How Long Does Meat Last in the Fridge? Raw and Cooked

Meat is more expensive these days and it is an unnecessary waste if it spoils in the fridge. So it is important to know how long meat lasts in the fridge before eating it or freezing it. In this article, I’ll describe how long different types of meat can last in the fridge so that it will never go to waste.

How long can meat stay in the fridge? Below is a quick guide to determine how long you can keep different types of meat – whether raw or cooked – in your fridge:

  1. Poultry (whole chicken and turkey, raw) – 1 to 2 days
  2. Poultry (in cuts or pieces) – 1 to 2 days
  3. Poultry (cooked) – 3 to 4 days
  4. Beef, pork, lamb, veal (raw) – 3 to 5 days
  5. Beef, pork, lamb, veal (cooked) – 3 to 5 days
  6. Ham (canned, unopened) – 6 to 9 months
  7. Ham (cooked) – 7 days

Read on to learn more about how long meat lasts in the fridge, including important storage and handling tips.

How Long Does Meat Last in the Fridge? Raw and Cooked

There are at least three general classes of meat: poultry, pork, and beef (red meat). Each type of meat has different storage times inside the fridge. Ground meat, sausage, and bacon have a different length of time they can stay in the fridge. Let us discuss them one by one.

1. Poultry

Chicken and turkey meat falls under the poultry category. You can store raw poultry in your fridge for 1 to 2 days. Your fridge must be kept constantly running at 40°F or colder. If you store it inside the freezer, it could last up to one year. The freezer temperature must be set at 0°F or colder.

You can keep cooked poultry in your fridge a bit longer. If you want to freeze it, be sure that it won’t stay in the freezer for more than six months. You can still eat it after six months, but its quality will not be the same.

2. Pork and Red Meat

How long is meat good for in the fridge? Kept in the fridge, raw pork and red meat will remain good for 3 to 5 days. If you freeze red meat or pork, it can last for four months to one year. Leftover cooked pork and red meat can last 3 to 5 days in the fridge. If you place it inside the freezer, it can last for 2 to 6 months.

3. Ground Meat

Ground beef, pork, veal, and poultry will last for 1 to 2 days if stored in the fridge. If frozen, it will last for 3 to 4 months.

4. Sausage and Bacon

If stored in the fridge, sausage and bacon will last for one week. It would better if you cook raw sausage and consume it within two days. You can store bacon and sausage inside the freezer to extend their shelf life for one month. Some sausages can even last for two months if stored in the freezer.

5. Hot Dogs and Lunch Meats

Inside the fridge, hot dogs and lunch meats will last for two weeks, as long as their packages are unopened. Once the package of meat is opened, you should eat it within 3 to 5 days. Hot dogs can last a bit longer. If you freeze hot dogs, they can last for 1 to 2 months.

Below is a table to give you an overview of how long different kinds of meat can last inside the fridge.

how long can meat stay in fridge

So we’ve answered ‘how long is meat good for in the fridge’; next, let’s look at how to tell if meat is spoiled.

How to Tell If Meat Is Spoiled – After Being Left in the Fridge for Too Long

Eating spoiled meat is dangerous to your health. Before cooking any type of meat, you should check if it is still edible. Below are some things you need to check, so you will know if the meat in your fridge is still good.

1. Raw Chicken

Check Its Color

If the color of the meat is pinkish, it is still OK. But if the color turns gray, it means that it’s starting to spoil. The skin will also look dull before it spoils. Eating this kind of meat is dangerous, even if you cook it.

Smell It

Is the meat emitting a foul odor? If it is, it is already spoiled. Its odor could be like the smell of rotten egg, sulfur, or ammonia. Throw the meat away because it is no longer safe to eat.

Check Its Texture

Touch the skin of the chicken meat. Does it feel slimy to the touch? If it does, it is already spoiled. Try rinsing it with water. If the skin still feels slimy, it has really gone bad.

2. Raw Pork

Here are the telltale signs that pork meat has gone bad.

It Sticks to Your Fingers

Fresh pork meat does not stick to your fingers. When you touch it, it shouldn’t feel slimy. Once bacteria have done their work, slime will form on the meat. It means the meat has already gone bad.

There’s a Foul Smell

If the meat is emitting a foul odor similar to the smell of ammonia, sulfur, or rotten egg, it is already spoiled. Bacteria have already multiplied in the meat, making it no longer safe to eat.

It Changes its Color

If the color of the meat looks gray or brown-gray, it is already spoiled. Fresh pork meat always appears pinkish. But when bacteria attack the meat, its original color becomes dull and turns to gray or brown.

how long can meat last inside the fridge

3. Raw Beef

How to tell if beef is bad? How long will raw beef last in the fridge? Check if beef has already gone bad with the following things below:

Check the Original Package

Always inspect the ‘use-by’ date indicated on the beef meat package. The shelf life of raw beef is only for 1 to 3 days. If it is cooked, it is good for 7 to 10 days. But if the meat has already passed its shelf life, throw it away.

Check the Texture of the Beef

When there’s bacterial growth in the meat, its texture will be slimy. So, when you touch the meat, it will stick to your fingers. This kind of meat is dangerous to eat.

Smell It

If the meat is already spoiled, it will smell bad. It will emit a rancid smell or smells like a rotten egg, ammonia, or sulfur. In other words, it will have a pungent, offensive smell. If the meat smells this way, throw it away.

Check Its Color

The original color of beef is red. That is why it is called red meat. However, it can turn into brown, gray, or greenish color in the presence of bacteria. If the meat has already turned into greenish-brown and has lost its original red color, throw it away. It is no longer safe to eat.

Tips on Using Meat in a Recipe/Dish Before It Spoils

What if the meat is nearing its ‘use-by’ date? Beef is very expensive, and it would be a waste to throw it away. The same is true with other types of meat. You have two options if the meat’s expiry date is fast approaching:

  1. Put the meat inside an airtight plastic bag or container and freeze it. Be sure to indicate the date on the bag.
  2. Cook the meat as soon as you can.

There are simple dishes that you can cook where you can use nearly spoiled meat. Here are some sample dishes:

Dish 1 – Beef or Pork

  1. Prepare tomato juice, beans, onion, and chili powder.
  2. Brown the meat on your stovetop.
  3. Throw the meat and the ingredients in a crockpot. Add enough amount of water.
  4. Bring everything to boil until every ingredient in the pot is cooked.
  5. Enjoy your chili dish.

Dish 2 – Chicken

  1. Put the chicken cuts, breasts, drumsticks, etc. in the crockpot.
  2. Add some chicken broth to keep the meat moist.
  3. Cook on low heat for eight hours. 
  4. Let the meat cool down.
  5. Shred the meat by hand or by a hand mixer.
  6. You can use these shredded chicken meat as toppings in vegetable salads.
  7. As an alternative to salads, you can also use it together with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and tortillas to make yummy chicken tacos.

How to Properly Refrigerate Meat

how long is meat good for in the fridge

The shelf life of meat often depends on how you store and refrigerate it. If you want any meat to stay fresh, follow the guidelines below:

  • Keep meat in its original packaging until you decide to cook it. Opening the package will allow bacteria to enter and start contaminating the meat.
  • Put meat on a rimmed baking sheet or a suitable plate. The rimmed plate will prevent contamination of other food items if drips or spills from meat juices occur.
  • Store meat in the fridge on the lowest shelf. This section has the coldest temperature in the fridge. If there is a dedicated shelf in the fridge for meat, store it there. The drawer is designed to maintain even temperature, which is good for storing meat.
  • Raw meat presents the greatest hazard inside the refrigerator. Therefore, you should place any meat in sealable, and if possible, airtight containers.
  • Follow the storage instructions indicated in the meat packaging.
  • Separate the storage areas of raw meat and cooked meat.
  • Keep tabs on the ‘use-by’ dates of the different types of meat stored in your fridge.
  • If raw meat is not used or cooked within a few days, you should place it in a freezer bag. Remove as much air in the bag and then place it in the freezer. Write the freezing date on the bag.
  • Cooked meat should be cooled down first before it is placed in the fridge. Allow cooked meat to cool down for about two hours at room temperature. If possible, slice, cut, debone, or shred the meat. Secure it in an airtight container before placing it in the fridge.
  • Place leftover meat on the top shelves of the fridge. This area tends to have an even temperature and helps reduce the chances of food spoilage.

Conclusion – How Long Can Meat Stay in the Fridge?

So, to recap, how long does meat last in the fridge? Here is a guide to know how long you can keep all types of meat – raw and cooked – in your fridge:

  1. Poultry (whole chicken and turkey, raw) – 1 to 2 days
  2. Poultry (in cuts or pieces) – 1 to 2 days
  3. Poultry (cooked) – 3 to 4 days
  4. Beef, pork, lamb, veal (raw) – 3 to 5 days
  5. Beef, pork, lamb, veal (cooked) – 3 to 5 days
  6. Ham (canned, unopened) – 6 to 9 months
  7. Ham (cooked) – 7 days

How long can meat last in the fridge depends a lot on your refrigeration method. If you follow the correct way of refrigerating meat, you will surely extend its shelf life.