How long do fish, poultry, and meat really last in the refrigerator? How do I know when to throw it into the freezer? What TF is that smell?
If you’re cooking you need the 411 on food storage so that you don’t have to wonder why your refrigerator smells like that and what’s safe to eat. And before you ask, all proteins are not created equal. Fish, poultry, and meat are not the same so the rules are different. Read on to get the details you actually need.
Beef has the longest storage window and is the most forgiving. Regardless of the type of cut, the recommendation on beef is no more than three to five days in the fridge. Ground meat should really only be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days and leftovers with cooked beef should be tossed after three to four days.
Not ready to cook it? Red meat can be frozen for between four to 12 months and still be considered safe to eat.
Raw poultry should be used within one to two days of refrigeration and at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. This is true for whole chickens and turkeys as well as for parts including thighs, breasts, and legs. Once you’ve cooked them, you can store them for three to four days.
Raw poultry in all forms can be frozen for up to a year while cooked poultry should not be frozen for more than six months.
Uncooked pork is similar to beef and may be refrigerated for up to three to five days. This applies equally to roast and chops. Like ground beef, ground pork should be used within one to two days and once it’s been cooked, pork should not be kept for more than three days.
The rules are different for processed pork. Lunchmeat and hot dogs can be stored up to two weeks in the fridge. Of course, after the packages are opened, don’t keep them for more than five days.
Bacon and ham may be safely stored up to seven days.
Of all the animal proteins, fish are the most finicky when it comes to food storage. Attempting to store them for more than one to two days is not recommended though cooked fish may be saved for up to four days.
Smoked fish can be safely refrigerated for up to 14 days while canned fish should not be kept for more than four days.
Tips for Refrigerating Meat, Poultry, Pork, and Fish
First, make sure you’re storing and removing any paper wrapping. Next, seal in plastic, taking care to remove any excess air. Finally, make sure your refrigerator stays at 32-34 degrees Fahrenheit.
What TF is Proper Freezing
This is actually easier than it sounds:
- Prepare the meat, poultry, pork, or fish as you would refrigerate it (see above), taking care to wrap it tightly in moisture-proof freezer safe packaging.
- Make sure your freezer is set to 0 degrees.
- Label the package with the type and date so you don’t end up with any mystery bags.
- Add them to the freezer in an organized fashion with the oldest in the front.
- Be sure to check your freezer at least once a month to ensure you’re using food when you should.
To thaw, simply place it in the refrigerator, allowing 18-24 hours per one-pound package to thaw completely.
The FDA spells out specific guidelines here: https://www.fda.gov/media/74435/download. They’re not as interesting as ours but are still good to have on hand.
Have food storage tips to share? Post them here!