Steak should be a key ingredient in every griller’s arsenal. It’s delicious, versatile, and excellent when prepared over an open flame. The question is, how long is steak good for once you’ve brought it home? And how long will it keep once you’ve cooked it?
Our in-depth guide will tell you everything you need to know about storing steak for optimal freshness. Whether the steak you have on hand is raw, grilled, or frozen, we’ve got you covered.
How Long Is Steak Good For?
Raw steaks should stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Make sure not to leave it at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour in hot weather. Once you’ve cooked the steak, you’ll have 3 to 4 days to either consume or freeze the leftovers.
How Long Will Fresh Steak Keep In The Fridge?
Once you’ve purchased fresh raw steak, you should have 3 to 5 days to cook it off before the quality starts to deteriorate. We would recommend cooking it the same day you buy it, or the following day if you want to put the steak in a marinade first.
If the steak has been in the fridge for 4 to 5 days, examine it carefully before you prepare it for the grill. A few brown spots don’t necessarily denote spoilage, but if the meat has turned gray, or if there are visible moldy patches, it’s time to discard it.
How Long Can Steak Sit Out At Room Temperature?
Keep steaks refrigerated at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit until you’re ready to season them. Never leave the meat out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. In hot weather (90 degrees or above), this time frame shortens to 1 hour.
Why is it important to keep steak refrigerated? At temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees, bacteria begin to multiply at a rapid pace. When the meat is allowed to remain at these temps for too long, it may be hosting numerous bacteria—the kind that can cause food poisoning.
Similar guidelines apply after the meat is cooked. Refrigerate any leftovers within 1 to 2 hours, depending on the ambient temperature. Reheating the meat will prevent new bacteria from growing, but it won’t kill off any that have already taken up residence.
How Long Can You Store Cooked Steak In The Fridge?
With proper storage, cooked steak should keep for an additional 3 to 4 days. Consume or freeze any leftovers within this time period. For more tips on storing steak in the freezer, see the separate section below.
Wrap all leftovers well, and store them in the coldest part of the fridge. This should help them keep longer. We would suggest storing any leftover cooking juices separately, so you can use them to moisten the steak as you reheat it.
How Long Can You Keep Steak In The Freezer?
Food that’s stored in the freezer won’t spoil as long as the freezer temp is set to 0 degrees or lower. However, since the freezing process will cause the steak to lose moisture, it’s preferable to thaw it within 4 to 12 months.
Note that the above guidelines refer to raw steak. Frozen leftover cooked steak should be thawed and consumed within 3 months of storage. That’s because cooked meat has less moisture than raw product, so it’s more prone to drying out after it’s thawed.
When preparing steak for the freezer, wrap it well in saran wrap or freezer paper with a top layer of aluminum foil. Airtight freezer bags will also work. If the steak was cooked beforehand, make sure the leftovers are completely cool before you freeze them.
Label your packages with today’s date, the contents, and whether the meat is cooked or raw. Be sure to note whether the steak was already frozen and thawed once beforehand. It’s fine to refreeze meat without cooking it first, but it will dry out a bit more every time the process is repeated.
How Long Does Thawed Steak Last In The Fridge?
How long steak keeps in the fridge depends, in part, on how long it was in the fridge before you froze it.
For example, if you froze the steak immediately after bringing it home, it could keep for 5 days before it starts to spoil. On the other end of the spectrum, if it hung around in the fridge for 3 or 4 days beforehand, you’ll only have a day or two to cook it off.
Cooked leftovers play by similar rules, but the storage period is a bit shorter. Try to freeze cooked steak within 2 days, and reheat it for consumption as soon as possible after thawing. Otherwise, it might dry out as it sits in the fridge.
Tips For Safe Defrosting
We prefer to defrost meat in the refrigerator, whether the meat is raw or cooked. This method might take the longest, but it’s also the safest and most effective.
Use a rimmed baking sheet or plate to hold the package (or packages) of frozen steak. Place the container on the lowest shelf of the fridge, way back toward the rear. The steak should be fully thawed within 24 hours.
The cold-water method is another efficient way to defrost steak, and it takes much less time. Make sure the steaks are in leak-proof containers, then add them to a container filled with cold water. After 30 minutes, drain the container and refill it with fresh cold water, repeating as necessary until the meat is thawed.
Depending on the weight and thickness of the steaks, they should thaw within 1 to 4 hours when you use the cold-water method. Remember that you’ll have to cook the steaks straight away if you’ve thawed them using this technique.
While some people rely on the microwave for rapid defrosting, we think it ruins the texture of a good steak. If you’re in a hurry, try the cold-water method instead.
Can You Grill Frozen Steaks?
What if you don’t want to take the time to thaw the steaks at all? That’s fine—you can grill steaks that are still frozen, as long as you adhere to certain guidelines.
First of all, know that this method works better for steaks that measure at least 1 inch thick. A thinner cut might wind up overcooking before the exterior has a chance to form that golden brown crust.
Second, set up a two-zone fire in your grill. The indirect zone should be set to low heat, with a high-heat direct zone on the opposite side. This will allow you to form a nice crust on the exterior, then move the steak to the cooler side to finish cooking.
Sear the steak over direct heat until the outside is caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Now is the time to season both sides of the steak with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, since the spices won’t cling to frozen meat.
Move the steak to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking. This should take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on what temperature you prefer. Remove the meat when it’s about 5 degrees below your preferred serving temperature—it will continue to cook as it rests.
You’ll want to check the temperature every few minutes to ensure that you get the results you want. It can be tricky to cook a steak from its frozen state, but once you get the hang of it, you should be able to repeat the process with ease.
After resting the steak for 5-8 minutes on a plate that’s loosely tented with foil, carve it into slices, if desired. Serve with your chosen accompaniments.
The Bottom Line
Whether your steak is raw or cooked, you should have a few days to enjoy it before you have to either freeze or discard the meat. If you’re as enthusiastic about grilling as we are, you shouldn’t have to worry about spoilage.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!