At Home Storage

Like all perishable foods, beef must be handled and stored properly to avoid spoilage and foodborne illness. Follow these food-safe practices:

  • Refrigerate or freeze beef as soon after purchasing as possible.
    (If it will take longer than 30 minutes to get it home, keep it cold
    in a cooler in your car.)

  • If refrigerating beef, place it in the meat compartment or in the
    coldest part of the refrigerator.

  • If purchased beef is wrapped in transparent film, it can be refrigerated
    without re-wrapping. It can also be frozen up to 2 weeks without
    rewrapping.  For longer freezer storage, to prevent freezer burn,
    repackage in heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper or plastic
    freezer bags, removing as much air as possible.

  • Label and date frozen beef packages, including weight and/or
    number of servings.  Practice the FIFO inventory system 
     -  first in, first out.

  • Do not defrost frozen beef at room temperature.  Defrost frozen beef
    in the refrigerator, to prevent bacterial growth.  Place package on
    a tray to catch any drippings and place in refrigerator the day
    before it is needed. 

  • Allow about 24 hours to defrost a 1 to 1-1/2-inch thick package of
    ground beef or beef pieces.

  • Allow 12 hours to defrost 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick patties. 

  • Allow 12 to 24 hours to defrost steaks, depending on thickness. 

  • Allow 4 to 7 hours per pound to defrost large oven roasts or thick
    compact pot roasts. 

  • Allow 3 to 5 hours per pound to defrost small oven roasts or thin
    pot roasts. 

  • Cook ground beef as soon as possible after defrosting. 

  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly after serving, within 2 hours
    after cooking.  To speed up the chilling, divide large quantities into
    smaller portions or spread food out in shallow container.

Remember that ground beef, beef for stir-fry, beef for stew and beef for kabobs are more perishable than whole muscle cuts (roasts and steaks).  During the grinding process for ground beef, any bacteria on the surface are mixed throughout.  Cutting into strips or cubes creates more exposed surface area for bacteria to grow on.  Both processes result in shorter shelf life.

The chart below lists recommended storage times for preservation of wholesomeness and quality in beef.


Refrigerator/Freezer Storage

  Type of Beef Refrigerator
(35°F to 40°F)
(0°F or colder)
Fresh Beef Steaks
Pot Roasts
3 to 4 days 6 to 12 months
Beef For Kabobs
Beef For Stew
Beef For Stir-Fry
2 to 3 days 6 to 12 months
Ground Beef 1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months
Leftover Beef (Cooked) All 3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months
Cured, Smoked and Ready-to-Serve Beef Products Corned Beef, (ready-to-cook) 1 week 2 weeks
Deli Products
3 to 5 days 1 to 2 months
Smoked Sausage
Dry and Semi-Dry
1 week no
Sausage, unsliced 2 to 3 weeks no