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How Long Can I Safely Store Raw Meat In The Fridge Before Cooking Or Freezing?

Updated: 4 days ago

So you've just gotten back from a whirlwind shopping trip to your local warehouse store where you've stocked up on raw meat. However, your feet hurt and your legs are tired and you really just don't feel like putting away the meat into the freezer right away.



What happens if I don't have time to cook meat right away?


Placing your raw meat or poultry into the freezer will halt the growth of bacteria. It is important to make sure that your freezer temperature is set to 0 degrees F or lower using a trusted calibrated appliance thermometer.



Always label and date your food products!


One of the easiest ways to prevent guessing as to what a product is, or when it was purchased or opened is to simply label and date the product at the time it goes into the refrigerator or freezer or whenever you open the package. You can accomplish this simply by using moisture proof food labels and a temperature resistant permanent marker.



How long can I keep raw meat in the fridge before having to cook or freeze it?


Different types of raw meat have varying different shelf life lengths in the refrigerator before cooking or freezing. This data has been sourced from a United States FoodSafety.gov report.


How long can ground meat keep safely in the refrigerator?

  • For raw ground meat, such as pork, beef, hamburger, lamb, veal, venison, or ground poultry, such as ground chicken, ground turkey, etc. Cook or freeze them within 1 to 2 days. You can safely store ground meat or ground poultry in the freezer for 3 to 4 months.


How long can steak, roast, chops, or larger cuts of meat safely keep in the refrigerator?

  • You can safely store larger cuts of meat in the fridge for 3 to 5 days after getting them home and before cooking or freezing. You can safely store steaks, roasts, chops, and other larger cuts of meat in the freezer for 4 to 12 months.



How long can I safely keep raw chicken or turkey in the fridge?

  • Raw poultry such as chicken, turkey, game hen, duck, etc can safely be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. You can store cut up or pieces of poultry for up to 9 months, whereas whole poultry can be frozen for up to 1 year.



What if the meat was previously frozen then thawed?

  • Whenever you have meat or poultry that was previously frozen then thawed, the window of opportunity begins after the meat is fully thawed. For example, if you have a whole frozen chicken or turkey, you will need to cook it within 1-2 days.



How long can I store ham in the refrigerator?

  • Fresh, uncured, unsmoked ham can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days, and stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.



How long can I safely keep uncooked bacon in the refrigerator?


  • Raw uncooked bacon can be safely stored in the fridge for up to 1 week. Raw bacon can be safely stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.



How long can I safely keep sausage in the refrigerator?


Raw, uncooked sausage made from turkey, chicken, beef, or pork may be safely stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Raw sausage may be safely stored in the freezer for 1 to 2 months.




Always trust your nose! When in doubt, throw it out!


Sometimes even moments after you've gotten raw meat home from the store, you open the package only to find something smells a bit funky. You should never consume or cook any meat product that doesn't smell right. If you have just purchased the meat and it smells off, rancid, or putrid in any way, immediately return it to the store for a full refund or replacement.


If you've just pulled some meat from the freezer and it smells funny either right after coming from the freezer, or right after you've thawed it, chances are that it has a bacterial infection and it can potentially make you very sick. Immediately throw the meat into the trash. Do not cook it or feed it to your pets!


Remember that food safety is paramount, and it's never worth taking any risk! Always label and date your food products, store them at proper safe temperatures using trusted calibrated thermometers, and trust your nose, when in doubt, throw it out!


Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs!


About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, voted best personal chefs and best caterers in San Francisco, and #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

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