How Long Can Beef Sit in the Fridge? Safe Storage Times for Beef

Knowing how long beef can safely sit in the fridge is important for avoiding foodborne illness and reducing food waste. Beef’s shelf life depends on a few key factors, so understanding proper storage times and techniques helps ensure your meat stays fresh until you’re ready to cook it.

Below we’ll cover everything you need to know about fridge storage times for different cuts and types of beef.

Overview of Beef Shelf Life in the Fridge

In general, raw beef can be kept refrigerated for:

  • Ground Beef – 1 to 2 days
  • Steaks – 3 to 5 days
  • Roasts – 3 to 5 days

These timeframes assume the beef is stored properly at 40°F or below. The clock starts ticking from the purchase date or for beef cut at home, from when it was cut and packaged.

Freezing extends shelf life significantly. Raw beef lasts in the freezer for:

  • Ground Beef – 3 to 4 months
  • Steaks and Roasts – 4 to 12 months

For cooked beef, maximum fridge times are:

  • 3 to 4 days for leftovers like cooked roast, steak, or other beef dishes

Now let’s take a more detailed look at how long different forms of raw beef last in the fridge.

Fresh Steaks and Roasts

  • Steaks – When stored sealed in the fridge, fresh beef steaks maintain best quality for 3 to 5 days after purchase. Ribeyes, strip steaks, filet mignon, t-bones, and other premium steak cuts last 3 to 5 days.

  • Roasts – Beef roasts also keep for 3 to 5 days when refrigerated properly. This applies to any boneless roast like top round, chuck, rump roast, eye of round, etc.

  • Bone-in cuts – Leaving the bone in can slightly shorten fridge life. Plan to cook or freeze bone-in rib roasts and T-bone steaks within 3 to 4 days.

Portion beef steaks and roasts into smaller pieces or servings to maximize how long they last fridge. And use within 2 days if beef was purchased pre-cut instead of cut and packaged at home.

Ground Beef & Beef By-Products

  • Ground Beef – Ground beef has a shorter shelf life because grinding exposes more surface area to air and potential bacteria growth. Use ground beef within 1 to 2 days of purchase when kept sealed in the fridge.

  • Organ meats – Variety meats like liver, kidneys, brains, sweetbreads, tripe, tongue, etc also spoil faster. Use within 1 to 2 days.

  • Beef by-products – Processed beef items have shorter maximum storage. Use sausage, hot dogs and deli meats within 1 week. Opened packages have an even shorter 3 to 5 day fridge life.

Always check expiration or use by dates and follow the recommended storage times for processed beef products. They tend to have higher salt and preservative content to extend shelf life compared to fresh beef cuts.

Cooked Beef Leftovers

  • Cooked beef leftovers last 3 to 4 days when properly stored in airtight containers in the fridge.

  • Dishes like pot roast, steak, meatballs, chili, stew and casseroles stay fresh for 3 to 4 days.

  • Cooked ground beef has a slightly shorter fridge life of just 2 to 3 days.

sliced deli meat also lasts only 3 to 5 days after opening.

No matter what form of cooked beef, make sure to reheat it fully to 165°F before eating leftovers to kill any bacteria that may develop during storage.

What Affects Beef Shelf Life?

There are a few main factors that influence how long beef lasts in the fridge:

1. Temperature

  • Fridge temperature should stay at 40°F or below. Higher temps shorten shelf life.

2. Exposure to air

  • Oxygen allows bacteria growth. Keep beef sealed in packaging or airtight containers.

3. Handling

  • Bacteria transfer from hands to beef reduces shelf life. Avoid cross-contamination.

4. Surface area

  • Ground beef spoils faster than whole cuts due to more surface area exposed to air.

5. Quality level

  • Higher grades like Prime or Choice last slightly longer than Select due to extra marbling.

6. Preservatives

  • Processed deli meat contains sodium and nitrites to prevent bacteria growth.

Follow proper cold food storage guidelines and times to keep beef fresh for as long as possible.

How to Store Beef in the Fridge

Use these tips for maximizing fridge shelf life of beef:

  • Chill beef to 40°F as fast as possible and keep the fridge temperature consistently cold. Use a thermometer to monitor.

  • Separate beef from other foods in the fridge to prevent cross-contamination. Place on plates or shallow containers on lower shelves.

  • Keep beef in original airtight vacuum sealed packaging as long as possible. Rewrap store packaging in plastic wrap or foil for an extra layer if needed.

  • Once opened, repackage beef in airtight containers or freezer bags pressed flat to remove air.

  • Don’t overcrowd beef – allow space between packages for cold air circulation.

  • Use fresh beef within a few days and cooked leftovers within 3 to 4 days. Freeze any you won’t use in time.

When Beef is No Longer Safe

It’s important to watch for signs that beef has gone bad in the fridge. Do not eat meat that shows the following signs:

  • Slimy texture and wet or sticky surface
  • Dull, fading color
  • Rancid or sour smell
  • Mold growth
  • Slimy or tacky feel

Discard beef immediately if it has a bad odor, sticky residue, or any mold. Likewise if the color looks brown or gray rather than bright red.

When stored properly in the refrigerator, most raw beef cuts stay fresh for 3 to 5 days. Ground beef, organ meats and processed beef have a shorter fridge shelf life around 1 to 2 days. And cooked beef leftovers keep for 3 to 4 days refrigerated. Monitor temperature, exposure to air, quality level, and all storage best practices to help your beef last as long as possible.

Ask the Test Kitchen: How Long Will Meat Last in the Fridge?


How long is uncooked beef good in the fridge?

Refrigerator [40°F (4°C) or below]
Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and pork
3 to 5 days
3 to 5 days
3 to 5 days
Fresh, uncured, uncooked
3 to 5 days

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