Cooking Use By Meat
Cooking,  Food Preparation,  Food Safety

Does Cooking Meat Extend The ‘Use By’ Date?

You may have found some meat in the refrigerator that needs using that day and wondered if cooking the meat will extend the ‘Use By’ date.

So does cooking meat extend the ‘Use By’ Date? No, cooking the meat does not extend the ‘Use By’ date, however it does give you longer to use the meat. Once the meat has been cooked, the ‘Use by’ date becomes redundant, as this is the date that the meat needed to be either cooked or frozen by. Once cooked, the meat has a useable time of up to three more days.

Sometimes dates marked on foods can be confusing and may lead you to throw away perfectly useable food that is safe to eat.

In this article we will look at some of the general guidelines you can follow when trying to decide if cooking the meat will be the right choice for you.

What Does the ‘Use By’ Date Mean?

This is the date determined by the food producer that the product will remain safe to eat, before the levels of food borne bacteria multiply to levels that may cause illness or potentially death.

Although it is not advised to use the product past the date issued, a common sense approach needs to be adopted. Here’s why!

Food producers do not want to be sued for selling ‘bad or dangerous’ products, and so the date that they apply will err on the side of caution.

For example: If during tests, a cut of meat started to look like it was consistently going bad at the 7 day mark, the food industry will mark the ‘use by’ date of that product at 4 days.

This gives them a 3 day cushion, and a level of certainty that nothing is likely to be sold that may be an issue.

As you can see, this means that the meat you have on its ‘Use By’ date, is likely to be fine for a few more days.

Butchers Don’t Sell Meat With Dates!

While you are deciding whether it is safe to eat meat beyond the packaged label date, give consideration to the fact that this only happens in grocery store packaged meats.

Meat sold in a traditional butchers is sat in the counter, and wrapped in plain butcher paper when purchased. It rarely has a ‘use by’ date, and you use your own judgement as to whether to eat it once you have opened it.

Meat Counters Don’t Have ‘Use By’ Dates

How Can I Tell If I Can Keep Meat Longer Than The ‘Use By’ Date?

When meat has started to spoil to such a degree that it may be harmful if you were to eat it, it displays some very distinct characteristics.

By using touch, sight and smell, you can easily determine if your meat has spoiled.

Meat that is beyond the point of use, will have a distinct ‘off’ smell and will be slimy to the touch. It will look visually unappetising, to the point that you won’t want to eat it!

If the meat is on it’s ‘use by‘ date and looks as good as the day you bought it, with no adverse smells or slimy surface, the chances are that it will be good for another day or 2.

Here is a more in depth article on how to evaluate if ‘out of date’ meat is safe to eat.

How Does Cooking ‘Out of Date’ Meat Make It Last Longer?

We started this article by asking whether cooking meat extended the ‘Use By’ date of meat.

Although it has been explained that it doesn’t extend the ‘Use By’ date, but does increase the time you have to use the meat, we will explain why that is.

As mentioned earlier, the meat in your refrigerator is slowly decaying and the bacteria on the meat is multiplying. This bacteria is what causes the meat to eventually spoil and will make you sick if you eat it.

By cooking the meat to a minimum temperature of 160oF/ 72oC, you essentially kill that harmful bacteria and prevent any further spoilage. Ensure you use an instant read meat thermometer to get an accurate temperature reading. They are available at many food shops or online for under $20 and are a kitchen ‘must have’ gadget. (Amazon’s Best Seller Here!)

The molecular structure of the meat has now changed, and it is essentially a new product, it is a cooked product instead of a raw product, and should be treated as such.

If you are not using the meat as soon as it has been cooked, then you need to rapidly cool the meat and either freeze it, or store it for up to 3 days in a refrigerator.

Can I Cook All Meat Beyond The ‘Use By’ Date

Some meats will naturally last longer than others, and will likely be more useable beyond the listed date than others.

Chicken and poultry for example does not age well, and you will find that even a day after the ‘use by’ date, it may be showing signs of spoilage that will give you pause to whether it is going to be suitable to eat.

Beef on the other hand breaks down at a different rate, and may last many days beyond the listed date. This is why you can get 30 – 60 day aged beef that is perfectly legal to sell and consume.

However, you don’t see the same advertising for 30 day aged Chickens or Turkeys, and for good reason!

When it comes down to it, you will instinctively know if you think as piece of meat can be used.

Your first impression is probably the right one, but you should always err on the side of…..

‘If In Doubt, Throw It Out!’

Can I Reheat The Cooked Meat That Was Beyond The ‘Use By’ Date?

If you have cooked meat that was on or past the ‘Use by’ date, you will have up to 3 days to consume that meat.

It is perfectly acceptable to reheat the meat, providing you get it back up to a minimum temperature of 160oF/ 72oC and consume it for that meal only!

You CAN NOT reheat the meat and think that it will give you a further 3 days to use it, that is not the way it works, and you are almost sure to get sick if you try that.

Equally, once reheated, you can not then refrigerate what you haven’t eaten and reheat again. Another sure way to get food poisoning!

Reheating Meat Beyond 'Use By' date
Only Reheat Cooked Meat ONCE!

In a Nutshell…..

If you have meat that is on, or a day or 2 past, the ‘Use by’ date, and it is not showing signs of spoilage, then you are safe to cook that meat to give you another couple of days life, providing it reaches the required temperature to ensure all harmful bacteria are killed, and subsequently refrigerated correctly.

You are able to reheat that meat ‘ONCE‘ within those 3 days, again up to the minimum temperature of 160oF/ 72oC, however it must be consumed at that time, and any uneaten food thrown away.

You CANNOT reheat and think that it gives you further time like it did when it was a raw product!

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