Steak is a delicious and hearty meal, and it can also be a big part of your food budget. Cooking too much steak at once can lead to wasting the leftovers, so it’s always good to know how long steak will last in the fridge.

This article will tell you exactly what to do with your leftover steak, so you don’t get stuck with an expensive mistake.

When people ask how long steak is good for in the fridge, they usually mean raw steak, but you should be aware of the diverse shelf lives of steak in its many forms.

Let’s get into it

How long can I keep cooked steak in the refrigerator?

Cooked steak can be stored in a refrigerator at temperatures lower than 40°F for 3 to 4 days, according to the USDA.

While keeping your steak leftovers out of the temperature danger zone slows bacteria growth, it does not halt it. After 3 to 4 days, enough germs will have grown on your meat to put you at risk of contracting a foodborne illness if you consume it.

You can increase the period that cooked beef can be stored by freezing it.

Frozen steak leftovers can be kept for up to three months without deteriorating the meat’s flavor and can be kept indefinitely if kept below 0°F. However, they will dry out with time.

To minimize freezer burn and to dry up your steak leftovers, carefully wrap each piece in freezer paper, heavy-duty aluminum foil, or plastic wrap. Then store in an airtight jar with a lid.

How long does raw steak last in the refrigerator?

So, what if you put the raw steak in the fridge and plan to cook it when the time comes? How long will that steak last, and how does it compare to cooked steak?

When it comes to raw steak in the fridge, you have more time to work with than when it comes to cooked steak. Even though germs enjoy some types of raw meat, raw steak is less prone to bacterial illness.

Raw steak should be cooked within five days of being purchased, according to USDA guidelines.

Raw meats may change color when they become bad, so check for that telltale sign that you should avoid them.

The five-day grace period for raw steak is entirely dependent on how it was stored. If you’re wondering how long raw steak may be stored in the fridge, you should consider the temperature and if it’s kept in airtight packaging.

When the raw steak is firmly packed and kept very cold, it will survive much longer. Germs dislike extremely cold temperatures, but the closer you get to room temperature, the simpler bacteria may live and spread.

How long can you keep the steak defrosted?

We already said frozen goods have a substantially longer shelf life than refrigerated items. Even if you put a frozen steak in the fridge, this is true.

Of course, the steak will gradually reheat and become the same temperature as the fridge and the other meals around it so that it won’t stay frozen there.

If you take it frozen from the freezer and store it in the fridge, you will have more time to leave it before cooking the steak.

This is a fantastic technique for defrosting the steak before cooking it, and you won’t have to worry about leaving it out of the fridge and forgetting about it.

Some people like to take their frozen meat out of the freezer and place it on their kitchen countertops to quickly thaw. They’d normally put it in a basin to collect the moisture instead of letting it run all over the counter.

The difficulty with the strategy is that individuals occasionally forget about their steak and become preoccupied with something else. When they recollect and return to the meat, it is too late- it has been ruined.

So, how long can you keep defrosted steak in the fridge?

To address that question, we must first evaluate how long it takes the steak to defrost. A regular steak will take one to two days to completely thaw and reach the temperature of the rest of the food in the fridge.

After that, you’ll have three to five days to cook the steak before it spoils. If you leave it in there for too long, it will spoil, and you will be unable to consume it.

How long can you keep steak after the sell-by date?

Your concerns may extend beyond simply wondering how long cooked steak keeps in the fridge. If you look at the steak’s packaging, you’ll notice a sell-by date.

If you’re wondering if it’s still safe to consume after that, the quick answer is yes.

The sell-by date just implies that it must be delivered to your refrigerator by that time, after which it will be fine for another 3-5 days, just as if you had placed it there straight from the butcher. You don’t have to worry about the steak spoiling once it’s past its sell-by date.

In addition to that, you may observe the expiration date. Now, you’ll need to pay extra attention to that one because it tells you when the food is no longer edible, but keep in mind that this is only an estimate.

You should still inspect the food yourself using a sniff or eye test, and then follow the USDA’s recommended timeframes. It’s fine to consume expired steak if it hasn’t been in your fridge for more than five days and still smells and looks good.

How do freezers prevent the steak from turning bad?

Freezers maintain the freshness and quality of meat by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and delaying enzyme activity. Because the water bacteria require to survive is frozen, further progress is hampered.

One of the numerous advantages of freezing steaks is that they retain all of their nutrients, unlike vegetables. The freezing method does not affect vitamins or minerals found in steaks.

What is freezer burn, and how can it be avoided?

steak freeze burn

While freezing your steak appears to be the ideal option for preserving its quality and freshness, you must know how to preserve it to avoid freezer burn.

Freezer burn occurs when the liquid in the meat’s exterior layer evaporates, resulting in a dry steak. If your steak has been impacted by freezer burn, it will turn white-brownish in color.

Freezer burn is not hazardous and will not cause foodborne illness, but it may affect the taste, so remove it before cooking.

When food goes bad, what happens? Generally speaking

Food that is no longer safe to eat may have degraded into harmful components and no longer resembles edible food. It will, however, begin to smell long before it reaches that level.

When it comes to rotten food, you may be able to smell the problem before seeing it.

What’s causing this is microscopic bacteria, and all of our food contains bacteria. Small numbers of germs may not be hazardous to you, and your body should be able to handle them just fine.

However, if the germs begin to multiply, the food might become severely polluted.

Because bacteria are living organisms, and different varieties of bacteria eat food, this is an unavoidable process.

As a result, the longer the food sits in the fridge, the more rotten it becomes as more bacteria grow on it.

The refrigerator keeps some bacteria out and may inhibit certain bacterial growth. That is why food spoils faster if the container in which it is stored is left open or if the food is just left out on the counter.

In those cases, there is nothing to stop the proliferation of bacteria.

This is also why food keeps longer in the freezer. Bacteria have a difficult time surviving in freezing temperatures; also, the freezer is airtight and does not allow any new bacteria to enter.

Your food may be able to stay fresh in there for months or even years.

How to tell if your steak is bad: 

Raw beef on a butcher shop shelf

The use-by date is over

This may seem apparent, but many individuals are unaware of the distinction between a sell-by and a use-by date. What if you placed the steak in the freezer? Those dates are no longer valid.

The grocery store or local butcher must abide by the sell-by date. If a steak has a sell-by date of May 13th, the merchant must sell it by that date to give the buyer enough time to use it.

After that date, the steak should be OK to eat for a few days. If the use-by date on the steak is May 16th, you must cook or freeze it by that date. There’s a significant risk it’ll spoil after that date.

If you wish to freeze your steak before its expiration date, make sure you allow enough time for it to thaw and still be safe to consume. With a use-by date of May 16th, you should freeze your steak by May 14th.

This gives you a two-day window to thaw the steak (most only take approximately 24 hours, but some thick cuts may require closer to 48 hours) before it spoils according to its original use-by date.

You have no idea how long it has been.

You’ve had it in your refrigerator for…

It’s a good idea to write a date on the steak when you thaw it or put it in the fridge, so you don’t forget about it and keep it for too long. If the grocer or butcher didn’t place one on there for you, get in the habit of writing your own.

Most steaks can be securely stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. If you can’t recall how long it’s been in the fridge, it’s probably been there for too long!

It has a slimy appearance or feels slimy to the touch.

A sticky surface film you can see or feel on a piece of steak is a tell-tale indicator of rotten meat or spoilage. It will be clear or yellowish, but it will give the steak a shinier appearance than usual.

When you run your fingers over it, it will feel slick or sticky. A few days before it starts to mildew, the bad steak will normally get this slimy layer.

Mold, of course, is a sure sign that your once-fresh steak has become contaminated with hazardous bacteria and is no longer fit to consume.

If you don’t notice a film on your steak, but it has an unusual color, such as more brown, yellow, or green than the brilliant, purplish red meat color it should have, you may have ruined beef.

Even if you just see a few patches of discoloration rather than the entire steak slab, spots of unusual color are still a warning indicator that you should avoid eating it. A rotting cut of steak will begin to resemble tuna steak, which is not the dinner you’re looking for.

It has an unpleasant odor.

Raw steak doesn’t always smell the best, but you can usually tell the difference between a fine, fresh steak and a rotten steak merely by using your nose.

A ruined steak has a strong stench that no longer smells like raw steak but rather has an ammonia-like aroma. You’ll recognize the stench when you smell it, and it’s a dead giveaway that you shouldn’t eat it!

It’s also worth noting that your nose may not be the ideal tool to employ. Dry-aged steak can have a similar stench since the dry aging process creates lactic acid, which is unpleasant in and of itself.

If you’re not sure if your nose is playing tricks on you, try a couple of our other “how to tell if a steak is rotten” advice.

No juice and dry.

Another way to detect if a steak is rotten is to look at its general appearance. Is it looking or feeling dry to the touch? Did you take your frozen meat out of the freezer to thaw, and all of the juices leaked into the bag?

Although a dry, juiceless texture does not necessarily indicate that your steaks are terrible, it can certainly interfere with the flavor and texture of the finished product. You’ll probably wind up with a hockey puck-like steak unless your steak has a lot of marbling to provide it tenderizing fat and moisture content.

To avoid this, secure your frozen steaks by wrapping them in a vacuum-sealed package before placing them in the freezer.

You’ll seal in the juices required to keep their natural moisture and even avoid exposing them to microorganisms that can cause premature decomposition, mildew, and nasty aromas and tastes. Simply performing this easy step will result in a higher quality steak dish.

What should I do if my steak is spoiled?

So you Googled how long a steak is good in the fridge and got an answer that informs you your steak is spoilt. What are you going to do with that food now that it’s no longer edible to you? You might be tempted to feed it to your dog, but is this a good idea?

No, you should not feed rotting meat to your dog or cat. While your pets are likely to handle the meal better than you and are less likely to get food poisoning, the food can still be detrimental to them.

It can induce indigestion, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.

Your dog’s stomach is more acidic than yours, so it can handle the ruined food more easily and with fewer consequences, but it’s still not a good idea.

You want to get rid of any damaged meat securely. It should be firmly packaged and disposed of with household rubbish. If you keep it unprotected, it will attract maggots and pose a health risk.

What is the best way to keep cooked steak safe?

We’ve already discussed the temperature danger zone and how leaving meat between 40°F and 140°F gives the best circumstances for bacterial growth.

The key to preserving your steak securely is to bring it below 40°F as soon as possible.

Ideally, this would be immediately after cooking, but since that isn’t always possible, make sure your leftovers are properly wrapped and refrigerated below 40°F within two hours of cooking.

Use the appropriate packaging.

When preserving the quality of your leftovers, you must pay close attention to how you store them. You don’t want the meat to dry out, and using proper packaging will keep your steak juicier for a longer period.

A vacuum sealer is the best way to treat your steak leftovers for storage. These relatively inexpensive devices are an excellent method to keep food fresher for extended periods of time, prevent leftovers from drying out, and minimize freezer burn.

Foodsaver V4400 2-in-1 Vacuum Sealer Machine

If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, wrap your steak in freezer paper instead. This thick, plastic-coated paper helps seal in moisture and keeps your leftovers from drying out in the arid climate of your refrigerator.

Heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap can be substituted with freezer paper, although they are less effective in preventing moisture loss.

Wrap each piece of steak in a thin coating of freezer paper before placing all of the smaller parcels in a ziplock freezer bag. Before sealing the freezer bag, try to push out as much air as possible.

Store your carefully wrapped steak leftovers on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to prevent any released fluids from contaminating other meals.

What is the best way to reheat leftover steak?

Juicy ribeye beef steak with perfect grill marks topped with Rosemary sprig and melted butter

While a good rapid sear is a key to keeping your steak juicy the first time you cook it, the converse is true when it comes to reheating it the next day.

Your reheated ribeye has turned into old boot leather because all of the moisture has been sucked out of it, either by incorrect storage or by heating it too rapidly.

The good news is that there are two ways to reheat steak leftovers that will keep all of the moisture sealed in and taste just as fantastic as they did when they were first prepared.

In the oven.

The key to keeping steak juicy when reheating it is to carefully bring it up to temperature, and cooking it in the oven is the most convenient way to do that.

  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place your steaks on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
  • Wrap your steaks with aluminum foil to help keep the moisture in.
  • Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the steaks reach 140°F, bringing them out of the danger zone.
  • Allow your steak to rest for a few minutes while you melt butter in a skillet over high heat.
  • To restore the crisp crust on your leftover steaks, sear them for 30 seconds to a minute on each side.

Use a sous vide to reheat the steak.

If you have a sous vide machine, you can reheat steak without losing its moisture much more easily. All you have to do is seal your leftovers (which you should have done before storing them), set your sous to vide to 140°F, and place your steak leftovers in the water.

Using sous vide takes somewhat longer than an oven, with the meat requiring about one hour to reach temperature. However, because your steak cannot be overcooked in the sous vide and no moisture can escape, you can leave it in the water for up to four hours.

Once your steak leftovers have reached room temperature, gently sear them in a little butter, as described above, to restore the crispy exterior.

On the stovetop

If you want to reheat tender steaks, you can do so on the stove. This approach evenly heats your leftover steak and is the greatest way to keep the meat’s juices and moisture.

To reheat a steak on the stove, do the following:

  • Allow it to thaw until it reaches room temperature (about an hour)
  • Get a heat-resistant plastic bag that contains no chemicals or harmful components.
  • Seal the bag with the steak inside.
  • Place the bag in a pot of water and heat to a low temperature (no more than 140°F).

Keep the bag in the pot until the steak is cooked through. Depending on the thickness of the steak, the process normally takes 8-10 minutes.

When you’re finished, turn off the heat and enjoy your meal.

Conclusion

The key to storing your steak leftovers, as with most food safety, is to pay attention to timings and temperatures. Cooked beef can be kept at temperatures below 40°F for 3-4 days.

Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API