Like most meat products, brisket may be marked with a “sell by” date. What does this mean, and is it safe to cook the meat after that date has passed? Our guide is here to fill you in on the answers.
How Long Is Brisket Good After Sell By Date?
The “sell by” date doesn’t necessarily indicate freshness. Rather, it’s there to remind the retailers how long a product should be displayed for sale. In general, though, you should have 3 to 5 days after the “sell by” date before the quality of the brisket begins to deteriorate.
What Does The “Sell By” Date Mean?
You might be surprised to learn that this type of food product dating isn’t required by federal law, except when applied to baby formula.
“Sell by” and “best by” dates don’t relate directly to food safety. Rather, they’re in place to remind the retailers how long the food has been on the shelf, and to provide basic guidelines for the consumer.
Retailers use the “sell by” date to indicate how long a product—in this case, brisket—should remain on display for sale. It doesn’t have anything to do with food safety, although the quality of the meat may begin to deteriorate after the date has passed.
The same is true of “best by” or “best if used before” dates. These words just mean that the brisket will have superior flavor and texture if you prepare it by the time that date has passed.
“Use by” is similar to “best by.” It indicates the last day that the product will remain at peak freshness. Again, it should be fine to cook the meat after the “use by” date, as long as it doesn’t display any signs of spoilage (see the separate section below).
If you see the words “freeze by” on a package, they tell you how long you have to put the meat in the freezer in order to maintain its best qualities. This isn’t a purchase or a safety date, just a guideline.
How Long Is Brisket Good After Sell By Date?
Generally speaking, you should have a window of about 3 to 5 days after the sell by date to prepare the brisket according to your chosen recipe.
For optimal results, we would suggest cooking or freezing the brisket within 3 to 5 days of bringing it home. Within this window, the meat should remain at peak freshness. After that, it may still be safe to consume, but the results might not be as impressive.
Store the brisket on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator, toward the rear. That will protect it from the rush of warm air that enters every time the fridge is opened. In this way, it should retain its integrity for a longer period of time.
Also, make sure not to open the packaging until you’re ready to prepare the brisket. Once the package is opened, the meat will be exposed to the air, which will cause its condition to deteriorate more quickly.
Remember: the dates on the package are less important than the condition of the meat itself. This is true of any perishable product.
How Long Does Brisket Last In The Freezer?
What if your plans change, and you aren’t able to cook off the brisket within the recommended time frame? In this case, you might be better off freezing the meat for a later date.
In theory, the brisket will keep in the freezer indefinitely. After the first year, however, the long exposure to subzero temperatures might start to affect the texture of the meat.
You can help to extend the shelf life of your frozen brisket by double-wrapping the meat. Place a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic wrap around the store packaging. You can also use a freezer bag, as long as the brisket fits inside.
Try to thaw and cook off the frozen brisket within 6 to 12 months. During storage, make sure that the freezer is kept at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you thaw brisket in the refrigerator, you’ll have 3 to 5 days to cook it off. Any meat product that’s been thawed in cold water or the microwave will need to be cooked immediately.
How Long Will Cooked Brisket Keep In The Fridge?
After you cook off the brisket, you should have 4 to 5 days to consume it before it starts to show signs of spoilage. You can also freeze the leftovers, but these should be thawed and consumed within 3 months.
Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours. If the outside temperature exceeds 80 degrees, put the meat in the fridge after 1 hour. These rules apply to raw brisket as well as cooked meat.
How To Tell If Brisket Has Gone Bad
There are several ways to tell when beef has outlasted its freshness. Not all of them may be present at once, but if you notice any of the following signs, discard the brisket and start shopping for another.
- A foul odor—If the meat smells sweet, sour, or like rotten eggs, it’s time to throw it out.
- Slimy or overly dry texture—The meat should feel cool and slightly damp to the touch, with no stickiness or sliminess.
- Discoloration—A slight brown tinge doesn’t necessarily denote spoilage, but if you notice any green or white patches, the meat has begun to grow mold.
Use the rule “when in doubt, throw it out” to apply to any meat product. The more often you cook, the easier it will be to trust your instincts when it comes to freshness.
When it comes right down to it, the dates on the package are less important than the smell, texture, and appearance of the brisket itself.
Since the “sell by” date doesn’t denote food safety, you don’t really have to pay attention to it at all. Feel free to use it as a guideline if you’d like, but this date shouldn’t be the only factor in your brisket-smoking timeline.
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!