item is kept, even when properly stored, the greater the chance for foodborne illness. Therefore, it's important to know when it's time for leftovers to be trashed. When it comes to leftover meat, it's easy to plate it and put it in the fridge without much thought. But be sure not to ignore this important step first.

Don't store your leftover meat whole

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meat should be sliced up before storing in the fridge. The idea is to divide large cuts of meat, such as roasts or a whole turkey, into small quantities before refrigerating so they'll cool quickly enough to prevent bacteria growth. 

In addition to storing the right size cuts of meat, you also should be mindful of storing your leftovers at the correct temperature. The CDC advises that leftover meat should be kept in a fridge set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Also, choose your storage spot inside the fridge carefully. "The bottom shelf is generally the coolest part of the fridge, which makes it the best spot to store meat—and you avoid any juice dripping onto other items," butcher Cara Nicoletti told Food 52

Finally, how long should you hang onto your leftovers? Beef and pork can be safely kept for three to five days after cooking. However, this doesn't include hamburgers and other ground meats, which should be kept for no more than two days. Similarly, turkey and chicken can be kept for one to two days (per U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).