How to Store Meat, Poultry, and Seafood

Brush up on these storage techniques and guidelines* before your next trip to the meat counter.

  • Elizabeth Passarella

Keep meat and poultry in its original packaging in the refrigerator. To freeze, slip the packaging into a resealable freezer bag. If you’re freezing for several months, it’s best to wrap pieces individually in plastic before bagging; this will make them less vulnerable to freezer burn. Another way to cut the risk of freezer burn is to buy vacuum-packed meats and poultry (which can also last about 2 days longer in the refrigerator). Leave seafood in its original packaging and, if possible, place on a bowl of ice in the refrigerator. However, live shellfish (like clams) should not be put on ice; open or poke holes in the packaging. To freeze seafood, slip the original packaging into a resealable freezer bag.


Beef and Lamb

Chops
Refrigerator: 3 days
Freezer: 6 months

Ground meat and premade patties
Refrigerator: 2 days
Freezer: 4 months

Roasts and loins
Refrigerator: 3 days
Freezer: 6 months

Sausage, uncooked
Refrigerator: 2 days
Freezer: 2 months

Steaks
Refrigerator: 3 days
Freezer: 6 months

Stew meat
Refrigerator: 2 days
Freezer: 4 months

*Real Simple consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food scientists, food manufacturers, and a host of other experts—including fishmongers, cheese sellers, coffee roasters, bakers, and bartenders—to establish these storage guidelines. The first consideration was safety. But because you want your food to be delicious, too, for some products, Real Simple chose the conservative storage time for optimum freshness.