Beef Shelf Life: How Long Does Beef Last?

What is the average shelf life of beef? How long does beef last in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer? What is the best way to store beef to increase its  shelf life? Find out the answers to these questions and more below:

Shelf Life of Beef

Fresh roast, steaks, chops, or ribs3-5 Days6-12 Months
Fresh liver or variety meats1-2 Days3-4 Months
Cooked3-4 Days2-3 Mon ths

Always abide by the “use by date” on the beef product. If the beef product does not have a “use by date,” use the above chart as a reference.

What to Look for When Buying Beef

The first things to consider when buying beef is 1) what you’re planning to cook, 2) who you’re planning to serve, and 3) how you’re planning to cook the meat (inside or outside on the grill).

Beef cuts of all kinds whether it’s a roast, a steak, ribs, for stew or stir-fry, or ground beef in which, of course, there are many, many ways to prepare, all have a top to bottom range of perfection to which you, as the consumer, must decide the level of cut you prefer to serve at your event.

If the meal you are preparing is a simple dinner for your family and you prefer not to spend a lot of money, you might simply pick up a product labeled ground chuck with 20% fat or more which is legal as long it does not exceed 30%.  Just remember, the leaner the meat, the higher the cost.

Each cut of beef has marbling and connective tissue exposed. This helps the meat deliver a certain flavor and can also determine how tender or tough it’s going to be once it’s cooked.

Storing Beef

You definitely want to keep the beef in the original packaging until you’re ready to cook it whether it is raw or already prepared.  You should always do you best to cook the beef product by the recommended date stamped on the package.  If it was frozen and thawed to prepare, it can be refrozen but is recommended to be used within one (1) month. If you plan on freezing an item for a period of 2 months or longer, it should be re-wrapped in freezer paper or sufficiently so that it does not get freezer burned. Freezer burn will look like the meat has turned a leathery, grayish-brown and will need to be cut off the beef before you cook it.  Or if the meat is badly burned then you will need to throw it out.

How to Handle Beef

Even though it’s hard to do sometimes while you’re shopping, it’s best to keep your meat packages bagged in the plastic bags provided by the meat department so that any juices that might leak out do not come in contact with other foodstuffs or produce.  Try your best to put meat items like this in your basket last so they remain as cold as possible until you get home to refrigerate or freeze them to prevent bacteria growth.

Cooking Beef

A marinade can be prepared for the beef you’ve selected and the cuts can be marinated in the refrigerator for as long as 5 days.  The remaining marinade should be boiled prior to swabbing it onto the beef and any leftover marinade should be thrown away.

Partially cooking beef is never recommended unless you are doing so in the microwave just before you place the beef onto the grill to finish cooking.  It is recommended to use a meat thermometer and heat all organ and variety meats to 160-degree F. Other all cuts of beef like steaks and roasts should attain a minimum inside temperature of 145-degree F or higher depending on your personal preference.  All appliances cook different and, since you know your oven/stove and grill best, you are the best judge of cooking temperature.

How to Tell if Beef is Bad or Spoiled

There are several ways to tell if beef is bad or spoiled:

  • Feel the beef. Spoiled beef will have a slimy texture.
  • Check its appearance. Spoiled beef will have a dull,  gray / brown appearance.
  • Smell the beef. Spoiled beef will usually have a strong sour smell.