Steak is something you generally want to eat fresh. That doesn’t mean you need to throw it out if you end up cooking too much. You can still make tasty leftovers like a steak sandwich, but you don’t want it to go to waste by storing it improperly or letting it go off.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how long you can store steak in the fridge and how to reheat your leftover steak safely.
How long can I store cooked steak in the fridge?
According to the USDA, cooked steak can be stored in a refrigerator at temperatures lower than 40°F for 3 to 4 days.
While keeping your steak leftovers out of the temperature danger zone does slow the growth of bacteria, it doesn’t stop it. After 3 to 4 days, sufficient amounts of bacteria will have grown on your meat that eating it puts you at risk of catching a foodborne illness.
You can further extend the time you can store cooked beef by freezing it.
Frozen steak leftovers can be stored for up to three months without degrading the meat’s quality and will stay safe indefinitely if stored under 0°F, although they will dry out over time.
To help prevent drying out your steak leftovers during freezing, and avoid freezer burn, carefully wrap each piece in freezer paper, heavy-duty aluminum foil, or plastic wrap. Then store in a covered airtight container.
How do I know if my leftovers have gone off?
Beef spoiled by bacteria, molds, or yeast will develop a sour taste, odd smell, and an unpleasant slimy texture. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and don’t eat it.
Some of the foodborne illnesses you can contract from spoiled meat can be very serious and all are unpleasant.
What’s the safest way to store cooked steak?
We’ve spoken before about the temperature danger zone, and how leaving meat sitting between 40°F and 140°F creates the most conducive conditions for bacterial growth.
The trick to safely storing your steak is to get it below 40°F as soon as possible.
Ideally, this would be just after it’s been cooked, but since that’s not always possible, try to make sure your leftovers are correctly wrapped and refrigerated below 40°F within two hours of cooking.
Use the proper packaging
When it comes to keeping your leftovers in peak condition, you need to pay attention to how you are storing them. You don’t want the meat to dry out and using proper packaging is going to keep your steak juicier for longer.
The best way to prepare your steak leftovers for storage is to use a vacuum sealer. These relatively inexpensive machines are a great way to keep food stored for longer, stop leftovers from drying out, and avoid freezer burn.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, try wrapping your steak in freezer paper. This thick, plastic-coated paper helps lock the moisture into the meat and prevent the arid environment inside your refrigerator from drying your leftover out.
Heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap can be used in place of freezer paper, but they aren’t as effective at preventing moisture loss.
Wrap each piece of steak in a light layer of freezer paper and then store all the smaller packages in a ziplock freezer bag. Try to squeeze as much air out of the freezer bag as possible before sealing it up.
Store your properly wrapped steak leftovers on your refrigerator’s bottom shelf to avoid any escaped juices from contaminating other foods.
How to reheat leftover steak?
While a good fast sear is the trick to keeping your steak nice and juicy the first time you cook it, the opposite applies to reheating it the next day.
The reason your reheated ribeye has turned into old boot leather is that all the moisture has been drawn out of it, either through improper storage or by heating it up too quickly.
The good news is that there are two methods you can use to reheat steak leftovers that will keep all that moisture locked in and tasting as good as they did when they were first cooked.
Reheating steak in the oven
The trick to keeping steak juicy when reheating it is to bring it up to temperature slowly, and cooking it in the oven is the easiest way to do that.
- Preheat your oven to 250°F.
- Set your steaks on a wire rack over a baking tray.
- Cover your steaks loosely with aluminum foil to help lock in the moisture.
- Cook for around 20-30 minutes or until the steaks reach 140°F, moving them out of the temperature danger zone.
- Let your steak rest for a few minutes while you heat up some butter in a skillet over a high heat.
- Sear your leftover steaks for 30 seconds to a minute on each side to bring back their crisp crust.
Reheating steak with a sous vide
If you happen to have a sous vide machine, reheating steak without losing its moisture becomes much easier. All you need to do is vacuum seal your leftovers, which you’ve probably already done before storing them, set your sous vide to 140°F, and drop your steak leftovers in the water.
Using a sous vide takes a little longer than the oven, with the meat taking around an hour to come up to temperature. However, since your steak can’t be overcooked in the sous vide and there is no way of the moisture escaping, you can leave it in the water for up to four hours.
Once your steak leftovers have come up to temperature, simply sear them, as above, in a little butter to bring that crispy crust back.
Wrapping it all up
As with most food safety, the key to storing your steak leftovers is paying attention to times and temperatures. Cooked beef can be stored below 40°F for 3-4 days and indefinitely if stored below 0°F, although the quality will degrade after about three months.
Keeping your leftovers at their best is a matter of correctly storing and reheating them to reduce moisture loss as much as possible while staying out of the temperature danger zone.
Stick to these rules and cooking too much steak will never be a waste again.
Do you have a secret technique for reheating steak or perhaps a new and useful way of storing leftovers? We’d love you to hear about it in the comments section below.