Safely Pick Up, Store, and Reheat Carryout Meals 

When it comes to food safety with takeout or grab-and-go meals, focus on three steps to keeping food safe: clean, cook, chill. Read our free tip sheet.

Food Safety Tips for Takeout Containers 

  • Take food out of containers or bags using clean silverware or tongs, and place it on a clean plate, bowl, or in storage containers before eating. 
  • Throw out containers and bags immediately. Clean and sanitize all surfaces the packaging came into contact with. 
  • Bleach Sanitizer Wash hands with soap and water before eating. 

Clean 

  • Wash hands with soap and water. Wash any surfaces that come in contact with food or what the food was picked up or delivered in.  
  • Ask for contactless delivery. This can prevent transferring harmful germs from person to person. 
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables that come with the meal. 

Cook 

  • Keep hot foods hot. If a meal is received hot, eat it right away or keep it hot at 140°F or above until you are ready to eat it. Always use a food thermometer to make sure the food is at a safe temperature.  
  • Two-Hour Rule: Cooked food should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. It only takes two hours for harmful bacteria to multiply to a quantity that could cause foodborne illnesses. 

Keep hot food hot at home

  • Move food from takeout containers into a skillet, pot, or sauces pan, and keep food hot on the stovetop. 
  • Use the oven. Preheat the oven and place food on an oven-safe pan or dish. Cover with aluminum foil to prevent food from drying out.  
  • Place cooked food in a preheated slow cooker to keep hot. Never reheat food in a cold slow cooker. 

Reheating  

If the meal will not be eaten right away, divide it into smaller portions and store in the refrigerator. Use shallow food-safe containers, no more than four inches deep. Use a food thermometer to reheat food to 165°F, no matter the food or method.

  • If reheating in the microwave, cover and rotate food, so it is cooked evenly.  
  • When reheating gravies, sauces, and soups, bring to a boil.  
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days.

Temperatures to Remember when Reheating 

  • 40°F: Refrigerator temperature and storage temperature for cold food and leftovers  
  • 140°F: Keep hot foods at this minimum
  • 165°F: Reheat all food to this temperature

Chill 

If a meal is received cold, it should be kept at a temperature of 40°F or below. 

How to safely keep food cold  

  • Keep refrigerator set at 40°F or below.  
  • Store items immediately in the refrigerator until use. If a fridge isn’t available, store cold food in small portions surrounded by ice or ice packs.   
  • Check food temperatures using a food thermometer to ensure food is staying at 40°F or below.     

Foods to Store in the Refrigerator 

  • Raw or cooked meat, poultry, and fish (this includes deli meat, egg, and tuna salad)  
  • Dairy products, such as cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and milk 
  • Fresh, peeled and/or cut fruits and vegetables  
  • Cooked vegetables, pasta, and rice 

References