Cooked steak will stay good in your refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. If you need to store it longer, stick it in the freezer, where it will be safe to eat indefinitely but should be eaten within 3 or 4 months for best quality.
In culinary school, we covered how long food can be safely stored. We also talked about identifying spoiled meat and best storage practices. I’m filling you in on everything I learned!
In this article, I will detail the best ways to preserve your leftover steak and reheat cooked steak that has been in the fridge. Let's get started!
Cooked steak can last for 3 - 4 days in the fridge.
After 4 days, the chances of undetectable bacterial growth are high. This poses a health risk to you and your family. If your steaks have been in the fridge for over 4 days, your best bet is to dump them.
Often, beyond five days at 40°F, the leftover steak will have a slightly off smell. Any off odor is your nose telling you that the meat is starting to go bad. Even if it doesn't smell, steak that’s getting long in the tooth can cause food-borne illness.
Raw steak behaves in much the same way as cooked beef. It will last a maximum of 5 days in the fridge. When you get home from the grocery store, you should place all meat in the refrigerator or freezer before dealing with your other groceries.
The longer raw steak sits out at room temperature, the more chance bacteria have to grow and proliferate on the meat. Do not let raw meat sit on the counter at room temperature for longer than 2 hours or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
Cooked steak and cooked meat, in general, contain a wealth of microbes. The longer this food sits out at room temperature, the more these pathogens proliferate. This is what spoils your food.
Food sitting at room temperature is at the optimal temperature to facilitate microbial activity. Don’t let the meat sit out any longer than necessary.
As soon as you are done with the meal, get in the habit of packing up your food and storing it in the fridge or freezer. The longer the cooked steak sits at room temperature, the greater the amount of bacteria growth on the steak.
Check your fridge. The temperature should be set to 40°F or below. Store cooked steak at this temperature as soon as you can. At this temperature, cooked steak can last 3 to 4 days.
The USDA recommends a temperature of 40°F or lower as the optimal temperature to store leftover cooked steak in the fridge. At this temperature, microbial activity slows down significantly, allowing the cooked steak to remain safe for consumption.
How you store leftover steak will affect how long and how well your steak lasts in the fridge. The most important factor apart from temperature is air-tight containment.
Whether you choose to use a Ziploc freezer bag, plastic wrap, or freezer paper, ensure you are using an airtight container.
Air is the enemy of fresh food. Once air enters the packaging, it will facilitate microbial activity, and the bacteria in the meat will continue to grow and reproduce, spoiling the leftover food.
An airtight container will keep the food sealed and air out.
The best way to keep steak cold is to refrigerate or freeze it.
At 0°F, any microbial action stops completely. This includes yeasts and mold growth. After 3 months, however, the frozen steak will likely get freezer-burned. It’s not unsafe to eat, but freezer-burned food tastes awful.
Remember always to wrap or seal the food container tightly. An airtight seal is essential to keeping frozen steak safe for consumption. If you’ve got a vacuum sealer, use it. It pushes out all the air, and your steak will last even longer in the freezer (1 to 2 years, easy).
If you find yourself pinching your nose when you open the fridge or your freezer bag, your food has gone bad, and it should just be thrown out. As delicious as a well-prepared steak may be, when it goes bad, you will not enjoy it.
A bad smell will be the most telling sign that your steak is no longer edible. Trust your senses. Throw away steak that smells bad.
A change of color usually means the growth of bacteria has been going on, and the steak is not safe. Along with the smell, appearance is a dead giveaway that the steak is nasty and inedible.
If mold or yeast has begun growing on the steak then it is definitely unsafe and should be discarded.
Leftover food should maintain its color. If the leftovers look different from the rosy pink interior and brown crust that you pulled off the grill, discard the meat.
Even when properly stored, steak leftovers should be carefully inspected before consumption.
If there is a slimy texture or a slippery film on your leftover steak then don't eat it. Even if the smell and the appearance are not obvious, this film is a sure sign that bacteria are growing on the food and the meat's quality is ruined.
Discard the spoiled meat!
Don’t try tasting your steak to determine if it’s gone bad or not. If you’ve suspected it’s gone bad, toss the steak. Tasting sketchy steak is a recipe for food poisoning. Don’t risk it!
Steak will last indefinitely in the freezer. But it’s still prone to freezer burn. Freezer burn occurs when all the moisture in the steak is pulled to the external surface of the steak and forms crystals. Food that has freezer burn isn’t unsafe, but I’d rather eat rat meat - it’s not a pleasant dining experience.
Even when reheated properly, steaks that have freezer burn are no good. It would be better to store them correctly (or consume the steak within 3 months) and avoid freezer burn altogether.
When storing steak leftovers in the freezer, avoid Tupperware and glass containers since it is nearly impossible to rid them of air. They have too much headspace, where excess air will sit. This will allow freezer burn to occur.
Food-grade plastic wrap such as wax paper, a plastic bag, freezer paper, or heavy-duty aluminum foil is a great option since you can wrap the leftovers tightly, ensuring as much air as possible is removed from the packaging. I like to wrap leftover steak in tin foil, and then stick the foil in a plastic baggie.
If you don't have one, you should consider buying a vacuum sealer. It will change your leftover life. Vacuum-sealed bags spare you the hassle of trying to remove air from a plastic bag. Vacuum sealers remove far more air than baggies.
A vacuum sealer is a handy kitchen item that will lock up your leftovers in a jiffy. Vacuum sealing is the best way to avoid freezer burn. Vacuum-sealed food should stay freezer burn-free for 2 years, at least.
When you preserve leftover steak in the freezer, chances are that you will forget how long it has been there. Inevitably, some of the leftovers that you store in the freezer end up in the trash after staying in there a tad too long. It used to happen to me all the time! Then I got hip. I started labeling my leftovers with the day I prepared them.
Get into the habit of labeling food before it goes into the freezer. Use a marker to write the date on the package. Now, you can use your leftovers before they sit in the freezer too long and go bad.
Food-borne illness is the main concern when keeping cooked steaks in the fridge. Really spoiled steak is easy to detect. It smells and looks like roadkill. It is the slightly spoiled food or food that has gone bad but is difficult to detect and is dangerous.
Some molds and yeasts can have no detectable odor in the early stages of growth. But when they’re consumed they can make you sick.
The best way to prevent foodborne illness is to follow the recommended storage practices and keep leftover steaks in the fridge for no longer than 4 days before consuming them.
If the steak has been in the freezer, let the steak rest on a wire rack and thaw before heating. No need to monitor internal temperature - simply heat up the steaks until they’re warm enough for you!
The microwave is the fastest and easiest way to reheat food from the fridge. It is also my least favorite reheating method. Do not heat food in the microwave while it is still in aluminum foil. Microwave leftover steak in a covered microwave-safe container. Nuke the steak for 1 to 3 minutes.
Microwaving may not be the best way to reheat refrigerated steak since it can scorch the steak and ruin the meat's quality. I (and many others) also think microwaved meat tastes funny. Let’s take a look at some better reheating methods.
An air fryer is also a quick and easy way to reheat steak. Set the temperature to 375°F and pop your leftovers in the fryer for 3 - 5 minutes.
Heating leftover steak on the stovetop is one of my favorite methods. The steak will taste almost as good as when you pulled it off the grill the first time.
Place a skillet on a medium-low flame and melt some butter. Leave the steaks to heat up for five minutes or until you are sure they are as hot as you like them! Dig in.
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Stick your steaks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Cover with aluminum foil and let them cook for 15 - 20 minutes before checking on them. Once the steaks are warm, they’re ready. Reheating steak leftovers in the oven is another one of my favorite methods. It’s hands-off (set the temperature and forget it), and the steak tastes almost as good as it did the first time.
Set the temperature of the grill to 350°F. Let the steaks heat up for 10 minutes undisturbed or until you are sure they are nice and hot. You can also wrap the steaks in aluminum foil and place them on the grill to preserve moisture. Serve hot.
This is a great method, but if you’ve got a charcoal grill, it’s a bit more work than the other options. You’ll need to get a chimney of coals going. If you grilled the steaks the first time around, the steaks won’t get any more “grill-flavor” using this method.
The best way to cook steak leftovers varies from person to person. My favorite method is heating the steaks back up in a cast iron pan with some butter in there. The butter adds moisture and fat back to the party. More moisture and fat mean more flavor.
Don’t eat steak that’s been in the fridge for 7 days. Put that steak in your garbage can. That steak might make you sick.
The longest you should keep steak in the fridge is for 4 days, per the USDA. Any longer, and you risk food poisoning.
No. 4 days is the longest you should eat cooked steak that’s been stored in the refrigerator. If the steak has been stored in the freezer, you can certainly eat it after 5 days of storage.
Raw steaks can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before cooking. So yes, you should be able to safely cook and eat the steak.
Check it for any signs of spoilage since it’s getting long in the tooth. If the steak looks or smells funny, toss it out.
Freezing will keep cooked steak good indefinitely, but it’s best when used within three months.
I hope I covered every question you’ve got about how long steak is good for, how to store it, and how to reheat it. Remember: cooked steak will stay good in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, while raw steak should be good for 3 to 5 days.
Take a look at your steak before you eat it, and look for any visual signs of spoilage. Use your nose and give it a whiff: if it smells bad, don’t eat it. Steak is one of the best foods known to humans. I hope yours tastes amazing. Happy grilling!