- Food Storage – How long can you keep…
- Can I Still Eat It: How to Safely Store Meat
- Best practices for storing meat
- Freezer storage guidelines
- Fridge storage guidelines
- Canned food storage guidelines
- Shelf life of cooked turkey
- How to use a charcoal grill
- Ground beef
- Ground poultry
- Ground pork and ground sausage
- Cooked ground meat
- The golden rule? When it doubt, throw it out!
Food Storage – How long can you keep…
- How long does raw ground turkey last in the fridge or freezer? The exact answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – keep ground turkey refrigerated at all times.
- How long does raw ground turkey last after the sell-by date? After ground turkey is purchased, it may be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days – the “sell-by” date on the package may expire during that storage period, but the ground turkey will remain safe to use after the sell by date if it has been properly stored.
- Unopened raw ground turkey may be kept in its original store packaging when refrigerating; to maximize the shelf life of ground turkey, do not open the package until ready to use.
- How long can raw ground turkey be left at room temperature? Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F; ground turkey should be discarded if left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
- To further extend the shelf life of raw ground turkey, freeze; when freezing, place ground turkey in the freezer before the number of days shown for refrigerator storage has elapsed.
- You can maximize the shelf life of ground turkey in the freezer by overwrapping the original store packaging with airtight heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper or place the package inside a heavy-duty freezer bag in order to prevent freezer burn.
- How long does raw ground turkey last in the freezer? Properly stored, it will maintain best quality for about 3 to 4 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
- The freezer time shown is for best quality only – ground turkey that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
- How long does raw ground turkey last after being frozen and thawed? Ground turkey that has been defrosted in the fridge can be kept for an additional 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator before cooking; ground turkey that was thawed in the microwave or in cold water should be cooked immediately.
- How long does ground turkey last in the fridge once it is cooked? Cooked ground turkey will usually stay good for 3 to 4 days in the fridge and 4 months in the freezer.
- How to tell if raw ground turkey is bad? The best way is to smell and look at the ground turkey: signs of bad ground turkey are a sour smell, dull color and slimy texture; discard any ground turkey with an off smell or appearance.
Sources: For details about data sources used for food storage information, please
Can I Still Eat It: How to Safely Store Meat
As the long days of summer arrive, you might imagine yourself carrying overflowing platters of hot dogs and juicy burgers at the next big family cookout.
And summer is a time for relaxation and time with loved ones. But with rising temperatures and outdoor gatherings lasting from morning to night, it’s definitely not a time to relax those important, science-based safety standards for food.
Each year, 48 million people fall sick from food poisoning, whether in a restaurant or in their own home, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s not entirely clear how many of these cases occur in the home specifically. Researchers say it may be anywhere as low as 12 percent to as high as 80 percent. But no matter the statistic, it’s up to you to safely store and handle your food at home.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for refrigeration and food safety, there are two kinds of bacteria that can grow on your food:
- Pathogenic bacteria. These are especially dangerous as they cause foodborne illness. They grow rapidly in unrefrigerated foods and can’t usually be detected by how a food looks, tastes, or smells.
- Spoilage bacteria. These develop and grow as food spoils. They do change the taste, look, and smell of your food. However, they’re far less likely to actually make you sick.
In either case, following the rules of safe food storage will help keep the food you eat both delicious and safe.
So, if you’ve been wondering how long you can keep that steak in the fridge or whether that can of tuna in your cabinet is still good enough for your casserole, we’ve got you covered. From freezer and fridge to canned foods in the cupboard, we’ve outlined the rules for safe food storage of beef, pork, poultry, and fish, all in time for your next set of leftovers.
Best practices for storing meat
Whatever the meat — beef, chicken, pork, or fish — there’s no question about it: You can safely store your food the longest in the freezer. That’s because you can safely freeze meats indefinitely.
According to USDA guidelines on freezing and food safety, freezing these foods to 0°F (-18°C) inactivates microbes like bacteria, yeasts, and mold as well as slows enzyme activity — all of the stuff that can cause your food to go bad.
The good news is no fancy vacuum sealer is required to safely freeze meat. However, sealing out moisture certainly does help keep these foods tasting fresh for longer when you eventually defrost and cook them.
So while you can safely store these foods in their original packaging, the USDA recommends that you add another layer of plastic wrap or foil before plunging your meats into the frozen abyss. That extra layer will help keep out moisture and keep those foods tasting fresh. Freezing meats when they’re as fresh as possible also helps preserve taste and nutrients.
You can even safely refreeze thawed meats that you don’t end up cooking. This assumes you thawed them properly to begin with (more on that later).
According to USDA guidelines, however, don’t refreeze foods left outside the refrigerator for longer than two hours or one hour in temperatures above 90°F (32°C).
Despite your freezer’s capacity to store meats and fish for a millennium, you probably shouldn’t keep these foods in your freezer for quite that long (unless you enjoy eating meat that tastes of shoe leather). Freezing your uncooked meats and fish is a safe practice, but at some point, it’s no longer a tasty one. It’s important to consider the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA recommended time limits for freezing cuts of meat and seafood.
Whether you follow those time limits or keep these foods frozen for much longer, the freezer will always be your safest bet. Raw meats and fish will always last longer in the freezer than they do in the fridge.
In addition to food storage guidelines, it’s just as important that you take care in defrosting these foods once you take them out of the freezer. USDA guidelines on safe defrosting say you should only thaw frozen meats in the fridge or in a leakproof plastic bag submerged in cold water. That’s because defrosting those foods at room temperature allows bacteria to grow too rapidly.
And as you defrost those frosty meats in the fridge, you also want to make sure they don’t drip on anything else as they thaw out. The same goes for marinating raw meat in the fridge. Place the meat in a covered dish to avoid spilling.
Beyond the freezer, canned meats and fish also offer you a very long storage life: between two and five years. This assumes you store these foods in proper conditions.
Your options for canned meats and fish are more limited than what you can store in your freezer or fridge, however. This is because canned meats and fish tend to come in a very specific format, like Spam, a tin of anchovies, or canned tuna fish.
Canning involves a different process to keep your food safe and unspoiled. The food is heated to kill bacteria then vacuum sealed to create a sterile environment and prohibit new bacteria growth.
There are very few examples where the fridge is your best storage option over your freezer or canned foods in your cupboard, but these examples do exist. The FDA recommends you skip freezing prepared meats that have been stuffed, for instance, and only refrigerate those before cooking.
Also, the USDA says mayonnaise, cream sauces, and lettuces don’t freeze well. Don’t freeze these foods or any meats that have been prepared with them.
Freezer storage guidelines
So just how long is “too long” before frozen meats won’t be so tasty?
When it comes to most uncooked cuts of beef, you can freeze them for several months without sacrificing quality.
According to the FDA, you can keep cuts, like roasts, frozen for anywhere from 4 to 12 months and steaks for 6 to 12 months. Ground beef should be frozen for no more than three to four months.
Once cooked, you can also safely freeze those beefy leftovers. But the FDA recommends you keep these frozen for only about two to three months. Again, this is purely a matter of quality. Meat can be kept longer in the freezer than these guidelines espouse. But at that point, you may begin to sacrifice quality.
If you want to freeze a whole chicken or turkey, the good news is that frozen poultry can keep for up to one year without sacrificing much quality. The FDA says chicken parts like thighs, breasts, or wings keep well for up to nine months, but giblets should be kept no longer than three to four months. Ground chicken should probably be kept for no longer than three to four months as well.
For uncooked pork, freezer guidelines are similar to beef. Roasts can be kept frozen for between 4 and 12 months. Chops are OK in the freezer for four to six months.
For cooked cuts of pork, the FDA recommends you keep these frozen for only two to three months to maximize quality.
When it comes to smoked and processed pork like ham, hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats, the FDA recommends you only freeze these foods for one to two months.
Recommendations for freezing seafood are a bit more complicated. Lean fish like catfish or cod can be kept frozen for six to eight months. Fatty fish like salmon should be kept frozen for only two to three months.
Shellfish like shrimp and other seafood like scallops can be kept frozen for three to six months. Cooked fish should be kept frozen for no longer than four to six months. And smoked fish should only be kept frozen for two months before sacrificing taste.
Fridge storage guidelines
When we shift to thinking about storing food in the fridge, unlike the freezer, safety as well as taste is a concern. A fridge kept at 40°F (4°C) does slow the growth of dangerous bacteria. But since it’s not as cold as a freezer, you want to pay close attention to storage time limits set by the FDA and toss any foods that have been kept too long.
Most uncooked meat, regardless of cut, can be stored in the fridge for three to five days. But there are definitely exceptions. Ground meat and offal like liver and kidneys should only be kept in the fridge for one to two days. Leftovers containing cooked meat should be kept for no longer than three to four days before tossing.
Raw poultry, whether whole, parts like breasts or thighs, or ground giblets or meat, can only be kept for one to two days in the fridge. But, once cooked, you get a bit of an extension. The FDA says you can keep cooked poultry in the fridge for three to four days.
Fresh, uncooked pork can be refrigerated about as long as other meats: three to five days. This is regardless of whether it’s a roast or pork chops. Raw ground pork should also only be kept in the fridge for one to two days. Once cooked, pork dishes should be kept for two to three days in the fridge before tossing.
The guidelines are different for processed pork products. Unopened packages of hot dogs and lunch meat can be kept for two weeks. Once those packages are opened, only keep hot dogs for a week and luncheon meat for three to five days.
Only keep bacon for seven days. The same goes for a whole, cooked ham. But for half a ham, you can refrigerate it for three to five days. Ham slices can be kept in the fridge for three to four days.
Lean or fatty fish and shellfish can only be refrigerated for one to two days before needing to toss. You can keep cooked fish leftovers for three to four days. Smoked fish, on the other hand, can be kept longer. You can safely refrigerate it for 14 days. Once opened, canned fish like tuna can be safely refrigerated for three to four days.
Canned food storage guidelines
In the world of safe food storage, canned food is a real boon. It provides many affordable and long-lasting options. According to USDA guidelines, you can keep canned food for two to five years, whether it’s fish, poultry, pork, or beef.
Commercially canned food is placed in a sterile, vacuum-sealed container and heat processed at 250°F (121°C). This process kills microorganisms, halts enzymes from forming, and prevents new bacteria from entering the stored food.
Things can, however, go wrong. Sometimes canned food can be damaged during the manufacturing process or become badly rusted. If your canned food is heavily rusted or damaged, you’ll definitely want to discard it. You’ll also want to get rid of any canned food that’s bulging or smells bad. It might be a sign of C. botulinum, a bacterium that can cause a deadly form of food poisoning. Botulism is incredibly rare, especially in commercially canned foods. But there’s a risk of it developing in foods canned improperly at home.
Once in your home, you’ll definitely want to make sure to store canned food properly. That means keeping canned food somewhere that’s cool, dry, and dark, ideally below 85°F (29°C) and no higher than 100°F (38°C). Never keep canned food somewhere that’s damp or hot, like under the sink or next to the stove.
Once you open canned food, bacteria can begin to grow, so you’ll want to quickly refrigerate and store any unused portion. According to the USDA, you can safely put your leftover canned food right into the fridge. In order to preserve taste and flavor, it’s recommended that you refrigerate any unused portion in a separate, clean storage container.
You can also freeze unused canned seafood in a proper storage container for up to two months.
So, what if after reading all of this, you immediately forget all of these best practices? If you find yourself staring blankly at your open fridge, wondering what to do, keep the following contact information tacked to your fridge:
- For food safety information, call the USDA’s meat and poultry hotline at 888-MPHOTLINE (888-674-6854). They’re available year-round, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. You can also email them at [email protected] and chat with them online.
Jenny Splitter is a writer and storyteller based in Washington, D.C. She contributes science, food, and health stories to outlets like The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Mental Floss, and Slate, as well as the science communication project SciMoms. She also appears in the “Science Moms” documentary and is the story director for the D.C.-based immersive experience company TBD Immersive. She performs her own true, occasionally embarrassing stories about herself on stage for audiences at the 9:30 Club, the National Gallery of Art, and the Birchmere. In her spare time, she carves ice sculptures and grows heirloom wheat. Just kidding, she has two kids.
Shelf life of cooked turkey
Dear New Castle County resident,
Thank you for your question. I’m sure your thought is on the minds of many people as they notice that they still have turkey in the refrigerator left over from the holiday. The best advice comes from the website of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture- www.fsis.usda.gov
I have included their message below relating to the storage of leftovers. If you freeze food within 24 – 48 hours after dinner, you can safely reheat it for several weeks or months later, if it is properly wrapped and stored at zero degrees F or below. However, if it has been in the refrigerator for 8 days, it is not wise to eat it. The phrase, “When in doubt, throw it out,” is always a good one to employ related to food safety questions. Freezing it at this point is only prolonging a food safety disaster in the making. I hope you enjoyed it the first time and will not have to waste too much of the turkey, but it is really best for your health and safety to discard that turkey. Below is a message from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website. However, another good way to get answers to related questions is the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (also from FSIS) – you can call them at 1-888-MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854, or email them at [email protected] Good luck to you and I hope you have a safe and happy December!
Storage of Leftovers
It IS safe to freeze leftover turkey and trimmings — even if you purchased them frozen. Wrap tightly for best quality.
Refrigerator (40 °F or below)
- Cooked turkey — 3 to 4 days
- Cooked dishes and gravy — 3 to 4 days
- How long does cooked ground turkey last in the fridge? The precise answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – refrigerate ground turkey within two hours of cooking.
- To maximize the shelf life of cooked ground turkey for safety and quality, refrigerate the ground turkey in shallow airtight containers or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
- Properly stored, cooked ground turkey will last for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
- To further extend the shelf life of cooked ground turkey, freeze it; freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags, or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer wrap.
- How long does cooked ground turkey last in the freezer? Properly stored, it will maintain best quality for about 2 to 3 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
- The freezer time shown is for best quality only – cooked ground turkey that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
- How long does cooked ground turkey last after being frozen and thawed? Cooked ground turkey that has been thawed in the fridge can be kept for an additional 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator before cooking; ground turkey that was thawed in the microwave or in cold water should be eaten immediately.
- How long does cooked ground turkey last at room temperature? Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F; cooked ground turkey should be discarded if left for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
- How to tell if cooked ground turkey is bad? The best way is to smell and look at the ground turkey: signs of bad ground turkey are a sour smell and a slimy texture; discard any ground turkey with an off smell or appearance, do not taste first.
Sources: For details about data sources used for food storage information, please
Like most foods, meat is best when it’s served fresh. And while no one wants to be wasteful, no one should risk getting sick from tainted or spoiled meat. When that beef, pork or poultry is ground up, however, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if it’s actually gone bad.
Since best by, sell by and use by dates can be pretty confusing, culinary professionals recommend that home cooks perform their own assessment of any meat products before cooking them. The first test? Take a look. In general, ground meat should be a varied shade of red or pink. Slight discoloration is natural but the product package itself may also indicate spoilage. “From a visual perspective, if you have a piece of meat that’s in a bag or vacuum-sealed pouch if it has blown up like a balloon, it’s going to be really rotten, so much so, you should not even open the bag,” butcher James Peisker, co-founder of Porter Road, told TODAY Food.
How to use a charcoal grill
May 24, 201802:19
If the ground meat passes the visual test, the next step is to touch it. “If the meat is sticky or super slimy, throw it away. Wet and juicy is OK, but you never want your meat to be slimy to the touch,” advised Peisker.
After passing the look and touch tests, then it’s time to use your nose. “Different meat has different smells,” said Peisker but, generally, rotten meat actually smells slightly sweet. Like other products that have spoiled, ground meat will be especially pungent. Like fresh fish, fresh meat shouldn’t really be smelly at all.
Here are some top tips for how to assess the freshness of specific types of meat.
Fresh ground beef should always be bright red in color. Once it starts to grey, it’s best to stay away.Getty Images
“All beef, including ground beef, is a deep purple until it hits oxygen,” Peisker told TODAY. “If it’s a deep purple, it was cut and then taken away from oxygen instantly. As the meat hits oxygen, it blooms to a bright red.”
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Beef actually has the longest shelf life of most ground meats and, assuming it wasn’t purchased past its use-by date and is freshly ground, should stay fresh in the fridge for five to seven days.
“The meat should always have a nice sheen to it and not gray. The grind should be a coarse grind where you can see the meat,” Josh Capon, executive chef and partner at Lure Fishbar and Bowery Meat Company told TODAY.
When raw beef starts to turn brown or gray (even if it’s just a small portion of the package), it’s time to perform the smell and touch tests right away. Graying is a natural process that occurs as beef continues to oxidize but if there is any sticky residue or it smells funky, toss it. If you’re still within that five day window and the beef is only a little gray on the outside, but otherwise seems fine, it’s OK to consume it. However, if the meat is showing signs of gray or brown coloration throughout, it’s time to say goodbye.
It’s also important to keep in mind that ground meat can still go rotten in the freezer. “Large ice crystals indicate it could be bad, and it could make you sick,” said Peisker. “Also with frozen meat, if there is discoloration — be careful — it’s always better to air on the side of safety.”
Ground poultry, like chicken or turkey, will be very light in color when fresh. However, it doesn’t have a very long life in the fridge. Getty Images
“Ground poultry is the most difficult to see visually. It could go bad before it even browns, so that’s why you need to eat it immediately,” said Peisker. Ground chicken and turkey usually last just two to three days in the fridge.
Freshly ground chicken or turkey will have a light pink hue and virtually no smell. Like raw beef, raw poultry may get slightly gray or brown as it ages but the contrast may not be as obvious, so it’s important to sniff it and thoroughly look for any slick or slimy residue before you use it any recipe.
Ground pork and ground sausage
Depending on the type of meat used in the sausage, its fridge life will vary. Getty Images
Ground pork will stay fresh up to five days but around day three, you should definitely check the package. “With grocery store ground pork, it will start to turn brown, but it doesn’t have the oxidation like beef does,” Peisker said. “Ground pork is often considered the ‘other white meat’ but … if you get it from a reputable, high-quality purveyor, it will automatically look darker than what you would see in the grocery store.”
When it comes to fresh sausages like bratwurst (which often have dairy in them), they will go bad pretty quickly. “Anything in a natural casing will also go bad faster,” said Peisker, adding that “anything that has a starch in it will go bad faster, because bacteria loves starches and turns them into sugars — which will increase the growth of bacteria, good and bad.” How long sausage lasts will vary by the type of meat in it, but most sausages will last two to three days in the fridge, and about a month in the freezer.
Of course, with various spices and additives like onions or garlic, fresh sausage can be pretty pungent right off the bat. Chef Justin Burdett of Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told TODAY that “pre-wrapped meats have an odor to them immediately after being opened that will go away after the meat is allowed to breathe a little. However, if the meat still smells after some time out of the packaging, it’s likely gone bad.”
Sausages also vary in color but like any other ground meat product, once they start to turn a different color, it’s likely time to toss it. Touching the sausage, said Burdett, is probably the best way to assess whether it’s fresh: “If the ground sausage feels sticky or has a gummy texture, it’s past its time and shouldn’t be used.”
Cooked ground meat
Before you grill up that burger, make sure the meat passes the fresh test.
Meal prepping is becoming more and more popular, but if you’re cooking up a big batch of ground meat, be prepared to use it up pretty quickly. “Cooked ground , if it’s really fresh and not filled with stabilizers and preservatives, it will only last a day or two. But again, utilize the tests above — for anything pre-cooked in a store, use your senses to guide you to a decision,” said Peisker.
When you’re cooking ground meat, it’s important to keep internal cooking temperatures in mind. For ground beef or pork, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends cooking it to 160 degrees. For ground poultry, it’s 165 degrees.
All tainted meat, whether it’s beef, pork, chicken or veal, gets a slimy residue on it when it has gone bad — even highly processed proteins like bacon and deli meats. “Ever open a pack of hot dogs and find a sticky, slimy translucent goo that stretches as you pull your hot dogs apart?” Vincent Olivieri, chef de cuisine at Fairway Market and Fairway Café and Steakhouse, told TODAY. Anything with that sticky, unattractive slime should definitely be tossed out, even if it is filled with preservatives.
The golden rule? When it doubt, throw it out!
Trust all of your available senses, the experts said, but smell is probably the best indicator of spoilage or freshness. Said Olivieri, “Your nose is the most powerful tool when it comes to scoping out bad meat. If it’s got a funk it’s probably ready to go in the trash.”