How Long Does Beef Last? A Guide to Maximizing Freshness

Beef is one of the most popular meats worldwide thanks to its hearty flavor and versatility. But with raw beef’s limited shelf life, a common question is how long beef lasts safely in the fridge or freezer. Knowing the right storage times can help you avoid wasting this premium protein.

In this article, we’ll cover how long different cuts and types of beef stay fresh, plus tips to maximize beef’s shelf life.

How Long Does Raw Beef Last Refrigerated?

Raw beef stored correctly in the refrigerator maintains quality and safety for use within these time limits:

  • Steaks, chops, roasts – 3 to 5 days
  • Ground beef – 1 to 2 days

The window for steaks, chops, and roasts is longer because whole cuts have less surface area exposed to bacteria. Ground beef has more surface area exposed to air, raising spoilage risk.

Guide to Refrigeration Times for Different Raw Beef Cuts

Use this chart to determine the approximate fridge life of different raw beef products:

Beef Type Refrigerator Life
Steaks 3 to 5 days
Chops 3 to 5 days
Roasts 3 to 5 days
Ground beef 1 to 2 days
Organ meats (liver, kidneys, etc.) 1 to 2 days
Beef carcasses 3 to 5 days
Marinated beef 1 day

Once cooked, leftovers like pot roasts or meatloaf keep 3 to 4 days refrigerated.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Beef?

Consuming spoiled raw beef poses health risks from bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. Symptoms include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and chills. Cook beef thoroughly to 165°F internal temperature to kill harmful germs.

For cooked beef, mold growth, off-flavors, and texture changes are the main signs of spoilage. Eating it could cause upset stomach but generally not food poisoning.

Trust your senses – if beef smells, tastes, or looks off, play it safe and discard it.

Tips to Extend Raw Beef’s Fridge Life

Proper storage is key for maximizing beef’s longevity and fresh taste. Follow these best practices:

  • Store beef in the coldest part of the fridge, ideally at 40°F or below. Keep packages on a plate to catch leaks.

  • Wrap beef tightly in plastic wrap or waxed paper to prevent air exposure and freezer burn.

  • Use ground beef within 2 days for best quality. Freeze extra ground beef if you won’t use within this window.

  • Marinate beef in the fridge, not on the counter. Marinade penetration is faster chilled. Discard used marinade.

  • Monitor fridge temperature with a thermometer. Adjust to maintain an ideal 34-40°F cold zone.

Following the recommended fridge life for beef cuts ensures you safely enjoy the highest quality meat before it spoils.

How Long Does Beef Last Frozen?

Freezing is the best way to prolong beef’s shelf life if you can’t use it within optimal fridge times. These freezing durations maintain premium flavor and texture:

  • Steaks, roasts – 6 to 12 months
  • Ground beef – 3 to 4 months
  • Organ meats – 3 to 4 months

Beef keeps indefinitely frozen but may suffer some quality loss after these times. Use freezer wrap and an airtight container.

Safe Thawing Guidelines

Always thaw beef properly in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. Here are some thawing timelines to follow:

  • Steaks – 24 hours
  • Roasts – 48 hours
  • Ground beef – 24 hours

For faster thawing, seal beef in a plastic bag and submerge in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after thawing.

How to Tell If Thawed Beef Has Spoiled

Check for these signs that previously frozen beef has gone bad:

  • Odd or sour aroma
  • Slime or stickiness
  • Unusual dull or brownish color
  • Dry, mushy texture

Any thawed beef exhibiting spoilage markers should be discarded. Do not taste questionable thawed meat.

Get the Most Out of Your Beef

With proper refrigeration and freezing, you can enjoy fresh, high-quality beef for maximum longevity. Follow the recommended storage times for different cuts. Monitor fridge temperature, wrap beef tightly, and don’t thaw on the counter.

Knowing exactly how long beef stays fresh can help you reduce waste and safely enjoy this tasty protein to the last morsel. Just remember – when in doubt, throw it out. Bon appétit!

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


Is beef good after 5 days in fridge?

For raw ground meats, poultry, seafood and variety meats (liver, tongue, chitterlings, etc.), refrigerate them only 1 to 2 days before either cooking or freezing. Beef, veal, lamb and pork roasts, steaks and chops may be kept 3 to 5 days.

What is the lifespan of beef?

For best quality, use steaks and roasts within 9 to 12 months and ground beef within 3 to 4 months. If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.

How long can ground beef stay in fridge?

It is safe to store ground beef in the refrigerator for 1–2 days, and eat leftovers within 4 days. A person can store ground beef in the freezer for up to 4 months. When cooking ground beef, the minimum internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer is 160°F (71°C).

Is meat still good after 2 years in freezer?

Food that is stored in a freezer at zero degrees will be safe to eat indefinitely. However, if meat is frozen too long it may lose quality and taste. If you are unsure if meat is still fresh, you can determine this once it has been thawed.

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