Summer is a good month for cold soups, potato salads, sauces and barbecues, and we do not always finish what we serve at the table, which inevitably leaves us with appetizing leftovers that we want to reuse; save for dinner, for the next day or to make new dishes.
The ten most dangerous pathogens in summer food
However, it is not the same to recycle Christmas leftovers, with the house at 22ºC, than to do it in July or August, with the environment at least 26 or 27ºC. The durability of food, which is conditioned by multiple factors, drops sharply with temperature, since pathogenic microorganisms multiply faster and therefore food degrades much faster.
Proper management of food or dinner leftovers on these dates requires great rigor and strict observance of certain precepts, focused on conservation and food safety. We will expose some of them below.
1. Store leftovers as soon as possible in closed containers
The reason is to avoid a greater entry of pathogens by air, as well as to prevent excessive drying of leftovers in the refrigerator. If the containers are shallow, the refrigeration will be faster. If we have a lot of quantity, it is better to distribute it in several shallow containers than to use a deep one.
2. Put them in the fridge even though they are still hot
For energy saving reasons, it is advisable to wait for the leftovers to cool outside, but if we adhere to food safety criteria, it is consistent to put the leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible. The reason, to stop possible proliferation of pathogens that have entered by air.
To increase efficiency, we can put the leftover inside the tupper but without a lid – so that the hot air comes out – inside the fridge and, after an hour, we cover it. Or, if the food allows it, we can apply heat to more than 60ºC, cover the tupper and let it cool off like that before putting it in the fridge.
3. Keep the tuppers below 5ºC and for a maximum of three days
Bacterial growth slows down from 4ºC, so it is advisable to keep them at these temperatures. The best way is to store leftovers in the lower part of the fridge, where the cold air collects.
4. Do not leave them in the fridge for more than three days (and stretching a lot)
It is not recommended in summer to keep leftovers for more than three days unless they are very dry. In the case of sauces, patés and other fluid or pasty foods, it is best not to keep them, but if you do, the conservation period should not exceed 24 hours. Remember in summer to make the mayonnaise without eggs, and even then, it is always better to throw it away and do it again when we need it.
5. Remove top layers before storing
The reason is that they will be more exposed to pathogens than those inside, with less oxygen. This way we will increase the security of the leftover.
6. Heat the leftover above 60º (if you accept it)
Cooked leftovers that allow it, will increase their safety if we reheat them in the microwave above this temperature, which inhibits a large majority of pathogens but does not spoil the food.
7. Do not store half-finished cans
If we want to take advantage of their content, we will pass them to a well sterilized tupperware -washed with soap and tap water-, since its interior oxidizes easily and the food becomes perishable in a more oxidative environment. On the other hand, plastic or glass tuppers have walls that do not rust.
8. Do not mix raw and cooked leftovers in the same container
You will separate them into different containers. The reason is that leftovers that have not been heated tend to accumulate higher microbial loads and can degrade more easily and contaminate the rest.
9. Avoid storing liquid leftovers
Especially if we have leftover fish or seafood soup, we must discard them, since they ferment very easily.
10. If we are going to freeze, take into account the deadlines
It is convenient mark the date in packages before freezing. Keep in mind that food does not last forever in the freezer, although it does last much longer than in the fridge. If you want to have a reference of how long you can keep a frozen food, see this article.
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