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How Long Does Raw Steak Last in the Fridge?

For best results, you want to cook a steak while it’s fresh. But maybe you bought it a couple of days ahead of time and want to know, how long does raw steak last in the fridge?

According to USDA guidelines, raw steak may be kept in a refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. But all meat products will have a best buy date on them and should be cooked or frozen by that date.


In contrast, raw poultry, raw ground beef, and variety of meats can be kept for a day or two before they should be cooked or frozen.

This article is a comprehensive guide around how long steak can remain safe before it enters the “danger zone”. We’ll look at the signs that indicate raw steak has gone off, what happens to it when it does, and how to properly store it in the fridge.

Let’s get into it.

Is raw steak good after 7 days?

Yes, if it has been properly packaged, raw steak can last up to two weeks in the fridge.

From the butcher counter, raw steak is usually wrapped in plastic wrap and butcher paper and sealed with a rubber band or tape. But before they are sold, they are often in the meat case, where they are exposed to oxygen all day.

This exposure gives them a bright red color.

When it’s vacuum-sealed, oxygen is removed, and the color is not as bright, but the seal effectively ensures it’s exposed to less oxygen, resulting in a longer shelf life.

So, once properly stored, raw steak can be consumed after 7 days.

But it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution; as such, 3-5 days is more like it. If you cannot cook it within this period, make sure you freeze it.

Now, let’s check out the signs of spoilage.

How can you tell if raw steak is bad?

You can tell that raw steak has gone bad if it’s out of date, has a slimy texture, is discolored, it’s dry, or smells bad. Let’s explore each of these signs of spoilage.

1. The expiration date

A “use-by” date and a “sell-by” date help the buyer and the seller of the steak, respectively. The sell-by date indicates to the store or the butcher how long they can keep the steak for sale.

It is to ensure that the steak is still in good condition and that the buyer has enough time to prepare it before it begins to go bad. So, it’s earlier than the “use-by” date.

The “use-by” date, on the other hand, is aimed at the buyer. After all, they will use the steak. And may want to start preparing it a day or two before it is cooked. They need enough time to thaw, marinate, cook, and eat the steak. Or freeze it before the said date.

2. It is slimy

We all know that slime is never a healthy sign. So, if the surface of the steak is slimy, or the entire steak or a part has a sticky feel, it’s a surefire sign that it’s bad. If it’s slimy, has a sheen to it, and is slippery if you were to touch it, this is an indication of bacteria growth. The sheen has a yellowish hue. Once you notice this, you want to chuck it in the trash can.

3. It is discolored

Discolorations are naturally off-putting. And in some cases, discolored meat should be discarded. But fresh meat naturally changes color over time. So, the fact that the color has changed does not necessarily mean it’s gone bad.

Let’s learn a bit about meat color to know when to keep it and when to toss it.

Two proteins, myoglobin and hemoglobin, are responsible for meat color. The former is found in muscle. It gives fresh meat its bright red color. The latter is found in the blood.

The changes in raw meat color are triggered by oxidation — its exposure to oxygen. From this attractive bright red color, it assumes a dull color over time. Once it is exposed, after an animal has been slaughtered, the color goes through three stages:

First, it has a purplish-red color after the meat has been sliced. This is the effect of myoglobin reacting with oxygen. After about 30 minutes of exposure to air, it has a cherry red hue.

And the third and final stage occurs about 3-4 days later, by which time the meat has turned brown. At this point, myoglobin has completely oxidized and has morphed into “metmyoglobin.”

Now, brown meat is less attractive than red meat. But the brown color is not an indication that you now have spoiled steak on your hands.

In other words, your meat has darkened on its own and is not a sign of the spoiling process unless combined with the other telltale signs of spoilage we’re exploring here.

4. It is dry

Dehydration is another sign that raw steak could be off. A top-quality cut of meat usually contains fat and moisture, which contribute to the stock you enjoy. It’s flavorful and tender when cooked. But if it is too dry, it becomes too chewy.

Of course, you’re not liable to become sick, but it’s not a pleasurable experience. So you want to store it in plastic wrap or some other airtight container. This will help keep moisture in it and prevent exposure to oxygen, thereby reducing the risk of bacterial growth.

5. It smells bad

This last sign is the easiest one to detect. We all know that if something has an awful smell, it’s probably bad. In this case, it’s surefire proof. After all, meat is not supposed to smell foul.

It’s true that raw meat does not have an alluring smell, but the smell is never really offensive. Therefore, conduct a “smell test”. Once you can smell an off-putting odor from raw steak, it’s no longer safe for consumption. The easiest way to enjoy your steak is to get started by buying the highest quality meat.

So, is prime steak worth it?

In a recent article, I looked at whether Choice or Prime is better and whether Angus is better than Prime. I considered what percentage of steaks are Prime and whether Costco Prime beef is Prime. I also revealed which is better, Wagyu beef or USDA Prime beef.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

That’s exactly what we will find out next.

What happens when raw steak goes bad?

When raw steak goes bad, it has been infected by and is being decomposed by microbial agents such as bacteria, yeasts (fungi), and molds. They colonize the raw steak, break it down, and leave toxins. The last thing you want in your food!

Consequently, the meat becomes unappetizing and poisonous. This is not peculiar to cooked or raw steak but to other meat products and perishable foods in general.

So, where do these microbial agents come from? They are naturally present in the animal or could be from how meat is produced and handled. In other words, they could infect the animal while it is still alive or after it has been slaughtered.

The environment where the meat is handled, the knives, containers, and the water being used could be contaminated.

The good news is that if meat is produced, handled, and stored properly, these microbial agents can be contained without having any harmful effects on the meat and us. The cooking process does not destroy all microorganisms, but our gut bacteria also play a role in protecting us.

We know that storing food products in fridges is one of the excellent ways to ensure food safety, so how do you store raw steak?

How to store raw steak in the fridge

After you’ve bought raw steak at a grocery store or from a butcher, and you’re keeping it in the fridge, you don’t want a situation where juices from the meat could drip on other foods.

You want to put it in the fridge soon after purchase. As you know, leaving meat at room temperature for too long can easily trigger microbial spoilage.

A great way to store it is to place it in airtight packaging and put it on the lowest rung, which is usually the coldest part of the fridge, to prevent cross-contamination, which could trigger bacterial infection or food poisoning!

You want to minimize exposure to much air and consequently prolong its shelf life. And you need to ensure that cooked meat and raw meat are kept in separate compartments. What about leftover steak? Ideally, you want to refrigerate it and ensure you consume it within 3-4 days.

It’s also highly helpful to ensure you use moisture-resistant labels and temperature-resistant markers to write the type of meat product and the date to help you and others in the family to be more organized with what’s stored in the fridge and freezer.

I bet you want to know where can you get the highest quality steaks!

You’re in luck because I went into this in a recent article. I explored what makes one steak better than another and which supermarket has the best quality meat.

I also explained what steak is and which part of the steer it’s from. But I also revealed the most important factor that will help you pick the best quality steak from a grocery store.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Should you stick to the use-by dates on steaks?

Yes, you should stick to the use-by dates on steaks.

A day or two after the use-by-date might not make much of a difference if the meat was stored properly at a recommended temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

And after you’ve checked for the presence of other signs of spoilage we’ve looked at before, you are positive they are not present. But if you’re in doubt, it’s better to discard the meat.

Because spoiled meat can cause foodborne illnesses, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

If you know you won’t have the time to cook the meat before the use-by date, it’s best to make sure it’s frozen properly.

What does bad beef smell like?

Bad beef has a sour smell that’s similar to milk that’s gone off. In some cases, it may have a pungent smell with undertones of ammonia. It’s easy to detect.

Now fresh meat does not exactly have an appealing smell, but it’s not off-putting. Some fresh meat has a light bloody or metallic smell. And when some vacuum-sealed packages are opened, you may perceive an egg-like smell. This is nothing to worry about.

As you know, the smell is not the only telltale sign that a piece of steak has become bad.

In a recent article, I discussed how to tell if steak is spoiled. I looked at whether it’s bad if it has turned brown, the effect of freezer burn, and what happens if you were to eat spoiled steak. But I also revealed if it’s okay to eat it after the use-by date.

Just click the link to read it on my site.


In the article, we learned how long raw steak lasts in the fridge and if raw steak is safe to be consumed after it’s been kept in the fridge for 7 days.

We also learned the different ways to detect if it’s gone bad. We also learned about what happens to it when this happens.

We found out how to store raw steak in the fridge. Then, we considered how many days it’s ideal to store different types of meat and whether you should stick to the use-by date. We called it a wrap by finding out how bad beef smells.

Image by Robert Owen-Wahl from Pixabay and Image by Roy N from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell