You might be sick of it by now, the constant barrage of turkey sandwiches salvaged from the leftovers of Monday's Christmas dinner.
But how long after the big day is it safe to eat your turkey leftovers? Does it make a difference if you're eating it cold or reheating it into a new meal?
Before we talk leftovers, it is important that turkey is cooked and stored properly in the first place.
The Food Standards Agency advises that cooking food at the right temperature and for the correct length of time will ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed. This is particularly important when cooking turkey.
It is recommended to always check that the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part, and that the meat juices run clear.
Turkey leftovers: Safety guidelines from the FSA
- Cool any leftovers at room temperature, then cover them and ensure that they go in the fridge or freezer within two hours. If you have a lot of one type of food, splitting it into smaller portions will help it to cool quickly and means you can freeze and defrost only what you need for future dishes.
- You can freeze cooked turkey, other cooked meat and meals made from cooked and frozen meat. But once defrosted, you should eat the food within 24 hours.
- You can use previously cooked and frozen turkey to make a new meal, such as a turkey curry. This new meal can be frozen too, but make sure you only reheat it once.
- When you come to use frozen leftovers, make sure you defrost them thoroughly in the fridge overnight or in a microwave (on the ‘defrost setting’) and then reheat until steaming hot.
- Don’t forget: leftovers should be eaten or frozen within two days (one day for rice dishes).
What about buffet food?
In general, foods that need to be chilled (which include most of the foods people tend to serve on buffets and most sandwich fillings) should be left out of the fridge for the shortest time possible, the Food Standards Agency told the Birmingham Mail .
If they are left at room temperature for a long time, bacteria can grow or toxins can form, and both of these could cause food poisoning.
If you are preparing a buffet at home for friends or family, there aren't any regulations that specify a maximum time that food can be left out but, in the interests of safety, you should try and keep it short (not more than four hours).
Then any remaining food should be thrown away or put back in the fridge. If you keep leftovers in the fridge, don't let them stand around at room temperature when you serve them again.