How Long Can Steak Sit Out?

When it comes to food safety, it’s essential to know how long certain food items can sit out before they become a risk for harmful bacteria growth. Steak is one of those items that can be high-risk if not handled properly. In this article, we’ll go over the factors that affect how long steak can sit out and provide guidelines for keeping it safe to eat.

Factors Affecting How Long Steak Can Sit Out

Several factors can impact how long steak can sit out before it becomes unsafe to eat. The temperature, humidity, air circulation, and type of steak are all important considerations.

For example, a lean cut of steak like sirloin will have a different shelf life than a fattier cut like ribeye. Additionally, the ambient temperature can greatly affect how quickly bacteria grow on the surface of the steak. If the air is humid, it can also create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Finally, good air circulation can help prevent bacterial growth by reducing the amount of moisture that accumulates on the steak.

Room Temperature and Steak

Leaving steak out at room temperature for too long can be a recipe for disaster. The warm environment can cause bacteria to multiply rapidly, increasing the risk of foodborne illness.

The general rule of thumb is that perishable foods should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90°F, the window decreases to one hour. Therefore, if you plan to serve steak at room temperature, make sure it doesn’t sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if it’s particularly hot in the room.

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However, keep in mind that it’s always best to keep perishable foods in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them. This is especially important for steak, which can be high-risk if left at room temperature for too long.

Cold Storage and Steak

One of the best ways to keep steak fresh and safe to eat is to store it in the fridge or freezer. When you store steak in the fridge, it slows down the growth of bacteria, allowing you to keep it fresh for longer.

If you plan to eat the steak within a day or two, store it in the fridge in its original packaging or a sealed plastic bag. If you won’t be eating it for a few days, consider freezing it to keep it fresh for longer. Just make sure to thaw it properly before cooking.

When you store steak in the fridge, it’s important to keep it at or below 40°F to prevent bacteria from growing. You should also make sure to store the steak on the bottom shelf, away from other foods that might contaminate it.

Preparing Steak for Cooking

Before cooking steak, it’s common practice to let it sit out at room temperature for a bit. This allows the steak to come to room temperature, which can help it cook more evenly. However, it’s important to make sure you don’t let the steak sit out for too long, as this can increase the risk of bacterial growth.

The general rule of thumb is to let steak sit out for no more than an hour before cooking it. This should be enough time to bring the steak to room temperature without creating a breeding ground for bacteria. If you need to leave it out for longer, make sure to cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it.

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Additionally, it’s important to handle steak properly during preparation. Make sure to wash your hands and any utensils or surfaces that come into contact with the steak to prevent the spread of bacteria. You should also avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards for raw meat and other foods.

Leftover Steak

Leftover steak can be a tasty addition to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. However, it’s important to handle it properly to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

After cooking steak, make sure to refrigerate any leftovers within two hours. If you leave the steak out for too long, bacteria can multiply rapidly, making it unsafe to eat. To store leftover steak, place it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. Make sure to consume it within three to four days.

If you have a lot of leftover steak, consider freezing it. This can help extend its shelf life and make it safe to eat for up to six months. When you’re ready to eat it, make sure to thaw it properly in the fridge overnight before reheating it.


Knowing how long steak can sit out is an essential part of food safety. To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, it’s important to handle and store steak properly. Make sure to keep it refrigerated, avoid leaving it out at room temperature for too long, and follow proper hygiene and cross-contamination prevention practices during preparation.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy delicious and safe steak without putting your health at risk. Remember to always prioritize food safety and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and happy.

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