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How Long Can You Leave Raw Steak At Room Temperature?

How long can you leave raw steak at room temperature? It has been said that to get perfectly cooked steak, you should leave it to sit at room temperature prior to cooking.

The reason for this is because steak is cooked very quickly over high heat, we want to ensure that the inside of the steak is as close to the desired temperature of doneness as possible. 

Some people like their steak rare, but I’m sure no one wants to have steak that’s done on the outside and a frozen block on the inside.

To avoid this, we leave steak at room temperature to get to this level of doneness quickly. Others may disagree with this method, but it has been the advice and practice of many cooks for a long time.

So, if we are to believe this and allow our raw steak to come to room temperature before cooking, just how long can we do this? How long can you safely let steak sit at room temperature?

How Long Can You Leave Steak At Room Temperature?

You can only leave raw steak for two hours at room temperature before it becomes unsafe. If your room is warmer (above 90 °F), this time frame is even shorter at one hour. The reason for this is that food-borne illness-causing bacteria can thrive in these temperatures (between 40-140 °F). If you leave your steak out for too long at this temperature, it won’t be safe to eat.

How Long Can You Leave Raw Steak At Room Temperature?
How Long Can You Leave Raw Steak At Room Temperature?

What Happens if I Leave Steak Out For Too Long?

If you leave steak out for too long at room temperature or temperatures within the food danger zone of 40 to 140 °F, bacteria that land on your raw steak will multiply and proliferate quickly. This happens in as little as two hours, one hour if the room it is in is really warm. 

Bacteria love warm temperatures, and they thrive in this type of environment. Your raw steak will stand no chance.

How to Know If Steak Has Gone Bad

You should toss your steak if you notice the following:

1. Off Smell

Not everyone likes the smell of raw meat, however, your steak should smell exactly like that, and nothing else. Any other off-putting odor that makes you cringe or makes you want to run away is a sign that your steak has started to go bad.

The smell though isn’t the only factor in helping you determine if your steak has gone bad.  Certain kinds of dry-aged beef, like cheese, can smell different. So, it is imperative to check for other signs as well.

2.  Slimy Texture

Steak should not feel slimy or slippery so if your steak has a slimy and sticky texture, it is a good indication that it has gone bad.

3. Discolored

Fresh steak should have a reddish hue.  Myoglobin is one of the proteins responsible for giving meat its distinct red color, but over time, through interaction with light and oxygen, this forms into new compounds that turn the meat darker, from dark purple to brown.

Brown steak doesn’t automatically indicate that it has gone bad, but it does mean that it isn’t as fresh as it should be, and this process of spoiling has jumpstarted. 

If the color has turned yellow or green or you see visible mold, it’s time to throw it out.

Fresh steak should have a reddish hue.
Fresh steak should have a reddish hue.

4. Proper Storage

If we know that the steak was left out for more than two hours at room temperature, or 1 hour if the room temperature is above 90 °F, it is best to discard it rather than risk a food-borne illness.

What Are The Risks of Eating Steak That’s Been Left Out?

If you insist on cooking that steak that’s been left out beyond the recommended safety time frame, you risk contracting an unpleasant food-borne illness, or food poisoning

The symptoms of food-borne illnesses range from mild to severe, with mild symptoms resolving themselves within a few days and severe symptoms sometimes leading to hospitalization and even death. 

Some symptoms of food poisoning from spoiled food are the following:

  • nausea
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weakness
  • headache

If symptoms turn severe such as bloody diarrhea or extremely high fevers lasting for days, emergency medical treatment is required.

With the risks involved, it is not worth consuming improperly handled and stored steak.

Cooking and consuming steak that's been left out at room temperature may cause food-borne illnesses ranging from mild to severe.
Cooking and consuming steak that’s been left out at room temperature may cause food-borne illnesses ranging from mild to severe.

Will Steak Not Go Bad If I Put It In The Refrigerator?

That is not to say though, that bacteria will not multiply in the fridge. It will also happen eventually if you leave raw steak in the fridge, but this process won’t be as quick. You can safely leave steak in the fridge for 3-5 days before it won’t be safe to eat.

Will My Steak Go Bad In The Freezer?

Raw steak that’s stored in the freezer will maintain its quality and be good to eat for 4-12 months, according to the USDA.

The process of freezing inactivates all the bacteria and microbes present in the meat and will halt the process of food spoilage until it is thawed again, and it reaches the ideal temperatures.

Freezing will technically make food safe to eat indefinitely, but whether quality is maintained due to factors like freezer burn, is another matter entirely.

Freezing also maintains nutrients in food, when done in peak freshness. It is important though, to thaw your steaks properly once ready to cook so quality and safety is not compromised.

How To Thaw Steak Safely

1. Fridge

The safest and most preferred way to thaw steak is also the slowest— in the refrigerator.

The day before you want to cook your steak, simply place it on a plate so that all the melted ice will not make a mess in your fridge, cover it with plastic wrap if your steaks are not in their packaging, and leave it to thaw overnight.

Depending on the thickness of your meat, complete thawing can last between 12-24 hours.

In this way, your steak will defrost to a temperature that you can cook it properly, without attracting bacteria.

 2. Cold Water

If you forgot to thaw your steak and need to cook it today, you can also fill a bowl with cold water and place your sealed and wrapped steaks in it to thaw faster.

Make sure that water will not leak into the steak. Constantly check and change the water every 30 minutes to make sure it isn’t too warm. Your steaks should be safely defrosted in a couple of hours.

3. Microwave

Thawing in the microwave is also a good option in case you want to thaw in a hurry.  Just make sure though that you cook your steaks right away after defrosting. 

Given that some parts of the meat were warmed during the defrosting process, it can be a breeding ground for bacteria. 

Tips for Perfectly Cooked Steak

1. Room Temperature Meat

Make sure your steaks are as close to room temperature as possible, while still following the food safety and meat thawing guidelines. Doing this will ensure that your steaks are cooked efficiently. Cold or frozen steaks will not cook evenly.

2. Salt

Salt is the most important thing you can add to your steak prior to cooking.  Not only does it bring out the flavor of your meat, but it tenderizes and draws out moisture, resulting in a juicy, tender steak.

3. Sear at High Heat

Searing your steak at high heat will create a barrier on the outside of the steak that will seal in the juices and flavor.  A caramelized outside and a soft and juicy inside will also create that delicious contrast.

Sear your steaks at high heat to seal in the meat juices.
Sear your steaks at high heat to seal in the meat juices.

4. Use a Meat Thermometer

To get the doneness of your meat accurately, a meat thermometer is a very useful tool.  Rare steak has an internal temperature of 125 °F, Medium doneness is at 145 °F and Well-Done is at 160 °F. 

Keep in mind that meat will continue to cook even if you take them out of the heat, so it is important to factor that in your timing and take them out a little bit early, so they are cooked to the right temperature before serving. 

5. Let it Rest

Allowing your steak to rest allows the meat juices to be reabsorbed back into the meat, resulting in a tender, juicy steak. 

How Will I Know If My Steak Is Done?

People’s preferences for steak doneness vary, and to get it just right, a meat thermometer is a very handy tool. 

Below are useful temperatures to remember when cooking steak:

Rare                   125 °F

Medium              145 °F

Medium-Well     150 °F

Well-Done          160 °F

Steak cooks very quickly, and while others swear that they can tell just by looking at the steak whether they are done, a meat thermometer is still your best, most accurate bet. 

Using a meat thermometer ensures you get precise internal temperatures and doneness for your steak.
Using a meat thermometer ensures you get precise internal temperatures and doneness for your steak.

Conclusion to How Long Can You Leave Raw Steak At Room Temperature?

You can only leave your raw steaks for a maximum of two hours at room temperature, or just one hour in a warmer room (temperature above 90 °F). 

This is because bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses thrive in warmer temperatures.  Meat that has been exposed for longer should be discarded as they are dangerous to consume.

Frequently Asked Questions on How Long Can You Leave Raw Steak At Room Temperature?

Is It Okay For Me To Leave My Raw Steak At Room Temperature?

You can only leave your raw steak at room temperature for a maximum of two hours (one hour if the room is warmer than 90 °F). Beyond this point, it will be dangerous to consume.

Can I Still Cook Steak That’s Been Left Out Overnight?

It is not safe to cook steak that has been left outside of proper refrigeration overnight.  The maximum time it can be left without refrigerating is two hours, one hour if the room is warm. 

If My Steak is Cooked, Will It Be Safer To Leave It Outside At Room Temperature?

As with raw steak, it is best not to leave cooked steak out at room temperature for longer than two hours, as even if it’s cooked, bacteria that cause spoilage can still thrive.

Author Bio

Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)

Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.