Last Updated on April 1, 2022
You made a gigantic family feast, and now you’re bogged down with leftover turkey or chicken or pot roast. You hate wasting food, but you really can’t stand to eat the same meal over and over again. Worse still, you really don’t know what to do with the giant carcass remaining.
You probably know you can save veggie scraps and leftovers for multiple uses, but the same is true of meat. If you’re trying to use every last bit of meat, we’ve got some tips for you that will prevent food waste and let you enjoy lots of varied meals — oh, and save some money.
Leftover meat can be easily frozen to enjoy at a later date, or you can transform your leftovers entirely into new meals. We’ve included ways to transform leftover lamb into hearty and comforting lamb ragu or turn leftover turkey into a turkey curry soup.
Are you not sure what to do with bones and chicken carcasses? You can enjoy creamy, indulgent bone marrow by roasting beef marrow bones or turning your chicken and beef bones into ultra-nutritious bone broth.
Transform Leftovers into New Meals
Did you roast a massive turkey or whole chicken and now you’re completely bogged down with leftovers? Did your pot roast make a few more servings than expected?
We all know you can pile hunks of last night’s roast beef on a sandwich and call it a day, but you might be missing out on all the new culinary experiences you can create with a little bit of leftover meat.
Whatever you do, don’t you dare toss out that meat you worked so hard for! Incorporate the meat into the next several night’s dinners—and don’t worry about growing bored. There are so many recipes that will completely transform your leftovers, you won’t believe you’re eating something from a few nights prior.
Tip: Transforming your leftovers is a great way to avoid food waste, but it’s also an excellent way to eat on a budget. You’ll make the meat you buy stretch much further, and fill your diet with a larger variety of foods like fresh veggies and satiating complex carbohydrates. It’s a winning strategy all around.
If you have leftover chicken or turkey, give these recipes a try:
Autumn Leftover Turkey Stir Fry
If you’ve got leftover beef roast or steak of some kind, try these recipes:
Leftover Roast Beef Italian Stew
Shepherd’s Pie with Beef or Lamb (this works with leftover lamb, too!)
Got too much leftover pork roast or pork chops? Here are some recipes to transform it:
Did you whip up some huge lamb shanks or a hearty lamb roast? Here are recipes to help use it up:
Leftover Lamb Fattoush with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Freeze Your Leftovers
You know you can freeze raw meat, but did you also know you can freeze fully cooked roasts? With a few smart freezing tricks, you can freeze your leftover pot roast or rotisserie chicken for use at a later date.
The best time to freeze your leftovers is right after cooking them, for quality and safety reasons. First, wait for your meat to completely cool. Separate your meat from the bones, if any. Portion the meat out and store it in heavy-duty, freezer-safe Ziploc bags. If there is any cooking liquid, be sure to ladle some into the bag to prevent freezer burn. Be sure to not overfill the bags to account for expansion.
To use your leftovers, thaw them and reheat them in the oven or on the stovetop, or heat them according to a recipe’s instructions if you’re transforming them into something new.
Roast Bone Marrow Bones
Bones are an often overlooked component of a meal; they’re usually discarded as waste, without a thought to how you can use them in your cooking.
But some bones, like beef bones and those of game animals like deer, elk or caribou, house within them a succulent substance known as bone marrow, and to throw out that insanely yummy marrow would be a crime.
If you cook a bone-in roast or something like beef shanks in osso bucco, you might just be able to enjoy the succulent marrow as part of your meal. It’s housed within the shank bone, and while it can be a tad tricky to pull it out, its buttery-smooth and rich flavor is worth the effort. Feel free to spread it on some toast as an accompaniment to the meal.
If you’re really interested in using up every part of the animal (and eating some insanely good marrow), you can also buy marrow bones at a butcher. Feel free to roast them or grill them as a decadent appetizer, or even a meal served alongside some bread and salad.
Make Bone Broth
Bones can do more than provide creamy, indulgent marrow. They’re also essential to producing warm, savory stock rich in collagen and nutrients, also known as bone broth.
You can make bone broth from any animal’s bones, and the only difference in preparation between bone broth and traditional broth and stock is the length of time you spend cooking the bones. All meat broths and stocks combine water, meat bones, and possibly vegetable scraps and seasonings for flavor.
Bone broth is cooked for many hours—often a day or more—to leach out the collagen in the bones, which offers a host of health benefits.
Broths and stocks have many uses in the kitchen; they’re an obvious go-to for soups and stews, but bone broth, in particular, can be slurped down as a nutritious snack or breakfast. Broths can also add flavor to rice and other cooked grains, or contribute to a truly spectacular braising liquid for your favorite roasts.
You can easily use up your chicken carcasses and beef bones to make bone broth (or any broth you’d like) at home. Do this, and you’ll know you’re doing your part to use up every last bit of your meat.