Knowing how long meat lasts in the fridge can help you avoid throwing away good food or serving spoiled meat to your family. With proper storage, most raw meats can be kept refrigerated for several days past the sell-by date. But not all meats last equally as long. Here are some general guidelines for how long different types of meat will stay fresh in the fridge.
Most raw meats can be kept refrigerated for 3 to 5 days past the printed sell-by or use-by date on the package. Ground meats and offal like liver tend to go bad more quickly, only lasting 1 to 2 days past the sell-by date. Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb and poultry can usually last 3 to 5 days past that date if stored properly.
How to Tell If Meat Has Gone Bad
It’s important to know the signs of spoiled meat so you don’t accidentally eat something that could make you sick. Here’s what to look for:
- Slimy texture or sticky surface
- Discoloration, like graying on red meat or dark/green spots
- Dull, faded color rather than bright red (or other normal color)
- Dry or tough look and feel
- Unpleasant sour or ammonia odor
If your meat shows any of those signs, it’s best to throw it away. Always remember, when in doubt, throw it out! Now let’s look at how long specific types of meat tend to last refrigerated.
Steaks: 3 to 5 days past printed date
Beef steaks, like ribeye, sirloin or filet mignon, can be kept refrigerated for 3 to 5 days past the sell-by date on the package. Store steaks tightly wrapped in their original packaging or place them in a sealed container to extend freshness. Ground beef should only be kept 1 to 2 days past the sell-by date.
Roasts: 3 to 5 days past printed date
Larger beef roasts, such as rump roast or chuck roast, have a similar shelf life to steaks. Keep them no longer than 3 to 5 days past the sell-by date. Check roasts for any discoloration or foul odor before cooking.
Brined/Corned beef: 5 to 7 days unopened, 3 to 4 days opened
Vacuum-packed corned beef can last unopened for 5 to 7 days past the sell-by date. Once opened, it will stay fresh for 3 to 4 more days. Discard if you notice any unpleasant odors, stickiness or gelatinous texture.
Ground beef: 1 to 2 days past printed date
Ground meats spoil faster because grinding exposes more surface area to air and potential bacteria growth. Cook or freeze ground beef within 1 to 2 days of purchasing it. If frozen, it will last 3 to 4 months.
Chops: 3 to 5 days past printed date
Bone-in and boneless pork chops will usually stay fresh 3 to 5 days past the printed sell-by date, if stored properly in the fridge. Discard chops that have an off smell or color.
Roasts: 3 to 5 days past printed date
Fresh pork roasts like loin roast or Boston butt roast can be kept refrigerated 3 to 5 days past the sell-by date on the package. Check for off odors and slime before cooking.
Ground pork: 1 to 2 days past printed date
Like ground beef, ground pork tends to spoil quickly after 1 to 2 days past the printed date. Use it or freeze it within that timeframe.
Bacon: 1 week past printed date
Unopened packages of bacon can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 week past the sell-by date on the package. Once opened, use within 5 to 7 days. Watch for sliminess, dull color and off odors.
Ham: 1 week past printed date
An unopened cured, cooked ham will stay fresh for about 1 week past its printed date. If the ham came sliced, use it within 3 to 5 days. Discard if you notice any unpleasant odors.
Sausage: 1 to 2 weeks past printed date
Raw sausages like breakfast sausage, Italian sausage or bratwurst can be kept refrigerated 1 to 2 weeks past the sell-by date. Cooked sausages last 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Discard if sausage has an off color or texture.
Chicken or turkey: 1 to 2 days past printed date
Raw chicken and turkey should be cooked or frozen within 1 to 2 days of purchasing it. Going over that timeframe significantly increases the risk of bacterial growth like salmonella. Cooked poultry lasts 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
Ground poultry: 1 to 2 days past printed date
Ground chicken and turkey can grow bacteria quickly, so cook or freeze them 1 to 2 days after buying. If frozen, cooked ground poultry will last 3 to 4 months in the freezer.
Eggs: 3 to 5 weeks past printed date
Contrary to popular belief, eggs rarely spoil due to their protective shells. Raw eggs can often last 3 to 5 weeks in the fridge past the sell-by or use-by date on the carton. Break each egg into a bowl before cooking to check for odors or discoloration.
Chops and steaks: 3 to 5 days past printed date
Lamb chops and steaks typically stay fresh 3 to 5 days past the package date if stored properly. Discard any meat that smells unpleasant or has a dull, slimy texture.
Ground lamb: 1 to 2 days past the printed date
Ground lamb spoils faster than chops or steaks. Cook or freeze ground lamb 1 to 2 days past the printed date for optimal freshness and food safety.
Leg of lamb roasts: 3 to 5 days past printed date
A whole leg of lamb roast can be kept refrigerated 3 to 5 days past the printed date. Check for off odors or stickiness before cooking. Slice off any dried out portions.
Fish and Seafood
Raw fish fillets/steaks: 1 to 2 days past printed date
Fresh fish like salmon, halibut, tuna or tilapia fillets should be cooked or frozen within 1 to 2 days of purchasing. Discard any fish that smells fishier than normal.
Shrimp, scallops, squid: 1 to 2 days past printed date
Fresh shrimp, scallops, squid and other shellfish tend to spoil quickly, so plan to cook them within 1 to 2 days of buying. Discard any with a slimy texture or fishy smell.
Canned seafood: 3 to 4 days after opening
Once opened, canned fish and shellfish will keep 3 to 5 days refrigerated. Discard any leftovers that smell unpleasant or look moldy.
Smoked salmon: 2 weeks unopened, 3 to 4 days opened
Vacuum-packed smoked salmon stays fresh for about 2 weeks past its printed date if unopened. Once opened, eat it within 3 to 4 days and discard if it develops any sliminess or off odors.
Fresh oysters/mussels: 1 day max
Live oysters and mussels go bad very quickly once dead or separated from their shells. Eat them the day of purchase for optimal safety and quality.
Deli and Luncheon Meats
Ham, salami, turkey: 3 to 5 days after opening
Sliced deli meats will keep unopened for 2 weeks past the printed date. After opening a package, eat the cold cuts within 3 to 5 days. Discard if the color or odor seems off.
Cooked sausages: 1 week past printed date
Sealed packages of fully cooked sausages like kielbasa can be kept refrigerated 1 week past the sell-by date. Opened cooked sausages last 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
Hot dogs: 2 weeks past printed date
Unopened packages of hot dogs are safe to eat 2 weeks past the printed date. Once opened, eat hot dogs within 1 week and discard if they have an off color or smell.
Deli cheeses: 1 to 2 weeks past printed date
Hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, gouda and Parmesan last 1 to 2 weeks past the printed date if refrigerated. Softer cheeses like brie last about 1 week. Discard moldy cheese.
Pate and meat spreads: 3 to 5 days after opening
Refrigerated pate, meat spreads and sausage rolls are safe 3 to 5 days past the printed date if unopened. Once opened, consume within 3 to 5 days.
Leftover Cooked Meat
Properly stored leftovers should stay safe and delicious for several days. Here are some guidelines for leftover meats:
Cooked beef, pork, lamb: 3 to 4 days
Leftover cooked beef roast, pork chops, lamb stew meat or spareribs can be kept refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. Discard if you see any mold or the color/texture seems off.
Cooked ground meat: 1 to 2 days
Because of its higher risk for bacterial growth, leftover cooked ground beef or other ground meats should only be kept 1 to 2 days before discarding.
Cooked poultry: 3 to 4 days
Cover and refrigerate leftover roasted chicken, turkey breasts or other cooked poultry within 2 hours of cooking. Use within 3 to 4 days and discard if the meat smells or looks off.
Cooked fish: 3 to 4 days
Eat leftover cooked fish like salmon or tilapia within 3 to 4 days. Some types of fish, like tuna, should be refrigerated no more than 2 to 3 days.
Gravy and broth: 1 to 2 days
For food safety, homemade gravies and meat broth should be refrigerated and used within 1 to 2 days. Look for off smells before reheating.
Cold cuts: 3 to 5 days
Keep deli-style meats like ham, roast beef and turkey refrigerated for no more than 3 to 5 days after opening. Discard sooner if the cold cuts smell or look off.
Thawing Meat Safely
To prevent bacterial growth, thaw frozen meat slowly and safely using these methods:
- Refrigerator: Most roasts, steaks and chops can be thawed in the fridge within 24 hours.
- Cold water: Submerge vacuum-sealed packages in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
- Microwave: Use the defrost setting and cook immediately after thawing.
Never thaw meat on the counter at room temperature or in hot water, as this allows bacteria to rapidly multiply. Cook defrosted meat within 2 days and discard if it has an off color or smell.
Food Safety Tips
Follow these tips to keep your refrigerated meat as fresh as possible:
- Store meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge, which is the coldest area.
- Keep meat tightly wrapped in its original packaging or an airtight container.
- Wipe up spills immediately to prevent bacterial spread.
- Cook or freeze meat before its recommended timeframe is up.
- Never taste meat that smells or looks questionable.
When in doubt if a meat has spoiled, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry. Adhering to the recommended storage times and using your senses to check for spoilage will help reduce your risk of foodborne illness.
Most raw meats can safely be kept refrigerated for 3 to 5 days past the printed sell-by date, provided they’ve been stored at 40°F or below. Ground meats and offal only last 1 to 2 days past the date on the package. For optimal freshness and food safety, cook refrigerated meats soon after purchasing. With proper freezing, meat can be stored from 3 months to well over a year before cooking. Always rely on your senses too – if meat has an off smell, color or texture, err on the side of caution and throw it away.