Tips on storing Thanksgiving leftovers from a master chef

Local chef Adam Sobel says foil is not the best way to cover leftover turkey, stuffing and all the rest. (Thinkstock)

Paula Wolfson,

WASHINGTON – After the turkey and trimmings comes the dreaded Thanksgiving clean-up. And when it comes to storing leftovers, we can all learn from a master chef.

Adam Sobel, the executive chef at D.C.’s Bourbon Steak, says air and oxygen are the enemy when it comes to keeping leftovers fresh and safe.

He says foil is not the best way to cover leftover turkey, stuffing and all the rest. Sobel says cooks and their clean-up crews should opt for air-tight containers and plastic wrap instead.

Traditional Thanksgiving foods with the longest shelf life are things like cranberry sauce and turkey gravy, which most chefs would keep for four to five days.

As for the rest, Sobel says, “I would probably say after day two, it is time to go.”

He says be especially careful of stuffing, pastas and rice and always make sure they have cooled to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator. He says anything refrigerated while still hot can create steam and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Technically, almost all leftovers can be frozen and held for weeks. But Sobel says freezing, while safe, can affect the taste and texture of protein-rich food like turkey.

Sobel says potatoes can be pureed, frozen and then heated up later with a little milk or cream. Cranberry sauce also freezes well, as does most soup.

Some cooks like to take the carcass from the Thanksgiving turkey and use it to make soup stock after the meal Sobel says it is perfectly safe to let the stock simmer on low heat overnight. He recommends that technique, saying it’s one of his favorite things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers.

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