This is often a question that passes through your mind when you see the leftovers from your Chinese takeout dinner. Like me, you must've just dismissed the idea and just placed the takeout in the fridge.
After all, there is no time to fuss about such a thing because you're just too exhausted to cook and clean up. Yet, for the next few days, you see those cartons of Chinese takeout staring back at you each time you open your refrigerator.
Then you start to feel a hunger pang and a sudden craving for Chinese, which you have in your fridge. You ask yourself when you brought it home or when it was delivered to your house. You are now torn between throwing the cartons out and warming them up for a quick bite.
How long is Chinese food good for?
Chinese food can last for three to four days, like any other type of leftover. Remember that food in the fridge does not spoil immediately after five days. It slowly turns, making you more at risk of getting food poisoning when you eat it. You could freeze the dish if you think you will probably have it in the fridge for more than five days.
Knowing when you should throw out the leftover Chinese food is not enough. It would help if you learned to comprehend why a four-day limit was set for Chinese food.
Learning how to store the Chinese leftover properly also allows you to be safe and even enjoy it again.
Leftovers: Last 3 to 4 days
- Pepperoni pizza, tuna salad, or Kung Pao chicken must make it to your fridge within two hours of initial serving. This reduces your risk of getting foodborne pathogens into your system.
- Never leave your leftovers standing on the kitchen counter. Place them in the fridge as soon as you finished eating. Cold temperatures delay the proliferation of bacteria.
- If you have large amounts of Chinese food, place them in smaller airtight containers. That way, the leftovers will cool down evenly and quickly.
- Refrigerating Chinese takeout leftovers in just one container will result in bacterial growth in the large batch center. This is caused by uneven cooling in the fridge.
Why you should throw your leftovers out
Illnesses occur when you eat food that has bacteria thriving in it. These pathogens grow and multiply at 40 to 140 degrees F. With this, make sure that you keep your food out of that deadly zone. Do not leave food out and let bacteria grow on them.
Most refrigerators today keep a temperature of about 32 degrees F. This temperature slows down bacteria's growth on your food. The quicker you put food in your fridge, the safer they become for eating a second time.
The freezer is also your best friend if you want to keep leftovers longer. Generally, freezers generate temperatures that can halt the growth of pathogens completely. They will not die in the freezer.
Instead, they will pause while they're in the freezer. Whether you choose the fridge or the freezer, what's important is that you know how long your leftovers have been in there.
In case you froze your General Tso's chicken only two days after refrigeration, then you will only be okay for two more days if your thaw the dish in your fridge.
Here is a list of storage periods for your Chinese food:
- Freezer: While it is true that food will stay safe for long periods in a freezer the quality of meat will be compromised after a particular time. If you want to maximize the taste and flavor, you should consume frozen dishes in four to six months.
- Fridge: Throw out or freeze Chinese food that has stayed in your refrigerator for four days.
- Kitchen Counter: You should never leave Chinese food out at room temperature for more than two hours.
Best Way to store your Chinese food
Most of us have been there. We eat what we can out of our Chinese takeout and then throw the rest into the fridge, as they rest in their original packaging. Doing this is not ideal if you want to keep the leftovers longer.
Take note that Chinese takeout containers allow air to circulate the food. This causes food to spoil, allowing bacteria to settle and grow in and on the food.
If you want to make your Chinese takeout leftovers last longer in your fridge, here are some tips for you:
- Place Your Leftovers In The Fridge: It will be a waste if you just put your food on your counter. It's best to take what you need and then transfer what's left to an airtight container. Put the container of food in your fridge. It is best to put the leftover food inside the fridge as soon as you can.
- Use Airtight Food-Grade Containers: It's essential to keep as much of the air out whenever you store food. If you have air inside the container, there is a more favorable atmosphere for bacteria to grow and multiply. In my book, glass containers are best.
- Make Small Level Portions: Make sure you get small, uniform containers. As you scoop the food in there, spread them out. A larger surface area allows food to cool more quickly. Storing leftover food in large batches will enable bacteria to accumulate at the center of the batch. The center will not cool down as quickly as the sides. So, it will be the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.
- Make Sure to Inspect Your Fridge Temperature: Checking your fridge temperature is necessary for ensuring your Chinese takeaway leftovers' longer shelf life. You can help your fridge reach the ideal temperature by providing that your leftovers reach below 40 F. This allows your leftovers to veer away from the spoilage zone. Make sure your fridge temperature is around 32 degrees F.
How To Reheat Your Chinese Food
Considering leftover Chinese food doesn't taste delicious anymore, most people throw leftovers out. It is all in how you reheat your leftovers. There are methods of reheating Chinese food that allow you to preserve the original texture and flavor.
Below are some crucial tips that will let your leftover Chinese takeout last in your fridge and stay tasty at the same time:
- Wok It: Chinese food is cooked in a wok. It is only expected to reheat them in a heated wok with a little oil. A few minutes over low to medium heat can become as delicious as it was the first time you ate it. Ensure that the food's inner temperature reaches at least 140 F to kill all the harmful bacteria.
- Use the Microwave Only If You Need To: Yes, a microwave is convenient and easy, but not every Chinese dish can return to its pre-storage state. Even so, it is sure to eliminate bacterial growth in just about a few minutes.
- Use Your Fingers to Break Up Your Leftover Rice: Rice dishes tend to dry up and clump together when you store them in your fridge. When you microwave them, they only get even worse. If you put them in a microwavable bowl, break them up with your fingers, and moisten them with a little water before you put them in the microwave. This will result in better tasting leftover rice.
- Just Heat Leftovers Once: According to the USDA, every time you heat your Chinese food again to 165 F, you give it a shelf life of three to four more good days. Although this is a declared fact, you cannot keep reheating your food and expect it to taste as fresh as the first time. The food will keep on deteriorating each time you reheat. Quality and flavor are compromised. It is best to reheat what you need and leave the rest alone for a while.
- Don't Use Your Slow Cooker: If you use your slow cooker, you will not reach 165 F for your food. Just don't use it to play safe.
How long does Chinese food last in the freezer?
There is no other way to keep your Chinese food longer than with the help of your freezer. Even so, take note that the quality of food will start to deteriorate as it stays in the freezer longer. Your Chinese leftovers will keep safe in your freezer for an indefinite period. Just make sure you consume your leftovers within three months.
If you store and handle your leftover Chinese takeout properly, it will be safe to eat, and it will keep longer while retaining its good quality.
You should freeze your leftover foods within 2 hours after cooking. This wards off the growth of bacteria. Freeze it when it reaches room temperature to keep it from forming droplets inside the container and having freezer burn.
Thawing Chinese food
Leaving the frozen food in your fridge overnight is the best technique in thawing your frozen food. It is the safest means to prevent your leftover Chinese food from thawing too quickly. Refrigerating your leftovers inhibits the growth of bacteria as the food thaws.
If you need to thaw your Chinese leftovers right away, you can pop it in your microwave or leave it at room temperature. Keep in mind that if you expose your leftovers to bacterial growth if you do these. Also, expect your food to be mushy.
Remember that food thawed in a microwave can turn mushy. Its texture will also be unappetizing.
Plan how much Chinese leftover your need from your fridge the next day. That way, you don't shock the food with more bacterial proliferation.
Frequently asked questions
Storing leftover fried rice dishes properly can make them last in the fridge for about 5 days. The condition also depends on the fried rice dish and how long it stood at room temperature.
When you freeze and thaw your fried rice the right way, you can keep it in your fridge for three days more, as long as you don't reheat it yet. Once you reheat leftover Chinese, you should eat it right away and throw out the leftovers.
Odor coming from your leftover Chinese takeout will not be pleasant once it has gone bad. If you notice this and there is also mold in there, don't eat the leftovers anymore.