Chances are you’ve looked in your fridge at some steaks and found yourself wondering how long is steak good for in the fridge. Whether that’s extra steaks that you found a deal on or extra steaks on the grill, you don’t want it ruined.
The United States Department of Agriculture answered the question of how long is raw steak good in the fridge for you. It recommends keeping it in the fridge for no more than five days. If you’ve wondered how long is cooked steak good in the fridge, the USDA says you can keep it in the fridge for up to four days.
What factors may lead to your steak spoiling in the fridge? We will take a look at how long you can keep raw steaks in the fridge, why cooked steak has an even shorter time frame in the fridge, and what you can do to make the steaks last. Let’s take a peek in that fridge!
How Long Can Raw Steak Stay In The Fridge?
Perhaps the better question is why does the USDA recommend that raw steaks should be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days? Even though fridges almost exclusively run below what is known as the ‘Danger Zone’ of 40°-140°F, that does not eliminate the presence of bacteria that can cause spoiling.
The better the packaging is in terms of air-tightness, the longer in that range you can keep your raw steak in the fridge. More exposure to oxygen can accelerate the spoiling of steak, so a tightly wrapped or vacuum-sealed steak should be able to stay in the fridge for up to five days.
Conversely, a loosely wrapped or unpackaged raw steak will be exposed to more oxygen. Even though the fridge will keep the steak cold and help deter bacteria growth, the barely-wrapped raw steak will still spoil quicker.
How Long Does Cooked Steak Last In The Fridge?
It may be hard to believe, but there are occasions when there is leftover steak. The last thing you want to have happen when you open that fridge door is to discover that beautifully grilled or seared steak has gone bad. The USDA guidelines state that 3-4 days is the proper time frame for being able to enjoy your cooked steak.
So why is the range just a little shorter for cooked steak vs raw steak? There could be a few good reasons.
The Cooling Process After Cooking
We referenced the ‘Danger Zone’ earlier, and cooked steak that gets put in the fridge can spend a good amount of time in that 40°-140°F range. While it will eventually get under that zone in the fridge, the steak can have bacteria multiplying rapidly during the cooldown process. To help minimize the risks, you want to cool down the steak as rapidly as possible while limiting oxygen exposure.
Wrapping The Steak
Whether you purchased directly from a butcher who wrapped the meat in butcher paper or you bought shrink-wrapped or even a vacuum-sealed package, your raw steak is already wrapped to protect it from air exposure.
Your cooked steak has none of that. You can’t pull the steak off the grill and immediately wrap it. You have to wait for it to cool down before you can properly store it. You could conceivably vacuum seal the steak, but if you’re going to eat it within a couple of days, you don’t want to go through that hassle.
How Can I Prolong The Life Of My Steak?
Maybe you found a great deal on some steak at the store and aren’t going to cook it within the 3-5 day range for raw steak in the fridge laid out by the USDA. Maybe you had some last-minute dinner cancellations and have a lot of unexpected steak leftovers that won’t be eaten before four days elapse.
Regardless of the reasons, you’ve found yourself in a situation where there’s extra steak that won’t be cooked or consumed before the recommended time. So how do you prevent all that steak from going bad?
How To Properly Package And Freeze Steak
Freezing steak is a great way to keep it for an extended time without worrying about spoiling. Whether your steak is raw or cooked, you need to wrap it tightly. A loose wrapping can result in freezer burn which occurs when cold, dry air comes in contact directly with the surface of the meat. It can produce ice crystals on the surface of the meat and likely ruin the texture.
If you’ve kept your raw steak in good packaging, you can put it right into the freezer. However, if your steak is in a container with a thin film, it could be punctured and lead to the meat getting freezer burned. If you’ve got a large enough freezer bag, you can put the package directly into it and then into the freezer. Double layers are a key component of proper packaging for freezing.
Conversely, you can break down the package and wrap the steaks individually. Whether you have raw or cooked steak, you can freeze them individually the same way. You want to have two layers to help keep the moisture out and prevent any tears or punctures as best as possible. That can be a layer of plastic wrap then aluminum foil or vice versa, or a layer of plastic wrap or foil and then put into a freezer bag.
If you have access to a vacuum sealer, sealing the steaks first and then placing them in a freezer bag is one of the best ways to preserve steaks in the freezer.
How Do You Tell If Steak Has Gone Bad?
You can try your best to make sure you use or freeze your steaks in plenty of time, but we all know life happens. Something may have come up and the steaks got pushed to the back of the fridge. Regardless of why it happened, you want to make sure you’re able to identify if your steak has gone bad.
We’ll quickly cover some of the easiest ways to tell if the steak has spoiled and why its color isn’t necessarily the best way to judge if a steak has gone bad.
It Smells Like Ammonia Or Spoiled Eggs
One of the easiest ways to tell if your steak has spoiled is by smelling it. This works a lot better with raw steak than cooked, so keep that in mind. If you unwrap the steak or open the package and you get hit with a waft of ammonia or the smell of rotten eggs, throw that steak out regardless of how long it’s been in the fridge. This odor is similar to most meat types including pork and chicken.
It Feels Slimy
Another easy way to tell if a steak is going bad is if it feels slimy when you touch it. The slimy texture is a byproduct of bacteria reproducing on the surface of the meat. Meat that is retaining its moisture properly won’t feel slippery like slimy meat feels.
Why Color Of A Steak Isn’t The Greatest Way To Judge If It’s Spoiled
Your first thought when you open the fridge and see a steak that’s gone gray rather than that deep red, might be that the steak has gone bad. That is not necessarily the case. If your steak isn’t in a vacuum-sealed package, it simply could be a sign that oxygen has gotten to the meat and caused it to turn colors.
If you encounter a gray steak, check to see how it smells and feels. If it still smells and feels fine, you should be good to cook it. If you do smell any odd odors or it feels off, get rid of it.
For more information on how to determine if your steak has gone bad, check out our article that provides a full breakdown!
It’s important to make sure you can answer the question of how long steak is good in the fridge. It can save you the heartache of seeing steaks gone bad. It can even keep you safe from food poisoning due to eating a spoiled steak.
Remembering that a raw steak lasts three to five days in your fridge while a cooked steak lasts three to four days is important. Also knowing how to identify when a steak has gone bad is important, too.
What’s your preferred way to preserve your steaks? Do you even have that problem or do you have a hard time not grilling those steaks immediately? Let us know in the comments!