Okay, so we have all accidentally left raw meat out on the counter for hours on end. But, how long is too long? Is it even safe to leave steak out at room temperature before cooking it?
Everybody knows that raw meat is highly perishable, but surely it won’t be the death of you? And besides, meat is so extremely expensive these days, so isn’t it worth risking using left-out meat?
How long can raw steak sit out? The short answer is that raw steak can be left out at room temperature for only 2 hours. Once you have reached 4 hours, it has become too dangerous to consume and should (according to the FDA) be safely discarded.
In today’s article, we will have a look at exactly whether or not you can leave steak out at room temperature, and how exactly to do so safely.
We also felt that it is important to discuss the hazards involved, and cover the best ways to store meat in the fridge and freezer!
Can You Leave Steak Out Before Cooking?
So, the real question isn’t really whether or not you can leave steak out, but rather whether you should!
You can obviously leave steak out at room temperature. That isn’t up for debate. But regarding the second part, whether or not you should, is more complicated.
As you may know, there are many risks involved with leaving steak out at room temperature.
It is exposed to harmful bacteria that could lead to serious illnesses like food poisoning. Furthermore, some people argue that leaving steak out does nothing for the cooking/searing process and merely wastes time.
Now, from our extensive background in food, and directly from the mouths of qualified chefs, celebrity foodies, and food scientists, there are more benefits to leaving it out than not.
The biggest benefit to leaving steak out to warm to room temperature before cooking it is that it will sear and brown much better.
This creates a better texture and even flavor! The seared parts also help trap and retain more moisture within the steak, leaving it nice and juicy!
By even leaving it out for just 20-30 minutes, you will notice massive changes.
Furthermore, by bringing the entire steak to a uniform temperature, it will cook a lot more evenly. When leaving steak in the fridge, it does tend to have varying temperatures in different parts.
It’s the same when baking cake and using only room temperature ingredients – they mix much better and create a better end product.
How to Leave Steak Out
The best technique we have used is to simply leave the steak on a plate and cover it with a piece of kitchen towel. Then, allow it to come up to room temperature, which is roughly 68°F (20°C).
You can season the meat with some salt to help prevent any bacteria from growing or multiplying. And, by covering the meat with some kitchen towels, you are also protecting it from foreign objects like flies and dust.
Dangers Involved With Leaving Raw Steak Out
Let’s get the obvious danger out of the way: raw meat can make you sick. Very sick! Why is that though?
The danger here of course is bacteria. There are other things that can turn meat bad, but bacteria are the number one culprit. And, as you may know, bacteria grows exceptionally fast when inside of the “temperature danger zone”.
Now, this zone is a temperature range that chefs and food manufacturers use to help protect against the rapid growth of bacteria.
It ranges between 40°F-140°F (4.4-60ºC). Anything outside of this range will either kill or inhibit bacteria. But, inside it, they thrive!
How Long Before Meat Goes Rancid at Room Temperature?
If you purchased your steak today, took it home, and left it on the counter, according to the FDA, you have 2 hours to either cook it or put it back in the fridge.
They call it the 2-hour rule. This has become a general rule of thumb people use for all types of raw meats.
The absolute longest time that raw meat can be left out at room temperature is 4 hours. After that, it is no longer considered safe to eat.
Signs That Meat Has Gone Rancid
If unfortunately, you did end up leaving the steak out for far too long, there are ways to check whether or not it is still good to use.
The first trick you should use is to smell the steak. Take a deep whiff and try to recognize any foreign smells. We all have smelled fresh meat, and trust us, you will instantly notice the strange odors they produce when going off.
Even if you have left it inside of its packaging, make sure to take it out when smelling it properly.
The next tell-tale sign that your meat isn’t good anymore is its physical appearance.
Once the meat has started to brown it has stayed out for far too long or at a too high temperature. Raw meat should have a bright red color without any blemishes or discoloration.
Furthermore, if your meat has a slimy texture to it, you will definitively have to discard it! Rather pull out your DoorDash app and get something that is guaranteed to be safer to eat.
How to Properly Store Steak in the Fridge/Freezer
Storing raw meat should be pretty straightforward, right? You buy it pre-packaged, either from the butcher’s shop or the grocery store, then put it in the fridge or freezer until you’re to use it.
Well, unfortunately, there are some things you should be mindful of. While we would love to simply toss it on the first available shelf, you have to first follow some key steps.
First, you have to think about how the steak has been packaged. Is it wrapped in plastic that cannot leak? Or, is it simply wrapped in butcher paper?
Can juices possibly seep out of the packaging and potentially drip onto other food in your fridge?
Another thing to ask yourself is where in your fridge you’re leaving your raw steak. If the steak is on the top rack, then juices can drip down onto other food items and contaminate them.
As you can see, there are a few factors to consider before simply storing it in your fridge or freezer.
1. Choose the Best Placement
When storing your raw steak in the fridge, whether it is fresh or frozen, the best place to store it is on the bottom shelf.
As we have mentioned earlier, if for some reason any juices were to get out of the steak’s packaging, placing the steak on the bottom rack will prevent the juice from dripping onto other food items.
You may need to clean the shelf it is on, but there will be no cross-contamination risk.
When putting your raw steak on the bottom shelf, make sure that it is on a plate with a lip or a deep container (such as these ones). This will help prevent any juices from spreading to food items around the steak.
Most steaks and other meat products bought in a store come pre-packaged in polystyrene or vacuum-sealed packets. You won’t have to set those in a container or on a plate if they are well-sealed.
How Long Can You Store Raw Steak in the Fridge?
Not all types of meat have the same expiration rates. But, on average, raw steak will still be good for about 5 days in the fridge. In the freezer, it will last much longer.
Below is a handy table that can help you remember how long different kinds of meats last (both for refrigeration and freezing).
|Type of Meat||Refrigerator||Freezer|
|Beef||3-5 days||Up to 12 months|
|Poultry||1-3 days||Up to 12 months|
|Pork||3-5 days||Up to 12 months|
|Fatty fish||1-2 days||About 3 months|
|Seafood||3 days||Up to 6 months|
Now that we’ve gone over how long raw steak can be left out for, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Can Steak Be Left Out Overnight at Room Temperature?
Seeing as we’ve already established that steak should preferably only stay outside for 2 hours (4 at most), you shouldn’t leave steak (or other raw meat) out overnight.
It simply and in no way is safe to eat the next day.
How Long Can Raw Ground Beef Stand Outside of the Fridge?
There isn’t a rule out there that states that ground beef is more susceptible to oxidation and bacterial infection than steak is.
But, logically, we probably should be a little more careful with ground meat because of its larger surface area.
How Long Can Cooked Steak Stand Outside?
According to multiple sources, cooked steak can be left outside for 2 hours at room temperature after being cooked.
After that time has elapsed, it is considered unsafe to eat and should be discarded.
If you’re new to cooking steaks, here’s a great video on how to properly cook all kinds of steaks!
Up Next: Can Ribs Be Pink?