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How Long Can Steak Stay in the Fridge?

Posted in Food Safety on August 30, 2022

Larger cuts of meat, such as steak, can be safely stored in the fridge for three to five days. Past that, it should typically either be cooked or placed in the freezer, but it will depend on how it is stored.

Raw Steak Expiration Dates

Type of Wrap Potential Freshness 
Butcher Paper 3 to 5 days
Plastic Wrap (including how it typically comes from the grocery store in a styrofoam tray/cellophane combo) 3 to 5 days
Vacuum Sealed  From 5 to 7 days (or “best before” date)

What Do the Sell by and Use by Date Mean?

The “Sell-by” date is strictly for the retailer. It is there to help them manage their inventory and move out older products. A product past its “Sell-by” date is not necessarily unsafe to consume. For example, packaged steak is typically good three to five days after the sell-by date. The “Use-by” date is not for safety either. Instead, it is the estimated period at which the product is at its peak quality; past that date, it can degrade, affecting the flavor, texture, and other characteristics. Therefore, a steak past the “use-by” date may be perfectly safe to cook and eat, but it may not taste as good. However, always look for signs of it being spoiled before cooking.

How Should Steak Be Stored?


  • Here is how to store steak to maximize its quality and shelf life:
  • Refrigerate it within two hours of buying or cooking.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is between 34° and 40°F.
  • Store it on the lowermost shelf or in its own drawer.
  • Put a plate underneath – especially when thawing – to collect run-off juices.
  • Clean your fridge regularly.


  • Remove the meat from the grocery store packaging and re-wrap it using butcher’s paper and tape, a freezer bag, or a vacuum sealer.
  • If freezing your meats without a vacuum sealer, eliminate as much air as possible.
  • The faster you freeze steak, the less chance of ice crystal build up. Use a quick-freezing shelf if you have one, or place ice packs or already frozen items directly on the wrapped meat to freeze it more quickly.

The safest methods for thawing steak is in the fridge or cold water. Thawing at room temperature can be extremely dangerous and invite bacteria growth. Once thawed, the steak should be used within three to five days.

How to Tell If Steak Has Gone Bad?

Here are several signs to look out for when checking if steak is spoiled:

The Texture

Bad steak will look and feel slimy or sticky, which means it is days away from molding. Alternatively, if the steak looks dry, shriveled, or dehydrated, it may not necessarily be unsafe, but its flavor and quality will have changed.

Change in Color

If the meat begins looking yellow or green, it is best to toss it. However, it is normal for steak to turn brown when exposed to oxygen; it does not mean it is rotten.

Unpleasant Smell

An easy way to detect bad steak is an off-putting smell. If there is a strong odor of ammonia or a sour smell, throw it out.

Signs of Mold

Some steaks might not feel slimy, but they will have a strange color or growth. Mold is an indication that fresh meat has absorbed bacteria and is no longer safe to eat.

When you eat bad steak, there is a risk of being exposed to dangerous bacteria that can cause food poisoning. If you believe another party was responsible for selling contaminated steak, you may be able to recover financial compensation. Contact an experienced food safety attorney to explore your legal options.