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8 Foods That Are NEVER Worth Saving for Leftovers

8 Foods That Are NEVER Worth Saving for Leftovers

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Due to safety issues, yes, but mostly because they just taste terrible reheated.

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Some things are just not meant to be saved and reheated, which is a lesson I unfortunately learned first hand.

I was vacationing in New England when I decided to put a plate of linguini and freshly steamed mussels (in a heavy cream sauce, no less) into a doggie bag for lunch the next day. If you're anything like me, throwing out a plate of food really hurts your soul.

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But when I reheated it in one of my plastic lunch containers the next day, I immediately noticed the taste profile had been thrown way out of whack—unwilling to give up, I powered through rubbery bites… only to run for the bathroom throughout the rest of the afternoon.

My bad experience aside, it turns out there are a few reasons why you should never save certain dishes, whether it's something you've ordered at a restaurant, or (even worse) something you've made at home.

First and foremost, there are a few safety issues with keeping some kinds of leftover food for a prolonged period of time—especially if they're one of the perishable item on this "danger" list provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But any leftovers can turn dangerous if they're left in your fridge for too long or if your fridge isn't kept below 40°F.

Donald W. Schaffner, PhD, is a specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University's School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. He says there are a few things you can do to prevent food spoilage—including keeping your car cool in the hot summer months—but his first tip for handling delicate leftovers has to do with a common household gadget you may already own.

"My tip is to purchase a home fridge thermometer and check your fridge temperature in several spots regularly," Dr. Schaffner told Cooking Light. "For best safety and quality, the fridge temp should be as cold as possible without freezing delicate items."

There are two main concerns for highly perishable foods that are kept in the fridge for too long, Schaffner said—Yersinia enterocolitica, which is rare, and Listeria monocytogenes, which is the most common. Listeria can be found in many common items, including cold smoked fish, deli meats, and soft cheeses, especially if they've been made with raw milk. This also applies to dishes that have been made with these ingredients as well.

More food safety tips:

But Dr. Schaffner made one thing clear—when it comes to health and safety concerns, there isn't a "valid food safety reason to avoid reheating and re-serving."

"As long as the food was promptly refrigerated, and its time in the refrigerator was not excessive, and the food was properly reheated, any food would be safe to consume," Schaffner said.

The issue, he says, is with quality—there are foods that taste delicious when first served, but become truly inedible when reheated (especially in the microwave).

I consulted two of our Cooking Light test kitchen experts, Julia Levy and Robin Bashinsky, to see which foods they wouldn't want to give a second pass at the dinner table. Here are the 8 foods you should never reheat—and why:

1) Risotto

Levy says any kind of cream-based sauce can quickly sour in the fridge, and the consistency of risotto becomes "glue like" after sitting in a refrigerator for days. This is especially true for seafood-based risotto dishes, which can also become a breeding ground for risky bacteria.

2) Fried Foods

Bashinsky calls french fries the "cosmic void" of leftover potatoes, because spuds usually hold up well as leftovers. But nearly any food that's been battered and deep-fried take on a new texture after sitting in your fridge—and become super dry when reheated, as well.

3) Clams

Most shellfish should really be eaten immediately after being cooked, Levy says (with one exception: shrimp, which can definitely be repurposed successfully). But like fresh mussels, clams are simply "horrifically inedible" after being nuked in the microwave. Levy says they can also introduce an off-putting scent into of whatever they've been cooked in—like a casserole, for example.

4) White Fish

If you've cooked a white fish filet all the way through (which you should), then Levy says it'll become increasingly tough to repurpose afterwards. A microwave will bring a rubbery element to something that was once flaky and delicate.

5) Cremé Brulee

This is a classic example of a baked dessert that actually really doesn't hold up well in the fridge, Bashinsky says. Anything with a "crunchy" or "textured" top—think Baked Alaska or any meringue—will not be the same after days of sitting in cool, moist air. Try one of these make-ahead desserts instead.

6) Eggs

While eggs can certainly be made in advance, reheating them in the microwave is risky because they need to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees before being served, according to the Food and Drug Administration. If you must save leftover eggs, you're better off reheating them via the stovetop—but don't reheat eggs that have been left out on the counter for more than two hours, the FDA says. That's because listeria can develop quickly at warm temperatures, and pose a critical risk at anything above 90° F.

7) Mushrooms

8) Spinach, Beets, and Celery

Adobe: Christine Han Photography/Stocksy

This trio of ingredients are some of the healthiest on this list—but also the most dangerous. According to the CDC, heat can cause these veggies to actually release carcinogens when they're being reheated for a second time. Bashinsky says it's best to prepare these again fresh and then re-introduce them into leftovers for the second time around, if you must.

For more tips and expertise on how to keep leftovers safe, Dr. Schaffner recommends downloading the USDA FoodKeeper app, which is free to anyone right here.

No, it's not your imagination. Some food really does taste even better once you've liberated it from the fridge the next day (though it shouldn't stay out too long). That's because chemical reactions keep happening even after cooking is complete, often blending or heightening existing flavors. So whether you'll be dining on your original dish as is or turning it into something new, here are 15 great leftovers to nosh on.

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Freeze It, Don't Waste It

The kitchen freezer is the savvy home cook's secret weapon in the battle to get dinner on the table fast. For the most part, if you can eat it, it can be frozen and reheated later for consumption. Be smart with leftovers to put an end to frozen TV dinners and unhealthy takeout.

Use Common Sense When Deciding What to Freeze

No, sushi shouldn't be frozen, but if you have some extra chopped onion or leftover steak, toss it into a baggie and freeze it, and add it straight to the pan from the freezer, as it will just take a minute or so longer to cook. Snack-size baggies or, better yet, reusable 3- to 6-ounce storage containers with lids are great for freezing small items for later. Other good candidates for small-batch freezing are leftover sauces — oily or acidic ones, like tomato sauce or pesto, are especially good for freezing. If you have enough sauce to fill an ice cube tray, it's worth saving — even a few tablespoons can be stretched with some broth to make a flavorful soup base or a light sauce.

You Should Save Your Meat Fat

Sometimes when I&aposm eating dinner with my husband at home, I feel like a wild animal. I&aposd love to maintain the illusion that I am half of an infallibly sophisticated marriage anchored by candle-lit, home-cooked dinners, plated ever just so on the wedding china, atop the meticulously-set dining room table. We do manage that from time to time (and would all the time if it were up to him), but the vast majority of our evening meals are hunched-over affairs at the coffee table, elbows akimbo to fend off the dogs who are over-excited that we have presented them with snout-level food. We&aposve each (usually) got a cocktail, we&aposre decompressing from the day, the TV is on, but what I&aposm honestly fixated on is that my beloved spouse is methodically trimming the fat off his chop or filet, and I want it. I want it so very badly.

I eat with my hands. I pick up bones and gnaw off gristle, and unless it&aposs an absolutely ridiculous portion, I relish the fat, sometimes even more than the meat itself. Even the dogs are cocking their heads at me like, take it down a notch, lady, but to his great and kind credit, my husband never says a word. In return I resist the urge to lunge toward his plate and hoard the fat scraps for my breakfast.

Animal fat, especially fat that&aposs recently been attached to meat, is the best fat, and that&aposs a hill upon which I am willing to perish—possibly from clogged arteries. But then again, fat like that isn&apost quite as bad for you as we were all brought up to believe. It&aposs all very complicated here&aposs a Harvard study, please enjoy. When I say "best" here, I mean in the context of flavor, and I&aposm not talking about using bucketloads of it. What I&aposm saying is that if I&aposve got it on hand, I&aposll throw some steak trimmings, the thick white edge of a ham slice, a few slim slices of the cap from a long-cooked pork shoulder, or𠅋lessed be—the scraps from an supremely gamey lamb roast, render them in a skillet, and use that glorious grease to add flavor to my morning meal.

Olive and sesame oils are my standard cooking fats at most meals. (My nutritionist pushes for coconut oil, but I have not emotionally arrived at a place where I&aposm cool with it.) But unless I&aposm going for a super-puffy basted egg where olive oil is a must, animal fat is where it&aposs at for me. Most sensible carnivores are well aware of the little oomph that bacon fat can bring to most dishes but there is, I swear, a world beyond bacon, and if you eat meat, you owe it to yourself to explore. And you&aposre going to have to DIY it a little because unless you have easy access to vats of suet (which doesn&apost taste nearly as wonderful as steak fat), you must poach it from your meat, and dinner is a great place to start.

It&aposs not difficult—save for resisting the urge to gobble yours all up at night, or distracting your dinner companion(s) enough to swipe the trimmings from their plates (obviously not anything they&aposve chewed and set aside, because while I&aposm occasional semi-feral, I&aposm not an actual canine). Just pull it out of the fridge in the morning, slice it as thin or as thick as you&aposd like, and heat it in a medium-hot skillet until it liquifies, dump out whatever you deem to be too much (and seriously, save that white gold in a jar to use later), and cook your potatoes and eggs in it. It&aposs such a small thing that adds so much flavor to simple ingredients, and makes breakfast feel more satisfying, even if there aren&apost actual big honkin&apos chunks of meat in the meal. It&aposs just enough to tame my urges.

Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese should be simple, including perhaps two to four ingredients such as macaroni, cheese, milk, and maybe some salt, Wolbers says. But the sauce alone for this frozen food is in the double-digits, and each one-cup serving contains a whopping 920 grams of sodium, 17 grams of fat, and 350 calories. "Again, there are at least two different cheeses added, which makes the food more rewarding to your brain. Then there's salt, wheat flour, and two different oils added — butter and soybean oil, to make your brain go wild," Wolbers says. "By simply adding a few highly rewarding ingredients, food companies ensure that the next time you see this macaroni and cheese product in the supermarket, you'll buy it again instead of a healthier alternative."

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What to Do With Leftover Taco Meat

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So, Taco Tuesday came and went, and now you have a pound of leftover taco meat to use up. We've all been there! We never want to see food go to waste, especially more expensive ingredients like meat.

The good news is that we have some great ideas for what to do with leftover taco meat. Leftovers like this are actually a terrific way to meal prep. Because the ground beef is already cooked, it makes putting together a dinner that much quicker.

Plus, there are so many delicious recipes that use up taco meat out there! We've got simple ideas, like transforming leftovers into a burrito or quesadilla, and we've got several inventive ideas that will "wow" your family. They won't even feel like they're eating leftovers if you serve some of the recipe ideas below.

So, keep scrolling to find some amazing recipes and recipe ideas! And be sure to let us know in the comments if you have any more clever tricks for cooking with taco meat.

1. Make Baked Potato Taco Boats

Baked potatoes are one of those foods that are endlessly customizable, and the results are always delicious.

This taco version has tons of flavor, and it's the perfect recipe for using up leftover taco meat! Fill the baked potatoes with seasoned ground beef, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream, and whatever other taco toppings you and your family love. You could also add seasoned black beans or refried beans to this dish in order to add more protein if you're short on taco meat.

This recipe could also be adapted by using sweet potatoes instead! This idea is the perfect way to use up leftovers, and your family will love the variety in the weekly dinner menu.

How to Reheat BBQ

Once you’ve refrigerated or frozen your leftovers, you can let them sit until you’re ready to use them. But when you do find the perfect recipe or you have a major hankering for barbecue, you should reheat them properly for the best results. If you put your meat in the fridge, the process shouldn’t take long, but if you stored it in the freezer, you’ll need to think ahead.


Putting your leftovers in the freezer will help them last much longer, but they’ll also need ample time to thaw out before you try to reheat anything. That being said, you should plan your meal well in advance so you can take the meat out of the freezer early enough.

If you want to thaw the meat out slowly, you can keep it in the refrigerator for a day or so. The amount of time will depend on the size of your cut of meat. For example, ribs can take anywhere from six to eight hours to thaw fully, but a dense roast may take much longer. For faster thawing, you can leave them in a room temperature area or in a small container of cool water. Make sure the meat is completely unfrozen before trying to cook it.


Once you’ve thawed your meat — or if you’ve simply taken it out of the fridge — it’s time to move on to reheating. The best method to use for barbecue is low and slow. If you try to cook the meat too fast or with hot, dry heat, there’s a good chance it’ll lose its tenderness and moisture. You can also add BBQ sauce, stock or your liquid of choice to be sure it doesn’t turn out dry. It’ll also help bump up the flavor after freezing.

There are several methods you can use to go about reheating shredded, sliced or smaller cuts of meat:

  • Oven or stove: To reheat it in the oven, 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit is a reliable range. Be sure to cover the meat so the top layer doesn’t dry out and it retains the juices. Check and stir it occasionally as well to promote even heating. You can do the same on a stovetop with a covered pan or skillet, but you’ll have to stir it more frequently.
  • Grill: The same technique should work on a covered grill, using it like an oven and putting your leftovers in a covered cast-iron skillet. However, you shouldn’t use a smoker to reheat already cooked meat, as it takes much longer for the leftovers to reach a safe internal temperature and will dry them out in the process.
  • Microwave: You’re also welcome to use a microwave oven, but it’s certainly not the best option. Microwaves tend to heat unevenly, meaning you’ll have to stir the meat more frequently and pull it out to check it often. It also tends to dry out meats, so a cover — and potentially some additional liquid or sauce — is necessary.

Regardless of what method you choose, be sure to check the internal temperature with a thermometer. You’ll want the meat to hit a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be sure it’s safe to eat.

While certain cuts are easy to shred and heat up in an oven, pan or grill, others may take a little more care. Racks of ribs and full steaks, for example, are more difficult to reheat, considering it can cook them further and change the level of doneness — yes, that is the term. If the heat is too high, the meat will shrink and become tough.

Here’s the not-so-secret-secret of how to reheat ribs without drying them out: Wrap the ribs in foil with plenty of sauce or stock to keep them moist and put them in an oven or grill at about 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Then uncover to finish.

Freezer meals: Recipes to make in bulk and freeze

Grace Walsh March 19, 2020 11:00 am

Fudio / Alamy Stock Photo

Our freezer meals will help you save money, time and energy. Explore our round-up of recipes to make in bulk and freeze for some tasty inspiration.

Need inspiration for recipes to make in bulk and freeze? These freezer meals make for easy batch cooking and can help you to save money, as by making all your food you’re not wasting anything.

Making big batches of your family’s favourite meals and storing them a Tupperware box for another day’s dinner will also save you time and energy, especially on the busy after school evenings. No one wants to get in from a busy day at work then start preparing a meal from scratch. So preparation is key when it comes to a balanced healthy diet and with these delicious freezer meals, you’ll never resort to a rushed takeaway again…

From lasagne to casseroles, there are plenty of hearty, family meals that can you cook up and store for another day when you haven’t got the time to cook.

Especially in the recent health crisis, many people are turning to their store cupboard shelves and freezers, looking for ideas on what the best foods are to stock-up on and then batch freeze. But with these handy guides, there’s no reason to go without proper meals, complete with all the fruit and vegetables you could want. So whether you’re buying fresh and then freezing, or making from what you’ve already got in your kitchen, we’ve got plenty of ideas!

8 Foods That Are NEVER Worth Saving for Leftovers - Recipes

If leftovers have been in your refrigerator for more than four days, it’s time to toss them.

The refrigerator is arguably one of the most important inventions of the nineteenth century. Its ability to preserve food and help limit or prevent foodborne illnesses is undeniable. But, despite its merits, your refrigerator can also encourage you to store food beyond its shelf life and it can damage the taste and texture of some healthy foods, making them less desirable to eat. Cleaning out your refrigerator can have huge benefits for your health and wellness and it can help you make the most of the healthy foods in your home.

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences recommends cleaning your refrigerator out by removing the contents of your fridge, tossing any spoiled or expired foods, and then wiping down the shelves with warm water mixed with baking soda (two tablespoons of baking soda for every quart of warm water). Be sure to remove the drawers and shelves and wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water — these are some of the germiest places in your kitchen. After the refrigerator is washed, return any foods that should be saved to the refrigerator.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that our refrigerator is home to some of the unhealthiest foods in the home and that those foods should be eliminated. From sodas to deli meat, our refrigerators are packed with added sugar, empty calories, and nitrates. Knowing which pre-packaged and convenience foods are the unhealthiest (and replacing them with wholesome options) can have tremendous impacts for your health. Even products labeled "diet" or "low-fat" are worth getting rid of they are often loaded with preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and salt.

When you're cleaning your fridge you'll also want to throw away foods that shouldn't be stored in the refrigerator in general. The refrigerator compromises the taste and texture of foods like fresh basil and under-ripe avocados. These are healthy foods that should be a regular part of a healthy diet but storing them in the refrigerator makes them less desirable to eat. Throw out the portions that have been stored in the refrigerator but replace them, storing them at room temperature or in the freezer in the future.

It can be difficult to know which foods are worth saving and which foods need to be thrown out, so we've compiled a quick guide of some of the most common foods in your refrigerator that need to be trashed.

(Credit: Shutterstock)
If you’ve been storing food in the refrigerator in an open can, throw it away. Studies show that harmful metals are transferred into foods when they’re stored this way.

(Credit: Thinkstock)
Most margarine contains trans-fat, which raises your bad cholesterol, lowers your good cholesterol, and increases your risk for heart disease. If your margarine contains any trans-fat, toss it.

Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.


Use healthy oils (like olive and canola oil) for cooking, on salad, and at the table. Limit butter. Avoid trans fat.

Drink water, tea, or coffee (with little or no sugar). Limit milk/dairy (1-2 servings/day) and juice (1 small glass/day). Avoid sugary drinks.

The more veggies &mdash and the greater the variety &mdash the better. Potatoes and French fries don’t count.

Eat plenty of fruits of all colors

Choose fish, poultry, beans, and nuts limit red meat and cheese avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats.

Eat a variety of whole grains (like whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice). Limit refined grains (like white rice and white bread).

Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.

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