Artwork by Kiel Vasquez

The weeks after Christmas and New Year are considered by many as the official National Init Ulam Days. It’s the time when a large percentage of the population refuse to spend on food and make use of what they currently have–leftover food from all the holiday festivities. While minimizing food wastage is a good act, your health is also of prime importance. If you do insist on eating leftovers, here are a few reminders before you pop that whole chicken in the microwave for the 5th time.

1Sanitation is king

If you’re a fan of eating at Samgyupsal places, then you’ve noticed that it’s a common practice to use a different plate for each batch of uncooked and cooked meat. The reason for that is to prevent contamination. The same goes for your leftovers. Always remember to use clean utensils to handle the food and make sure that you store it in a container that has been thoroughly sanitized.

2Remember the two-hour rule

When it comes to leftovers, two is the magic number. Avoid keeping the food at room temperature for more than a couple of hours. This prevents bacteria from growing. After cooking the food, it must be kept at 60 degrees Celsius or warmer if you’re not going to put it inside a refrigerator. However, if perishable food has been left in room temperature for more than the specified time, it’s definitely best to throw it away.

3Cool food quickly

To prevent bacteria from growing, it’s important to cool the food as fast as possible. One way to do this is to divide the food into smaller portions. This is because theoretically, a bigger chunk of food will take longer to cool. Make sure that the refrigerator temperature is at 4 degrees Celsius or below.

4Reheat it safely

Don’t slack off when it comes to reheating your food. When reheating, make sure it reaches 75 degrees Celsius, which you can determine by investing on a handy food thermometer. It would also be better to manually rotate the food so all sides get heated evenly. When it comes to sauces and soups, make sure to bring them to a rolling boil. Dense food like a whole chicken or a turkey will require a longer time to reheat.

5When in doubt, throw them away

Lastly, if you have even one bit of uncertainty about your food, don’t eat it. Even when your nose is giving you the go signal, be wary of anything left for more than 3 to 4 days. Food can start getting haphazard even without smelling bad. As the popular saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Want to know more about safe eating? Check this out!