How Long Can Raw Steak Sit Out: A Test of Time

August 2, 2022

Raw steak can sit for around two hours at room temperature unless the temperature is above 90 °F - then, it can only be left out for an hour.

As a professional chef, I have been well coached when it comes to food safety. So, if you want to how long your meat is good for, I am the person to ask!

In this post, I will address how long can raw steak sit out at room temperature and offer other tips for keeping steak safe. Let's begin!

How Long Can Raw Steak Be Left Out on the Counter?

When your raw steak is kept out on the counter, it is left at room temperature. According to the USDA, you should not leave raw steak - or any raw meat - out for more than two hours.

If it is a warm day and the ambient temperature is above 90 °F, then the steak shouldn't be kept out for longer than an hour.

This is the rule that you should follow for all raw meats, including raw ground beef.

Beef Steak French Fries and Rosemary Leaves

Can You Let Meat Sit Out at Room Temperature Overnight?

No, you definitely shouldn't leave raw beef out for more than two hours as the experts recommend.

See, there is a temperature range known as the Danger Zone. This is between 40 ° and 140 °F.

At this range, harmful bacteria can double in as little as 20 minutes in the raw meat. If you leave raw meat out in an environment that is in the danger zone, overnight, then the steak will be riddled with bacteria. This can greatly increase your risk of food poisoning.

This is especially true in the case of raw ground beef. Ground beef is already prone to contamination during the grinding process. If you were to leave it in the danger zone for longer than recommended, your risk of illnesses would be high.

If the surrounding environment is very cool, then you may be able to get away with leaving the meat at room temperature for three hours, maybe four. After this, though, it is considered unsafe to eat.

How Long Can You Leave Cooked Steak Outside?

The same rules apply to cooked steak as raw meat. In fact, no cooked meat should be left out for more than two hours at room temperature.

Once again, if the kitchen or other environment is very warm, then the cooked meat shouldn't be kept out for longer than an hour.

How Do You Know Steak Has Gone Bad?

It isn't uncommon to accidentally leave meat out on the counter for longer than you intended.

However, if this is something that you did, how can you know if your fresh meat has gone bad?

Well, one sign is that the raw beef will have a slimy texture to it. The raw beef may also feel slightly tacky to the touch.

Another indication that the meat has gone rancid is if it smells bad or off in any way. You know what raw meat smells like. If the odor is different from what you remember, then this is an indication that the meat is bad.

It is important to remember that the absence of these signs doesn't mean that your raw meat hasn't gone bad. The meat can still be dangerous for you to consume even if there doesn't seem to be something wrong.

In this case, it is always best to err on the side of caution and to toss it out if it has spent more than a few hours out of the refrigerator.

Does Cooking Kill the Bacteria Growing on Meat?

I know that the last thing that you want to do is to toss the raw meat that you spent so much money on. So, if you have left meat out for an extended period, then you may be trying to figure out how to salvage it.

In this case, cooking the meat may be the first thing that comes to mind. After all, heat is known to destroy bacteria which is one of the reasons that people cook meat in the first place.

Yes, heat can kill bacteria but what it can't do is kill the toxins produced by the bacteria. So, if your raw or cooked meat has been sitting out and then you cook it, it can still be just as dangerous.

As mentioned, ground meat can be even more dangerous if it has been sitting out.

Meat With Sliced Tomatoes On White Ceramic Plate

Cooking Steak Properly

As mentioned, if your steaks have been left out at room temperature for too long, then cooking isn't going to solve the issue.

Even if you have followed the guidelines for leaving steak out, though, it is important to cook the beef properly.

To reduce the risk of you getting sick, cooking your steak to 145 degrees F is your best option.

If you enjoy your steak rare, though, then an exception can be made. Just make sure that you are cooking a fresh steak and that it has been stored in the refrigerator properly. It is also best to check that the steak hasn't been left out for longer than an hour at room temperature.

What Can Happen If You Eat Meat Left Out at Room Temperature?

Will you definitely get food poisoning if you eat steak that has been kept out at room temperature?

Well, this does depend on how long the meat was sitting out. For instance, if you kept meat out at room temperature only for a couple hours past the two hours guideline, then the risk is fairly low.

This, of course, is unless it is a very warm day.

On the other hand, if the steak or other meat has been left out overnight, then the risk is considerably higher.

You should also be aware that foodborne illness is most likely to occur in young children or older adults. Anyone who has a compromised immune system is also at risk.

Furthermore, if these individuals do get sick, they may experience more severe symptoms that may even require them to be hospitalized.

I imagine this isn't something that you want to happen to either you or your loved ones. Due to this, it is a good idea to throw away the meat if it has kept at room temperature for too long.

How to Store Meat to Maintain Freshness?

Here are the top tips that you should follow to ensure that your steak and other perishable foods are safe as possible:

Refrigerate or Freeze Immediately

The moment that the meat is brought home, it should be put away.

If you are planning on cooking the steak within the next couple of days, then you can refrigerate it in its original packaging. Otherwise, strip the plastic wrap off and place the meat in an airtight refrigerator.

Store for the Right Amount of Time

Fresh steak can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days before it needs to be frozen or cooked.

Despite this recommendation, I would suggest using the meat no more than two days after you have brought it home. This will offer the best taste and texture.

As for freezing, you can leave steak in the freezer for up to 4 months. Once again, though, I wouldn't advise you to let the meat sit in the freezer for quite so long.

The longer that the steak is frozen for, the more that the texture and taste can change. For the best results, I would say that you should only keep the beef in the freezer for about a month.

It is a good idea to write the date that you refrigerated or froze the meat on the container. This way, you know when you will need to use it up by.

Maintain Freezer and Refrigerator Temperature Properly

A lot of people fail to realize that the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer can fluctuate quite a bit.

This is especially true if you keep the doors to these sections open for a long period or if you open and close them quite frequently. Due to this, you should take care to avoid doing so.

The other mistake that you should avoid is putting hot food into the refrigerator or freezer. While warm food is fine, very hot food can lower the temperature inside the fridge and compromise the safety of other foods.

Tomahawk steak

How to Refrigerate Cooked Meat Safely?

It is important to refrigerate meat while it is still warm. You don't want your steak to get close to the danger zone. If this happens even refrigerating the meat will not help.

As I mentioned, though, you can't place piping hot food in the refrigerator. Due to this, you can leave the food on the countertop until it is the right temperature to be placed in the refrigerator.

If you want to cool it down a little faster, place the container with the meat in a larger container with cool water. Just make sure that the food doesn't get too cold as you do this.

Make sure to place the dish at the back of the refrigerator at the coldest place. This will help it to stay good for longer.

Defrosting Raw Steak Safely

It is important to defrost your steak properly. As with fresh steak, you can't leave it out on the countertop for more than two hours.

This is why it is best to thaw the steak in the refrigerator. Bear in mind that this will take longer but at least you can guarantee that the meat will be safe to eat.

If you want to speed up the process, consider using a cold water bath.

This is where you place the meat in cold water - the water has to be cold, never use lukewarm or warm water.

Also, make sure that the steak is in airtight wrapping. The meat shouldn't make contact with the water at any point.

Let the steak sit in the cold water bath for half an hour. Then throw out the water and refill the bath with more cold water. Continue to do this every half an hour until the steak is fully defrosted.

This should take up to 2 hours, depending on the size of the steak.

Wrapping It Up

So there you have it - you know long steak can sit out at room temperature. Use this information wisely to ensure that you and your family will always be safe when eating steak!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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