How Long Can Raw Meat Stay Out of the Fridge: A Quick Guide


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Proper handling and storage of raw meat is crucial to maintaining the quality and safety of the food in our kitchens. One question that often arises is how long can raw meat stay out of the fridge without becoming unsafe to consume? In this article, we’ll explore the factors affecting the safety of raw meat left at room temperature and provide some guidelines to ensure your meals are delicious and risk-free.

Bacteria growth is the primary concern when raw meat is left unrefrigerated. These bacteria, such as salmonella, can multiply rapidly and pose serious health risks when consumed. They thrive in what is known as the “danger zone,” a temperature range between 40 and 140°F, where bacteria double in just 20 minutes, as mentioned in

Understanding these dangers and taking necessary precautions to store raw meat properly will help to prevent foodborne illnesses and ensure that your culinary creations are safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Understanding Raw Meat Storage

When storing raw meat, it’s important to be aware of the factors that contribute to its freshness and safety. In this section, we will explore the temperature danger zone, different types of raw meat, and safe storage times to ensure the meat you consume is both delicious and safe to eat.

Temperature Danger Zone

The temperature danger zone for raw meat is between 40°F (4.4°C) and 140°F (60°C). This range is considered as the danger zone because bacteria, such as Salmonella, can grow rapidly, doubling in just 20 minutes ^1. It is crucial to keep raw meat out of this temperature range for no longer than two hours to minimize bacterial growth and maintain the meat’s safety ^2.

Types of Raw Meat and Safe Storage Times

Different types of raw meat have varying safe storage times. Here’s a brief overview of some standard storage times in the refrigerator:

  • Ground Meat and Poultry: Cook within 1-2 days ^3
  • Whole Cuts of Beef, Pork, Veal, and Lamb: Cook within 4-5 days ^4
  • Roasts, Steaks, and Chops: Cook within 5 days ^5

When storing raw meat in the refrigerator, it’s important to remember that these times are just guidelines. It’s always best to use the meat as soon as possible to ensure it’s at its freshest and safest to consume.

In summary, understanding the temperature danger zone, types of raw meat, and their safe storage times is vital to proper raw meat storage. Keep in mind the specific storage times for each type of meat when storing them in the refrigerator, and always practice safe food handling to minimize the risk of food poisoning.

How Long Different Raw Meats Can Stay Out


Raw poultry, such as chicken or turkey, should never be left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Bacteria like salmonella can quickly multiply in the “danger zone” of temperatures between 40 °F (4.4 ºC) and 140 °F (60 ºC) 1. In this temperature range, bacteria in poultry can double in just 20 minutes, posing a significant risk of foodborne illness.

  • Less than 2 hours
  • Be mindful of the temperature “danger zone”

Beef and Lamb

Whole cuts of raw beef and lamb, such as steak and chops, can also be left out for up to 2 hours. However, ground meat is more susceptible to bacterial growth and should not be left out for longer than 1 hour at room temperature 2. To maintain safety, always use a clean cutting board and utensils when handling raw meats.

  • Up to 2 hours for whole cuts
  • 1 hour or less for ground meat


Raw pork, similar to beef and lamb, should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours to reduce the risk of bacterial growth 3. Ground pork is also more susceptible to bacterial growth and should be limited to 1 hour at room temperature.

  • Up to 2 hours for whole cuts
  • 1 hour or less for ground pork

Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood typically have shorter safe time limits out of refrigeration. Raw fish should not be left at room temperature for more than 1 hour to prevent bacterial growth, while raw shellfish (such as shrimp, oysters, and clams) should be refrigerated immediately 4.

  • 1 hour or less for fish
  • Immediate refrigeration for shellfish

Remember, whenever handling raw meats, practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water to minimize the risk of contamination.

Tips to Prevent Spoilage and Foodborne Illness

In this section, we’ll discuss some crucial practices to keep your raw meat safe and prevent spoilage or foodborne illness. We’ll cover proper refrigeration techniques and handling raw meat safely.

Proper Refrigeration Techniques

Storing raw meat at the right temperature is vital for maintaining its freshness. Here are some tips to ensure proper refrigeration:

  • Keep the refrigerator temperature below 40°F: Bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone,” which is between 40°F and 140°F1. Your refrigerator should always be set at 40°F or below to keep the meat safe from bacterial growth.
  • Store raw meat on lower shelves: Place raw meat packages on the lower shelves of your refrigerator to prevent cross-contamination with other food items. It also keeps them separate from ready-to-eat foods2.
  • Use a thermometer: To ensure the correct temperature, keep an appliance thermometer inside your refrigerator1.
  • Never overpack your refrigerator: Proper air circulation is essential for maintaining the right temperature throughout the fridge2.

Handling Raw Meat Safely

When working with raw meat, it’s crucial to minimize the risk of contamination and the growth of harmful bacteria. Here are some essential guidelines for safe raw meat handling:

  • Wash your hands: Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat or poultry. This helps prevent the spread of harmful germs4.
  • Use separate cutting boards: Have separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and seafood to avoid contaminating other foods4.
  • Avoid leaving meat at room temperature: Raw meat, particularly ground meat, should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours3. Remember that bacteria start to multiply in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F1.
  • Clean surfaces and utensils: After preparing raw meat or poultry, clean surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils with hot, soapy water4.

Applying these tips can significantly reduce the risk of food spoilage and foodborne illness when handling and storing raw meat. Enjoy cooking and dining while keeping safety in mind!


In summary, it is crucial to handle raw meat with care and avoid leaving it out for extended periods. As a general guideline, raw meat should not be left out for more than two hours at room temperature. This is because bacteria can quickly grow in the temperature range of 40°F to 140°F, which can lead to food poisoning and spoilage.

To safely handle raw meat, always keep it refrigerated or frozen until it’s time to cook. Remember to store it in a covered dish to prevent cross-contamination with other foods in your fridge. If you’re unsure how long a piece of raw meat has been out, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it to avoid any potential risks.

A few additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meat and other ingredients.
  • Cook the meat to proper internal temperatures to kill off harmful bacteria.

By following these guidelines and staying vigilant about the dangers associated with raw meat, you can greatly reduce the risks of foodborne illnesses and enjoy a delicious, safe meal. Happy cooking!


  1. Carnivore Style 2 3 4
  2. Cooks Dream 2 3
  3. Carnivore Style 2
  4. USDA Food Safety 2 3 4
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