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!
NOTE: This article was reviewed by Melissa Macher, Registered Dietician and Food Scientist for safety and accuracy.
Having a grilling group for several years with more than 26,000 members, I’ve seen many cases of food poisoning caused by spoiled meat and steaks.
It’s important to keep track of how long steaks have been in our fridges. We need to know if they’re cooked and how to package them properly.
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How Long Does Steak Last In The Fridge?
Steak can last for about 3-5 days in the fridge.
This timeframe depends on the temperature of the fridge, how it’s packaged, and a few other key factors.
We’ll explore this and a few other relevant factors below so you can better determine the lasting time of your favorite protein.
Read More >> How to Defrost Steak
Why Doesn’t Steak Last Very Long?
Let’s explore why steak doesn’t last long in the fridge and why it matters if it has been cooked or not.
- Raw steak
- Cooked steak
- The danger zone
How Long Does Steak Last in the Fridge: 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 airtight.
This is the standard packaging for steaks in many delis and butcher shops, so we can’t do much about that. 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 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.
How Long Does Steak Last in the Fridge: Cooked Steak
If you cook it within the proper time period, leftover cooked steak still has a narrow window of safe eating time. Oxygen exposure can still hasten the growth of bacteria.
For cooked steak, this is about three or four days in the fridge.
How Long Does Steak Last in the Fridge: How to Tell if You Hit the Danger Zone
Did you know that temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit are considered the danger zone for bacteria growth per the 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 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 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. Then there’s the slaughtering process where the meat can get more contaminated.
In short, nothing’s really stopping this bacteria growth in raw meat unless it is 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 more time before it can go bad even when left unrefrigerated or frozen. But, the window until it goes bad is not that large so it’s still important to handle it properly or risk getting foodborne illnesses.
Read More >> How To Reheat Steak Safely
How to Keep Steak Safely Refrigerated
To maximize the amount of time you can keep steak good, don’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, which allows them to grow. Most organisms need oxygen to live, including us, and most bacteria do so too.
Read More >> How To Smoke Steak
How Long Does Steak Last in the Freezer?
To extend the storage life of steaks, you can consider freezing them. Once you store steaks in the freezer you will extend their storage life significantly.
If you freeze your steak it will last between 4-12 months, which is much longer than the 3 to 5 days it will last in the fridge.
How to Freeze Steak
First, I only recommend doing this with raw, or fresh, steak.
Before storing your raw steaks in the freezer, wrap them very securely in food-grade plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil. With the proper packaging, your steaks can last for a very long time.
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?
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 if it is not wrapped extremely securely. However, frozen cooked 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 Is 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
- 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.
How Long Does Steak Last in the Fridge FAQs
What Does Bad Steak Smell Like?
Bad steak will have a rotten or ammonia-like smell. There typically is no mistaking whether or not it has gone bad if you take a whiff of a suspicious steak.
Is Brown Meat in the Fridge Bad?
If your steak has turned brown in the fridge, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it has gone bad. Sometimes meat turns brown due to an oxidation process. You’ll want to smell the brown steak as well as feel it to see if it has any other signs of going bad. If it doesn’t, it’s likely safe to eat!
How Can I Make My Steak Last Longer?
The best way to prolong the life of your steak is by putting it in an airtight container and placing it in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home from the store. If your steak has already been cooked, place it in an airtight container and store it within 2 hours of cooking it (after it has had a chance to cool).
Is It Okay to Eat Steak That Has Turned Grey?
Sometimes, steak turns gray during the oxidation process. In order to discern whether or not your steak is safe to eat, check to see if it has an unpleasant scent or slimy texture. Also, check the expiration date. If it shows no other signs of being bad other than the discoloration, it is likely safe to cook and consume.
Can Raw Steak Go Bad in the Fridge?
Yes. The USDA advises steak will generally last 3 to 5 days in the fridge. If you are not going to use it in that timeframe, you will be better off freezing your raw steaks.
People also ask if you can keep uncooked steak in the fridge for 7 days and some want to know if steak in the fridge for 10 days is OK. The answer to both of these questions is a resounding “No!” Follow USDA guidelines and only keep in the fridge up to 5 days, but preferably 3 days.
Final Thoughts on How to Store Steaks
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 keep these timelines in mind, you’ll never have to run to the hospital with a foodborne illness.
If you want to learn more about grilling, check out these other helpful resources!