Safe Beef Storage & Handling Basics

Beef Shopping Basics

  • Keep your perishables out of the danger zone by making the grocery store your last stop when running errands, and the meat and dairy cases your last stop in the store.
  • Be sure refrigerated products are very cold to the touch and frozen foods are still solid.
  • Do not purchase dated packages if the “sell by” date has expired.

Beef Refrigerator Storage Times

Type of Beef   Refrigerator (35° F to 40° F)
Steaks, Roasts 3 to 4 days
Beef for Fajitas 2 to 3 days
Beef for Kabobs 2 to 3 days 
Beef for Stir-Fry 2 to 3 days 
Beef for Stew 2 to 3 days 
Ground Beef  1 to 2 days 
Corned Beef
(ready to cook)
1 week
Leftover Cooked Beef 3 to 4 days


  • Once home, immediately store beef in the meat compartment or coldest part of the refrigerator. (The coldest part of the refrigerator is at back of an inside shelf, not inside the door.)
  • Make sure the refrigerator is set at 35°F to 40°F.
  • Beef wrapped in transparent film requires no additional wrapping. However, placing the package inside a plastic food storage bag protects against potential leakage.
  • If beef is wrapped in uncoated butcher paper, unwrap and repackage in heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper or plastic freezer bags.
  • Ground beef is more perishable than whole beef cuts. During grinding, any bacteria on the surface of the beef are mixed throughout resulting in shorter shelf life.
  • Refrigerate leftover cooked beef within 2 hours after cooking. Divide large quantities of food into smaller portions or spread out in a shallow container to chill more quickly.

Beef Freezer Storage Times

Type of Beef   Freezer (0° F or Colder)
Steaks, Roasts 6 to 12 months
Beef for Fajitas 6 to 12 months
Beef for Kabobs 6 to 12 months 
Beef for Stir-Fry 6 to 12 months 
Beef for Stew 6 to 12 months 
Ground Beef  3 to 4 months 
Corned Beef
(ready to cook)
2 weeks
Leftover Cooked Beef 2 to 3 months


  • Immediately freeze any beef that won’t be used within a few days.
  • Make sure the freezer is set at 0°F or colder (optimal freezer temperatures are -10°Fto -40F). Fast freezing reduces moisture and flavor loss.
  • Freeze beef in its original transparent packaging for up to two weeks.
  • To prevent freezer burn during longer storage, repackage beef in heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper or plastic freezer bags, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Label and date frozen beef packages with the cut, weight and/or number of servings. Use packages in the order of FIFO – first in, first out.



  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before preparing food, as well as before and after handling raw meat.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry and fish and their juices from coming into contact with other foods during preparation. Wash all utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water after contact with raw meat.
  • Never chop fresh vegetables or salad ingredients on a cutting board that was used for raw meat without properly cleaning it first. If possible, designate a separate cutting board for preparation of raw meat, poultry and fish.
  • Thaw foods only in the refrigerator or microwave oven; never leave out at room temperature. Foods thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately, not refrigerated.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Discard or boil thoroughly any leftover marinade that was in contact with the raw meat.
  • Clean produce well under cold, running water, and scrub thoroughly with a clean brush when possible.


  • Use an ovenproof or instant-read meat thermometer to prevent over or undercooking.
  • Place the thermometer at the thickest portion of the meat, not touching bone, fat or the bottom of the pan.
  • For ground beef patties, insert the thermometer sideways into the center of the cooked burger.
  • Roast meats at oven temperatures of 325°F or above.

Safe Cooking Temperatures

Product  Minimum internal temperature (°F) for safety and quality
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb
   Ground meats 160°
   Whole cuts (roasts and steaks, etc.) 145°
Fresh Pork (all cuts, including ground) 160°
Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck) 165°
Eggs  Yolk and white are firm 
Egg dishes 160°
Fin Fish 145°
Shell Fish Until firm, opaque
Leftovers, casseroles 165° 


  • Always place cooked food in a clean dish for serving, and use clean utensils. Never use the same plate that held raw meat, poultry or fish to serve the cooked meat.
  • Do not allow any cooked food to sit out at room temperature more than two hours.
  • When serving food buffet style, keep cold foods on ice at a temperature below 40°F, and keep hot foods above 140°F. Do not mix fresh food with food that has been sitting out.



  • Refrigerate cooked foods no later than two hours after cooking. Do not allow foods to cool at room temperature.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into small portions and place in shallow containers for quick chilling.
  • Freeze or discard leftovers that you won’t eat within a few days.
  • Cover and reheat leftovers to 165°F throughout. Stir foods while you reheat them to ensure that all the food reaches the appropriate temperature.
  • Never taste leftover food that looks or smells strange. When in doubt, throw it out.

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