How Long Does Cryovac Beef Last in the Fridge?

Cryovac packaging helps extend the shelf life of beef by vacuum sealing it in an airtight bag from which oxygen has been removed. This protects the beef from exposure to microbes and oxidation But how long does cryovac beef actually last in the refrigerator once opened?

In this article we’ll look at the fridge shelf life of cryovac beef signs of spoilage, and how to store it to optimize freshness.

What is Cryovac Packaging?

Cryovac is a brand name that has become synonymous with vacuum skin packaging Here’s a quick overview of how it works

  • Beef is placed on a tray and covered with a plastic film.

  • Air is removed from the package, and the plastic is thermoformed around the beef creating a tight seal.

  • The lack of oxygen and airtight seal inhibits microbial growth and oxidation, extending shelf life.

  • Cryovac packaging is transparent so customers can view product quality.

Cryovac beef is common at grocery stores and wholesale clubs like Costco. The airtight seal gives beef 2-3 times longer shelf life compared to traditional overwrap.

Unopened Cryovac Beef Fridge Life

Sealed cryovac packaged beef lasts a remarkably long time in the refrigerator due to the lack of oxygen:

  • Steaks: 2-3 months

  • Roasts: 3-4 months

  • Ground beef: 1-5 months

Always check “best by” dates and rely on your senses versus the time alone. Unopened cryovac beef stays fresh for months when continuously refrigerated at 40°F or below.

Opened Cryovac Beef Refrigerator Life

Once cryovac packaging is opened, oxygen exposure reduces the beef’s remaining shelf life. Here’s how long different types of cryovac beef last after opening:

  • Steaks: 3-5 days
  • Roasts: 3-5 days
  • Ground beef: 1-2 days

As you can see, it must be used quickly once exposed to air. Never store opened cryovac beef for longer than 5 days in the fridge.

Signs Cryovac Beef Has Spoiled

Cryovac packaging slows spoilage but can’t prevent it fully. Check for these signs of spoiled beef:

  • Sliminess – Should feel dry, not sticky or tacky

  • Discoloration – Development of gray, brown, or greenish hues

  • Off odors – Smells sour, ammonia-like, or unpleasant

  • Mold growth – Even a small spot of mold means toss the beef

  • Weird textures – Unusual sliminess or hardening

When cryovac beef shows these signs of spoilage, it’s time to discard it. Don’t take risks with foods that seem “off” in any way.

Storing Cryovac Beef Properly

To maximize the shelf life of cryovac beef:

  • Keep unopened packages refrigerated at 40°F or below. Keep frozen if not using soon.

  • Once meat is exposed to air, use within 3-5 days. Never exceed 5 days refrigeration.

  • When reheating cooked cryovac beef, use within 3-4 days and don’t reheat more than once.

  • Discard if you see any signs of spoilage like odor, color, or slime.

Proper refrigeration and limited oxygen exposure delays spoilage in cryovac packaged beef.

Can You Refreeze Thawed Cryovac Beef?

If cryovac packaged beef was previously frozen, it can be safely refrozen after thawing if:

  • The beef still smells fresh and shows no signs of spoilage.

  • The beef remained refrigerated at 40°F or below while thawing.

  • The beef was thawed within 1-2 days and wasn’t left at room temp more than 2 hours total.

  • It will be frozen by the original “sell by” or “freeze by” date.

Under the right thawing conditions, cryovac beef can be refrozen with minimal impact on quality or safety. But rely on your nose – if it smells “off”, don’t risk refreezing.

Is Cryovac Packaging Environmentally Friendly?

Cryovac packaging helps reduce food waste by extending beef’s shelf life. However, it has some negatives:

  • The plastic film is generally not recyclable and ends up in landfills.

  • More energy and resources are required to produce cryovac packaging versus traditional methods.

  • Food safety hazards can arise if consumers improperly rely on the extended shelf life.

While not the most eco-friendly packaging, cryovac does significantly reduce beef spoilage during transport and storage. Newer recyclable and compostable films are being developed to reduce the environmental impact.

The Bottom Line

Cryovac packaging keeps beef fresher longer thanks to vacuum sealing and oxygen removal. Follow these tips for maximum freshness:

  • Unopened cryovac beef lasts 2-5 months refrigerated.

  • Opened beef must be used within 3-5 days.

  • Discard beef that smells odd or shows slime, discoloration, or mold.

  • Refreeze thawed cryovac beef only if it was thawed properly in the fridge.

By following refrigeration times and checking for spoilage signs, you can take advantage of cryovac’s extended shelf life while still enjoying beef at peak quality and safety.

Ask the Test Kitchen: How Long Will Meat Last in the Fridge?


How long will vacuum sealed beef last in the fridge?

It is important that you do not contaminate your meat and vacuum seal harmful bacteria in with your food. Vacuum sealing can extend the fridge life of meats as well, but because anaerobic bacteria can grow at temperatures above 3°F, all vacuum-packed refrigerated meats should be unsealed and cooked within 10 days.

Do you have to freeze cryovac meat?

Depending when you plan to eat your meat you can choose to keep products in the fridge for a longer period of time and can avoid freezing your meat (which we believe affects the taste and tenderness).

How long is shrink wrapped meat good for?

Fresh meat in foam trays and shrink-wrap, and opened packages of luncheon meats may be refrigerated at 40 °F or below for three to five days; ground meats, poultry and variety meats, one to two days. Unopened packages of hot dogs and lunch meats can be stored two weeks.

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