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What Will You Do With Those Thanksgiving Leftovers?

Now is a good time to plan a variety of after-Thanksgiving meals using leftovers


Mention Thanksgiving and most of us think about turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie and all the other foods and traditions that go along with it. We might think about the family and friends who will gather to eat with us, or those who won’t be able to be there this year.    

Unless you are the cook, chances are you are not thinking about what you will do with all the leftovers.  Now is a good time to plan a variety of after holiday meals using your leftover turkey.

To be sure that you and your guests will enjoy the wonderful leftovers you have planned, follow food safety guidelines for handling your turkey safely.

  • The first rule of thumb, debone the turkey and refrigerate all leftovers in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking. Two hours because bacteria that causes a food borne illness can multiply to undesirable levels on perishable food left at room temperature for longer than that.
  • Gravy, stuffing and meat need to be stored separately from each other. It will be necessary to remove the stuffing from the bird and store it in a separate container. Remember you must debone your bird anyway.
  • The carcass makes a wonderful soup base later. If you choose to save it, be sure to refrigerate or freeze it in a large zip-top baggie or other container.
  • Use leftover turkey within 3 to 4 days and stuffing or gravy within 1 to 2 days; or freeze these foods. Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • If you choose to freeze leftovers for longer storage, package items in freezer paper, freezer bags or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Proper wrapping will prevent "freezer burn,” those white dried-out patches on the surface of food that make it tough and tasteless.
  • Date your packages and use the oldest ones first. Frozen leftovers should be used within 2 to 6 months for best quality.
  • Cooked turkey may be eaten cold or reheated. When reheating your turkey in the oven, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 °F. Reheat to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. To keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.
  • If you choose to reheat the turkey in the microwave, cover your food, rotate it for even heating, and allow standing time. Check the internal temperature of your food with a food thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 °F.

If you need a copy of “Let’s Talk Turkey” with helpful information, contact me at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Extension Service in Miller County at 870-779-3609.

Use leftover turkey in a chili instead of the traditional sandwiches and pot pie. Not only is it healthy, it is also quick.

White Turkey Chili Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 cups cooked turkey, chopped
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz.) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans (11 oz.) corn, undrained
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies
  • 4 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and celery, cook and stir 2-3 minutes.
  3. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan (at least 4 quarts).
  4. Stir well.
  5. Cover and cook about 15 minutes over medium heat stirring occasionally until thoroughly heated.

Yield: 8 servings, nutrition information per serving:  Calories 242, Fat 3g, Saturated Fat 1g, Protein 14g, Carbohydrate 43g, Fiber 8g, Sodium 113mg.