You order Chinese takeout on a Friday night and receive enough food to last you for multiple meals. A few days of chow mein, orange chicken, and fried rice? Yum! But how long will your leftover food last before it goes bad? After all, you want to eat the food when it’s still good and avoid it if it’s not. In this post, we will look at how long you can expect your Chinese food leftovers to last, the best way to store your leftovers, and how to tell when your food has gone bad.
How long does Chinese food last in the fridge?
You can expect your Chinese food to last about 3 to 4 days after cooking if it is stored properly and safely in the fridge. You’ll want to store leftovers in an airtight container. When you go to eat it again, look and smell the food for spoilage such as mold growth or a sour or off odor before eating it. The last option is to take a bite to taste it it’s okay.
Chinese food is like most leftovers in that it will last around 3 to 4 days before it starts to go bad. The length of time you can expect your food to last will depend on where, when, and how you store it.
Once the food is cooked, it should be consumed or put away within two hours. Don’t leave your food out in the open at room temperature for more than two hours, even if the food is covered, as this can lead to bacteria growth and foodborne illness.
If you expect food to be kept out for over 2 hours, ensure hot food stays hot and make sure cold foods stay cold. The danger zone for food is the temperature range between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This is when bacterial growth can thrive. You can maintain the proper temperature for foods by placing hot foods on warming trays or the stove and cold foods on ice or in the fridge.
If you store your leftovers properly, you should have no issue consuming them the next day. If they’ve been sitting in the fridge for a long time such as 5 days, however, you’re better off throwing out your food.
Another storage option is to freeze your leftovers. Like most foods, Chinese food lasts much longer stored in the freezer instead of the fridge. This is a good choice if you know you won’t be eating the leftovers for a long time.
You can expect Chinese food to last up to 4 to 6 months in the freezer. While the food can technically last longer, meaning it will still be safely edible, you should eat the frozen food by 4 to 6 months after freezing for the best quality and taste.
How do you store Chinese food?
Store leftovers in the fridge in an air-tight container. The typical Chinese takeout container is a paper carton, which is not airtight. This allows air to enter the containers and bacteria to form. Ensure that the containers you use completely cover your food and are without cracks or unsealed points.
Another consideration is the size of the containers that you use. The best method for storing leftovers is to store them in small portions. Use multiple smaller containers rather than one large container, even if you have a large amount of leftover. Separate them into smaller portions before putting them away.
Storing your food in smaller containers allows the food to cool evenly and at the same rate. If your food is kept in a larger container, it is likely to cool unevenly or at different paces, which can increase bacteria growth and cause quicker food spoilage.
If you’re storing food in the freezer, put the food in a sealable freezer-safe bag or container. Again, store food in small portions. This helps with food safety as you only remove and reheat what you need later when you need it. This reduces the extent of freezer burn, which is when food dehydrates in the freezer. Although the food is still edible, it may have a change in texture and decreased quality and taste.
How do you reheat Chinese food?
There are several ways to reheat your leftovers including microwaving, steaming, and in a pan on the stovetop. Each method has its pros and cons. No matter which you use, you’ll likely want to ensure that your food is safe to consume and preserve as much of the original taste as possible.
The fastest and most convenient method for reheating Chinese food is to use the microwave oven, but you may compromise on the texture and taste of the food. Crispy items may be soggy after reheating in the microwave. Food that is reheated in the microwave often heats unevenly so one part may be hot while another part feels cold.
You can make reheating food in the microwave better by
- using a microwave-safe dish
- using a microwave-safe cover or plastic wrap. Don’t let them touch the food.
- adding a tbsp of water to the food to moisten it as it reheats
- microwave the food for a few minutes, stir the food, then microwave it again
Pan on the stovetop
The best method to reheat leftovers is in a pan or wok on the stovetop. Place a little oil in the pan at low heat and place the food in the pan once hot. Flip large pieces of food or stir items so that they reheat evenly and on all sides. If the food is extra dry, cover the pan with the lid to give it moisture or add a little water to the leftovers as it’s heating to create moisture for them.
Steaming food is a great option for reheating food because the moisture keeps the food from drying out. This is great for foods that tend to be dry or dry out like meat, leftover rice, and leftover dim sum dumplings.
Place the food in a heatproof dish like a ceramic bowl and set it in a pot on top of a trivet or inverted heatproof bowl. Bring a few inches of water to boil in a pot and then turn it down to a low simmer.
Cover the pot and let the food steam until thoroughly reheated. You should check every so often to ensure that the water does not boil up into the bowl of food and that there is enough water in the pot throughout the whole steaming process.
Another option is to put the food in the toaster oven or regular oven for reheating. Spread the food out on an oven-safe dish and reheat at 350 degrees or lower until the food is heated to the desired temperature. You can place aluminum foil on top of the dish if you want it to retain some moisture and not dry out.
The oven is a good option for reheating bread, breaded items, and crispy and crunchy items such as spring rolls. This allows them to keep as much of their crispiness and crunchiness as possible, although it is unlikely to be like when it was first cooked. The oven also helps with reheating foods without overcooking them. The last thing you want is twice cooked seafood
As a reminder, you should reheat your food only once and don’t refreeze food once it has been defrosted. These situations lend to the growth of bacteria which can make you sick.
How do you know if Chinese food has gone bad?
Unfortunately, leftover Chinese takeout doesn’t come with expiration dates, so you are likely to have to use your judgment and your senses to assess if the food is safe to eat. Here are some things you can look for to check your food has spoiled.
Look for visible signs that your food is contaminated. You may find your food has grown mold, in which case it should be disposed of as soon as possible.
Another visible sign of spoiled food is color change. This tends to happen to meat and dairy more than other types of food. For example, meat may turn a grayish shade or color.
Next, check how your leftovers smell. They should have a pleasant scent, the same as when they were cooked. Spoiled leftovers often smell sour or rotten. If you find any signs of spoilage, it’s better to be on the safe side and dispose of the food.
Leftover Chinese food typically lasts 3-4 days if stored properly in the refrigerator and up to 6 months if stored in the freezer. Ensure you use airtight containers made especially for the fridge or freezer. Pick the best method to reheat your food safely, whether that’s in the microwave, on the stovetop, or another way. And be sure to throw away any food that you think may be spoiled.
Enjoy your meal!