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How Long Can Raw Steak Sit Out?

Norah Clark
Raw steak sitting out on ice.

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, Editor of Boyd Hampers! Norah is a seasoned food writer with over a decade of experience in hospitality as a former pastry chef, sous chef, and barista; former chef at the Savoy Hotel, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Plaza Hotel.

Raw steak should not be left out at room temperature for an extended period. Bacteria can multiply rapidly in the danger zone, increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

To ensure the safety of raw steak, store it in the refrigerator until ready to cook and follow the guidelines by the USDA. Remember to minimize the time raw steak spends at room temperature and always prioritize food safety.

In this article, I aim to explain the safety of leaving raw steak at room temperature and provide some guidelines to follow to ensure the meat remains safe for consumption.

The Danger Zone: Understanding Food Safety

To understand how long raw steak can sit out, it's essential to grasp the concept of the "danger zone" in food safety.

The danger zone refers to the temperature range at which bacteria can multiply rapidly, posing a risk of foodborne illnesses. The danger zone is typically between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C), where bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, thrive.

When raw meat, including steak, sits at room temperature, it enters the danger zone, allowing bacteria to multiply quickly. As a result, the risk of food poisoning significantly increases.

It's crucial to take precautions to minimize this risk and ensure the safety of the steak you plan to consume.

The Risk of Leaving Raw Steak at Room Temperature

Several factors come into play when considering how long raw steak can sit out before it becomes unsafe.

These factors include the initial temperature of the meat, the temperature of the room it's in, and the duration it has been left sitting out.

Initial Temperature of the Meat

The temperature at which you store raw steak before leaving it out contributes to its safety. If the steak is kept in the refrigerator, it will be colder, which means the bacteria present on it will remain dormant. In contrast, if the meat is left at room temperature from the moment you bring it home, the bacteria will already be active, multiplying more rapidly once the steak enters the danger zone.

It's essential to keep raw steak refrigerated until you are ready to cook it. Once you take it out of the refrigerator, follow the recommended timeframes to ensure the meat stays safe for consumption.

Temperature of the Room

The ambient temperature of the room where the raw steak is left sitting also plays a crucial role in determining its safety. Ideally, the meat should be stored in an environment that is cooler than the danger zone. However, if the room temperature exceeds 90°F (32°C), the risk of bacterial growth accelerates significantly.

Always consider the temperature of the room when determining how long raw steak can sit out safely. Avoid leaving it in areas where the temperature may be elevated, such as near a heat source or in direct sunlight.

Duration of Time Left Out

The length of time that raw steak can sit out before it becomes unsafe depends on various factors, as mentioned earlier. In general, it's recommended to limit the time the meat spends at room temperature as much as possible. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides guidelines for the maximum time that perishable foods, including raw meat, should be kept in the danger zone.

According to the USDA, it is safe to leave raw steak out at room temperature for a maximum of two hours. Beyond this timeframe, there is an increased risk of harmful bacteria growth, making the meat unsafe to eat. It's crucial to ensure that the steak is either cooked or refrigerated within this two-hour window to guarantee food safety.

How to Properly Store Raw Steak

To ensure the safety of raw steak and prevent foodborne illnesses, it's essential to follow proper storage practices.

Here are some guidelines to help you store raw steak correctly:

  1. Refrigerate promptly: After purchasing raw steak, refrigerate it promptly to keep it in the safe temperature range. Ideally, the steak should be stored at a temperature below 40°F (4°C).
  2. Store in an airtight container: Place the raw steak in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to prevent cross-contamination and reduce the risk of contact with other foods.
  3. Use a refrigerator thermometer: Keep a thermometer in your refrigerator to ensure it maintains a temperature below 40°F (4°C). Regularly check and adjust the temperature if needed.
  4. Minimize temperature fluctuations: Avoid frequently opening the refrigerator door as it can cause temperature fluctuations. This can increase the risk of the meat entering the danger zone.
  5. Follow USDA guidelines: Adhere to the USDA's recommendations for refrigeration times to ensure the safety of raw steak and other perishable foods. Remember, the two-hour maximum at room temperature is a general guideline.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the room temperature affect the safety of raw steak?

The temperature of the room plays a significant role in determining the safety of raw steak. Ideally, the meat should be stored in an environment cooler than the danger zone, which ranges from 40°F (4°C) to 140°F (60°C). If the room temperature exceeds 90°F (32°C), the risk of bacterial growth accelerates significantly. It's important to be mindful of the room temperature when deciding how long raw steak can sit out safely.

Can I leave raw steak out overnight to thaw?

Leaving raw steak out overnight to thaw is not recommended. Thawing raw meat should be done in a safe manner to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. The best and safest method for thawing raw steak is to thaw it in the refrigerator. This slow and controlled process ensures that the meat remains at a safe temperature throughout the thawing process.

Can I still cook raw steak if it was left out for longer than two hours?

If raw steak has been left out for longer than two hours, it is no longer safe to consume. The two-hour guideline is intended to limit the time the meat spends in the danger zone, where bacteria multiply rapidly. Eating raw steak that has been left out for an extended period increases the risk of foodborne illnesses. It is best to discard the steak to ensure food safety.

Can I refreeze raw steak that was left out?

It is not recommended to refreeze raw steak that has been left out at room temperature. When raw meat sits at room temperature, bacteria can multiply rapidly, increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses. Freezing the steak again does not eliminate the bacteria that may have multiplied during the time it was left out. To ensure food safety, it's best to cook or discard the steak rather than refreezing it.

How can I tell if raw steak is still safe to cook and eat?

To determine if raw steak is still safe to cook and eat, consider the appearance, smell, and texture of the meat. If the steak appears discolored, has a foul odor, or feels slimy to the touch, it should be discarded as these are signs of spoilage. It's important to trust your senses and prioritize food safety. When in doubt, it's better to err on the side of caution and choose a fresh piece of steak instead.

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