How to Safely Store Meat?

Apr. 22, 2024

Proper storage of meat is essential for maintaining its quality, flavor, and safety. Whether you've purchased fresh cuts from the butcher or have leftovers from a meal, following appropriate storage guidelines helps prevent bacterial contamination and foodborne illnesses. Here's how to safely store meat to ensure it stays fresh and safe for consumption:

1. Keep It Cold

Meat should be stored at temperatures below 40°F (4°C) to slow down bacterial growth and maintain freshness. Refrigerate or freeze meat promptly after purchasing or cooking it. Use a refrigerator thermometer to ensure that the temperature remains consistently within the safe range.

2. Use Airtight Containers or Wrapping

When storing meat in the refrigerator or freezer, use airtight containers, resealable bags, or plastic wrap to prevent exposure to air and moisture. Proper wrapping helps preserve the meat's texture and prevents the transfer of odors to other foods in the refrigerator.

3. Separate Raw and Cooked Meat

Store raw meat separately from cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination. Place raw meat on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator or in a designated meat drawer to prevent drips from contaminating other foods. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for handling raw and cooked meat to avoid spreading bacteria.

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4. Follow FIFO Principle

Practice the "first in, first out" (FIFO) principle when storing meat in the refrigerator or freezer. Use older meat before newer purchases to minimize the risk of food spoilage and waste. Label meat packages with the date of purchase or freezing to help you keep track of storage times.

5. Thaw Safely

When thawing frozen meat, avoid leaving it at room temperature for an extended period. Thaw meat safely in the refrigerator, microwave, or cold water bath. Refrigerator thawing is the safest method, albeit the slowest. If using a microwave or cold water bath, cook the meat immediately after thawing to prevent bacterial growth.

6. Monitor Shelf Life

Check the expiration date or recommended storage time for packaged meat products. Consume fresh meat within a few days of purchase or freeze it for longer storage. Cooked meat can typically be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or frozen for several months, depending on the type of meat and how it's prepared.


Properly storing meat is crucial for preserving its quality and safety. By keeping meat cold, using airtight containers, separating raw and cooked meat, following the FIFO principle, thawing safely, and monitoring shelf life, you can minimize the risk of foodborne illness and enjoy delicious, wholesome meat dishes with confidence.