A Guide to Expiration Dates
The Shelf Life of Leftovers
Have a giant pot of chili that would feed a team of football players? Invite them over. According to the USDA, most refrigerated leftovers last 4 days, tops. Dishes that contain seafood or uncooked ingredients, like mayonnaise, spoil faster; eat them within a couple of days. And don’t let uneaten food linger on the counter for more than 2 hours. The longer a dish sits at room temperature, the more susceptible it is to bacteria growth. Pay special attention to cooked rice and other grains, which at room temperature can harbor a bacterium called Bacillus cereus, which will make you sick. It’s fine to put warm food in the refrigerator or freezer. But when handling a dish that will take many hours to cool fully—a huge stockpot full of stew, say—transfer it to several smaller containers first.