A refrigerator is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the kitchen for keeping foods safe. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth.

Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 and 140 °F, the “Danger Zone”.
A refrigerator set at 40 °F or below will protect most foods.

If you’re wondering how long food storage will last in the refrigerator, here’s a list of common foods and their safe food storage time in the fridge.


Storage Times For Refrigerated Foods


Ground Meat, Ground Poultry, and Stew Meat

Ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb 1-2 days
Stew meats 1-2 days

Fresh Meat (Beef, Veal, Lamb, and Pork)

Steaks, chops, roasts 3-5 days

Fresh Poultry

Chicken or turkey, whole 1-2 days
Chicken or turkey, parts 1-2 days
Giblets 1-2 days

Bacon and Sausage

Bacon 7 days
Sausage, raw from meat or poultry 1-2 days
Smoked breakfast links, patties 7 days
Summer sausage labeled “Keep Refrigerated” Opened, 3 weeks
Hard sausage (such as Pepperoni) 2-3 weeks

Ham, Corned Beef

Ham, canned, labeled “Keep Refrigerated” Opened, 3-5 days
Ham, fully cooked, whole 7 days
Ham, fully cooked, half 3-5 days
Ham, fully cooked, slices 3-4 days
Corned beef in pouch with pickling juices 5-7 days

Hot Dogs and Luncheon Meats

Hot dogs Opened package, 1 week
Luncheon meats Opened package, 3-5 days

Deli and Vacuum-Packed Products

Store-prepared (or homemade) egg, chicken, tuna, ham, and macaroni salads 3-5 days
Pre-stuffed pork, lamb chops, and chicken breasts 1 day
Store-cooked dinners and entrees 3-4 days
Commercial brand vacuum-packed dinners unopened, 2 weeks

Cooked Meat, Poultry, and Fish Leftovers

Pieces and cooked casseroles 3-4 days
Gravy and broth, patties, and nuggets 3-4 days
Soups and Stews 3-4 days

Fresh Fish and Shellfish

Fresh Fish and Shellfish 1-2 days


Fresh, in shell 3-5 weeks
Raw yolks, whites 2-4 days
Hard-cooked 1 week
Liquid pasteurized eggs, egg substitutes Opened, 3 days
Cooked egg dishes 3-4 days

Data source: United States Department of Agriculture; Food Safety and Inspection Service

Opinion: The times listed above appear to be conservative and erring on the side of caution, and your own experience ‘may’ exhibit slightly longer safe food storage times. Having said that, a fridge temperature less than 40-degrees-F will assure the safest and longest food storage.


Types of Bacteria in Refrigerated Foods

There are two completely different families of bacteria: pathogenic bacteria, the kind that cause foodborne illness, and spoilage bacteria, the kind of bacteria that cause foods to deteriorate and develop unpleasant odors, tastes, and textures.

Pathogenic bacteria can grow rapidly in the “Danger Zone,” the temperature range between 40 and 140 °F, but they do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of a food. In other words, one cannot tell that a pathogen is present.

Spoilage bacteria can grow at low temperatures, such as in the refrigerator. Eventually they cause food to develop off or bad tastes and smells. Most people would not choose to eat spoiled food, but if they did, they probably would not get sick. It comes down to an issue of quality versus safety:

Food that has been left too long on the counter may be dangerous to eat, but could look fine.


Safe Refrigerator Temperature

For safety, it is important to verify the temperature of the refrigerator.
Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40 °F or below.

Taylor Freezer-Refrigerator Thermometer

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