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Handling and Storing Raw Beef

Raw beef products should be handled with care to avoid cross contamination and to ensure their quality and freshness.

Handling Raw Beef

The most important safety issue with raw meat is cross-contamination. This happens when bacteria is transferred from raw meat to raw foods, such as vegetables. In order to avoid cross-contamination, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Never use the same cutting board (even if it has been washed) for raw meat and raw vegetables.
  • A plastic cutting board is best for meat; a wood cutting board will absorb meat juices, which can be difficult to wash out.
  • Wash the cutting board, along with any knives or utensils used, thoroughly with hot, soapy water immediately after use.
  • Always wash your hands immediately after handling raw beef, before you touch anything else.
  • Wash the counter and any other items that came into contact with the raw meat, as well.

Storing Beef in the Refrigerator

Beef products are highly perishable, so follow these important points for storing them.

  • Store under refrigeration at temperatures between 37°F and 40°F.
  • Vacuum-packed meats should be left in their packaging until they are used. Under proper refrigeration, vacuum-packed meats with unbroken seals have a shelf life of 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Wrap beef loosely in plastic wrap. Tight wrapping creates a breeding ground for bacteria and will significantly shorten a meat’s shelf life.
  • Store on a tray, so that juices do not leak onto the refrigerator shelves or cross-contaminate other foods.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly, within 2 hours of cooking.

Freezing Beef

  • Frozen storage should be between 0° F and 5° F.
  • Properly packaged meats—9vacuum-packed is preferred—can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

Thawing Beef

  • For best results, thaw beef overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Keep in original packaging, in a single layer, on a tray.
  • Vacuum-packed products can be quick-thawed in a sink of cold water; usually takes 1 hour or less.
  • Do NOT thaw at room temperature, as bacteria can develop.