Handling and Storing Food Safely

LAST UPDATED: October 10, 2017
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How to properly store perishable foods

Food storage guide
Source: Foodsafety.gov
Food Category Description Refrigerator (40°F or below) Freezer (0°F or below)
Bacon and sausage Bacon 7 days 1 month
Sausage, raw (chicken, turkey, pork, beef) 1 to 2 days 1 to 2 months
Fresh beef, veal, lamb and pork Steaks 3 to 5 days 6 to 12 months
Chops 3 to 5 days 4 to 6 months
Roast 3 to 5 days 4 to 12 months
Fresh poultry Chicken or turkey, whole 1 to 2 days 1 year
Chicken or turkey, pieces 1 to 2 days 9 months
Fresh seafood Fish or shellfish 1 to 2 days 2 to 3 months
Hamburgers and other ground meats Hamburger, ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb, & mixtures of them 1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months
Hot dogs Opened package 1 week 1 to 2 months
Unopened package 2 weeks 1 to 2 months
Leftovers Cooked meat or poultry 3 to 4 days 2 to 6 months
Chicken nuggets or patties 3 to 4 days 1 to 3 months
Pizza 3 to 4 days 1 to 2 months
Cooked fish or shellfish 3 to 4 days 4 to 6 months
Luncheon meat Opened package or deli slices 3 to 5 days 1 to 2 months
Unopened package 2 weeks 1 to 2 months
Salads Egg, chicken, ham, tuna and macaroni salads 3 to 5 days does not freeze well
Soups and stews Vegetable or meat added 3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months

How to keep fruits and vegetables fresh

Simple tricks and tips can help keep your fresh fruits and vegetables lasting longer.

Freshness guide for fruits and vegetables
Item Directions
Apples Make sure apples are NOT bruised. Keep in their original bag (with perforated holes) or make a few holes in the bag. Store in the refrigerator.
Bananas Place plastic wrap tightly around the banana's stems to keep them from browning too quickly Store at room temperature until ripe, and then store in refrigerator to keep them from getting over-ripe.
Broccoli Choose broccoli with tight, green florets (NOT YELLOW). Store unwashed in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator. Wash when ready to eat/cook.
Carrots Cut off carrot tops and store them In a closed plastic bag in the refrigerator to keep them fresher, and retain more nutrients.
Cucumber Wrap each cucumber in a paper-towel and place in an unsealed plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Herbs: long-stemmed (basil, parsley, cilantro) 1. Trim off about ¼ inch off the ends
2. Place them loosely (stem side down) in about 1 inch of water
3. Place on the counter at room temperature
Herbs: short-stemmed (thyme, chives, rosemary) 1. Wrap them loosely in plastic wrap
2. Place in the warmest part of the refrigerator (the door work well)
3. Do not rinse the herbs until just before using
Lettuce Wash lettuce or greens, pat dry, wrap in a paper towel, and store in a closed plastic bag in the refrigerator to keep crisp.
Potatoes Place potatoes in a paper bag and keep them in a cool, dry place in your pantry or barracks room.
Strawberries Do not wash until ready to eat. Line a shallow container with a few layers of paper towels. Arrange strawberries in a single layer over the paper towels and cover. Store in the refrigerator.
Tomatoes Store tomatoes at room temperature with the stem-side down to reduce bruising

Avoid cross-contamination during food preparation

You can’t see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may be lurking in your food or on your countertops. Follow the Food Safety Guidelines on this page to protect yourself from a foodborne illness during food preparation.

  • Wash hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water before, during, and after handling food: Avoid touching face or hair when preparing food.
  • Always use one cutting board for meats and another for produce. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other foods.
  • Always use one knife for cutting meats and another for produce. Or, thoroughly wash your knife between foods in hot, soapy water.
  • Cook raw/fresh meat to the correct temperature. Insert meat thermometer half way into the thickest part of meat. Chicken, turkey (fresh or ground): 165°F.Ground beef: 160°F. Fresh beef (steaks, roasts), pork, lamb, seafood: 145°F. Note: Never re-insert a meat thermometer without first washing the probe in hot/soapy water and drying it with a paper towel.
  • Chill leftovers promptly. Perishable foods or dishes containing meats, seafood, eggs, milk/dairy should not be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
  • Cook or freeze fresh meat promptly. Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats within 2 days Cook or freeze other beef, veal, lamb, or pork within 3-5 days
  • Re-heat leftovers to the correct temperature. Reheat leftovers to 165°F or until steaming hot.

Source: USDA 

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