How Long Does Steak Last in the Fridge? (And Signs Its Gone Bad)

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If you’ve got steak in the fridge and want to know how to tell if it’s still good, you’re in the right place!

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How long steak lasts in the fridge
  • Storing it properly
  • Freezing it
  • And much more!
how long does steak last in the fridge

Having a grilling group for several years with more than 26,000 members, I’ve seen many cases of food poisoning caused by spoiled steaks.

It’s important to keep track of how long steaks have been in our fridges, regardless of whether they’re cooked and regardless of whether they’re packaged properly. 

How Long Does Steak Last In The Fridge?

Steak can last for about 3-5 days in the fridge.

If you freeze your steak, however, it will last between 4-12 months.

These timeframes are depending on the temperature of the fridge, how it’s packaged, and a few other key factors. 

We’ll explore those and a few other relevant factors below so you can better determine the lasting time of your favorite protein.

Jump To A Section

Read More >> How to Defrost Steak

Why Doesn’t Steak Last Very Long?

Let’s explore why steak doesn’t last long and why it matters if it has been cooked or not.

  • Raw steak
  • Cooked steak
  • The danger zone

Raw Steak

Let’s start with raw steak.

First, if you’ve picked up your steak from a butcher, consider how long the slab may have already been sitting out in that open-air case, exposed to all that oxygen.

Next, the butcher wraps it in plastic or paper and closes it off with tape or a rubber band.

Still, this isn’t air-tight.

This is the standard packaging for steaks in many delis and butcher shops, so we can’t do much about that on most occasions. However, you can consider buying steaks that are vacuum-sealed or prepackaged.

This kind of packaging will make the meat last a little bit longer since it comes into contact with less oxygen.

With all of this in mind, let’s assume that you’ve carried this steak home and put it into your 40 degrees Fahrenheit fridge.

All of the oxygen exposure that happened before you even received the steak explains why it will only last for about three to five days past this point.

Cooked Steak

If you cook it within the proper time period, leftover cooked steak still has a narrow window of safe eating time, as oxygen exposure can still hasten the growth of bacteria.

For cooked steak, this is about three or four days in the fridge.

The Danger Zone

Did you know that temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit are considered the danger zone per USDA?

Bacteria in your food (as long as it is within these temperatures) will double every 20 minutes.

That’s why you should refrigerate your food and not leave it out for more than two hours. If the temperature is warm, say above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then you should not keep food out for longer than an hour.

Is there a difference when it comes to the potential of bacteria growth in raw and cooked meat?

There is a slight difference but the truth of the matter is that mishandling either raw or cooked meat will still lead to food poisoning due to bacteria growth.

The difference is that raw meat is ripe for the growth of most microorganisms since the meat of warm-blooded animals carries bacteria such as Salmonella in the first place, and then there’s the slaughtering process where it can get more contaminated.

In short, nothing’s really stopping this bacteria growth in raw meat unless otherwise frozen, refrigerated, or cooked.

In cooked meat, on the other hand, the cooking process may have already destroyed most of the bacteria when it’s still raw. That’s why there’s some time before it can go bad even when left unrefrigerated or frozen. But, the window until it can go bad is not that significant so we still have to handle it properly or risk getting foodborne illnesses.

Read More >> How To Reheat Steak Safely

How to Keep Steak Safely Refrigerated

How should you avoid shortening the 3-5 day timeline?

Well, you can’t open the packaging of raw steak until you’re ready to cook it. When you do, bacteria spreads rapidly, especially if the steak is left out at room temperature.

In fact, steak can only be safely left at room temperature for two hours before it is recommended to discard it.

If you don’t, you’ll put yourself and anyone else who’s going to eat that steak at risk of foodborne illnesses.

Once the steak is cooked, it can still only be kept for up to four days at a maximum. Once it has spent longer than that in your fridge, you should throw it away or you’ll be in a lot of pain.

To package it properly, you may utilize an airtight shallow container to make sure that no oxygen gets in. The more it’s exposed to oxygen, the higher the chance that it will be infested with bacteria.

Why does oxygen promote bacterial growth?

Because these microorganisms require oxygen for the production of energy and respiration of their electron transfer which allows them to grow. There are a lot of organisms in this world that need oxygen to live, including us, and most bacteria do so too.

Read More >> How To Smoke Steak

How to Keep Steak Frozen Safely

To extend the storage life of steaks, you can consider freezing them.

As we mentioned before, once you store steaks in the freezer you will extend their storage life significantly.

However, we only recommend doing this with raw steaks.

Before storing your raw steaks in the freezer, wrap them very securely in plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil to keep them sealed tight.

With the right preparation, they can last for a very long time.

When you’re ready to cook it, steak that has been thawed may stay in the fridge for another three to five days before it goes bad.

If you’re wondering why frozen raw steak can last from a few months to a full year, the reason is actually really simple.

Below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, microorganisms simply can’t grow or develop.

It’s not possible for bacteria to proliferate in below-freezing temperatures. On top of this, chemical changes are slowed down significantly so food and meat deteriorate much, much slower.

Now, why don’t we recommend storing cooked steaks in the freezer?

First of all, while freezing your cooked steak will indeed lengthen its lifespan since it will eliminate the chances of microorganism growth, it can only stave this off for about three months.

After this point, it will either go bad or lose all of its flavors.

Cooked steak also runs the risk of developing severe freezer burn from the below-freezing temperatures if it is not wrapped extremely securely.

However, one silver lining of frozen cooked steak is that steak retains its nutrients much better in the freezer when compared to fruits or vegetables.

Read More >> How To Cook Frozen Steak On The Grill

How Can You Tell If Steak Has Gone Bad?

You can determine whether your raw steak has gone bad through a look and smell test. Thoroughly inspect the smell, look, and texture of the slab of meat.

Steak with a dull color, sour odor, or slimy texture is showing signs that it has gone bad.

Don’t try to downplay this if you’re noticing it, even if it’s just a little sour-smelling, a little dull, or a little slimy. Just a hint of these signs already means that the steak is infested with bacteria.

Learn More >> How To Tell If Steak Is Bad? 

What Bacteria Is Found in Spoiled Steak?

Did you know that there are about 24–81 million cases of foodborne diseases each year in the United States alone?

These cases cost a whopping $5–$17 billion to treat every year. That doesn’t even factor in the cost of lost productivity.

About 90% of these food poisoning cases are caused by the following forms of bacteria:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Salmonella
  • Campylobacter
  • Vibrio parahaemolyticus
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Entero-pathogenic Escherichia coli
  • Bacillus cereus

These are all of the bacteria that may develop in your steak if you let it sit too long before cooking it.

However, the good news is that these foodborne diseases can easily be avoided if we take the proper precautions to keep our meats safe to eat.

Related >> How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

Final Thoughts on Steak Safety

To recap, cooked steak may safely stay in your fridge for three to four days, but past this point, it should go in the trash.

Raw steak will also go bad if it spends more than five days in your fridge.

However, when frozen, its timeframe will be significantly lengthened, reaching up to 12 months depending on packaging and storage conditions.

If you’re careful to keep these timelines in mind, you’ll never have to run to the hospital with a case of foodborne disease.

As a general rule, think of the four steps to food safety as defined by the USDA: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Taking these basic safety measures will reduce your chances of catching foodborne illnesses and spoiling good food.

Learned a lot in this article? That’s great!

We want to make sure that everyone is handling their food safely to lessen cases of preventable food poisoning.

We know how much we love our own steaks, and we want you to be able to enjoy them without fear or illness. We encourage everyone to eat with care so you can responsibly handle your own health and that of others.

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Shawn Hill

Shawn Hill

Hey, I’m Shawn and I run this site. With a wife and 7 kids, I get most of my grilling practice from feeding my own family.

I’m here to help you learn more about grilling, smoking, and backyard BBQ! With almost a decade of manning the grill and helping over 25,000 aspiring grill masters, you’re in great hands!

I’ve tried just about every type of grill, accessory, and gadget you can imagine. Because of that, I am here to help guide you to the best of the best and help you save time and money by avoiding the junk.

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