How long can you leave raw meat in the fridge?

In this article, we will answer the question “How long can you leave raw meat in the fridge?”, and how to safely store and thaw raw meat?

How long can you leave raw meat in the fridge?

It should be noted that frozen meats will last indefinitely provided the temperature is maintained at 0 °F or below. The following time frames indicate peak quality. 

Food Type Refrigerator(40 °F or below)Freezer(0 °F or below)
Hot dogs Opened package Unopened package 1 week2 weeks 1-2 months1-2 months 
Luncheon meat Opened package or deli-slicedUnopened package 3-5 days 
2 weeks 
1-2 months
1-2 months
Bacon and sausage Bacon 
Sausage, raw, from chicken, turkey, pork, or beef
Sausage, fully cooked, from chicken, turkey, pork, or beef
Sausage purchased frozen 
1 week 
1-2 days 

1 week 

After cooking, 3-4 days
1 month
1-2 months 

1-2 months 

1-2 months from date of purchase
Hamburger, ground meats, and ground poultryHamburger, ground beef, turkey, chicken, other poultry, veal, pork, lamb, and mixtures of them1-2 days 3-4 months 
Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and porkSteaks Chops Roasts 3-5 days 3-5 days 3-5 days 4-12 months4-12 months4-12 months 
Ham Fresh, uncured, uncooked
Fresh, uncured, cooked
Cured, cook-before-eating, uncooked
Fully-cooked, vacuum-sealed at the plant, unopenedCooked, store-wrapped, whole
Cooked, store-wrapped, slices, half, or spiral cut
Country ham, cooked
Canned, labeled “Keep Refrigerated,” unopened
Canned, shelf-stable, opened
Prosciutto, Parma or Serrano ham, dry Italian or Spanish type, cut
3-5 days 

3-4 days 

5 to 7 days or “use by” date

2 weeks or “use by” date
1 week 

3-5 days 

1 week
6-9 months 

3-4 days 

2-3 months 

Best practices for storing meat 

Freezing prolongs the shelf-life of any kind of meat or meat leftovers. This is because the activity of enzymes, bacteria, molds, and yeasts slow down at such low temperatures. 

The quality of the frozen meat also depends upon the initial quality of the meat. Make sure you buy good quality meat and freeze it before the refrigerator life of the meat package is elapsed. 

Your best bet is to invest in vacuum-sealer bags for freezing meat. However, using heavy-duty freezer bags also yields good results. 

It is best if you freeze the meat in its original packaging. For added protection, wrap the original package of meat in a wrap of plastic or foil. 

It is recommended to refrigerate canned and stuffed meats instead of freezing them due to better results. Similarly, meats prepared with mayonnaise, cream sauces, and veggies like lettuce should not be refrigerated. 

Best thawing practices 

The safest method to thaw any kind of meat is to leave it overnight in the fridge. Meat that is thawed using this method is safe for refreezing. Place the meat package on a plate or dish before popping it in the fridge for defrosting. 

This will catch the meat drippings. However, if you thaw the meat on the counter, in the microwave, or under cold running water, cook it right away.

Thawing the meat on the counter is not recommended due to safety issues. Use a leak-proof plastic bag to defrost the meat under cold water. 

Why you should place the meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge?

Unless your fridge has a special meat drawer, you should always put your meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge. This is because you do not want any of the meat drippings to contaminate the food below. So putting the meat on the lowest shelf helps prevent cross-contamination. 

How do you make raw meat last longer in the fridge?

The low temperatures of the fridge slow down the enzyme activity and the proliferation rate of the microbes. 

If your fridge is broken and the inside of the fridge fails to achieve this temperature, you cannot guarantee the safety of raw meat. 

Use a candy thermometer, a glass kitchen thermometer, or the in-built thermometer of the fridge to correctly gauge the temperature. 

An easy way to check the temperature of your fridge is to place a thermometer in a bowl full of water and leave it in the fridge for 8 hours. 

Can you leave raw meat uncovered in the fridge?

To avoid cross-contamination, raw meat should never be refrigerated uncovered. Moreover, raw meat has a distinct odor that can easily spread and malign the odor of other food products in your fridge. Raw meat can also pick up odors. The bottom line is to never leave raw meat unguarded in the fridge. 

Other FAQs about Meat that you may be interested in.

Can you get sick from eating venison?

How long does vacuum sealed meat last at room temperature?

Can you cook raw meat in a crockpot?


In this article, we answered the question “How long can you leave raw meat in the fridge?”, and how to safely store and thaw raw meat?