Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life and spoilage of meatloaf. Learn how long cooked meatloaf lasts, how to store it, and when to toss the leftovers.
Baked your first meatloaf, and not sure how long you can refrigerate it? How long does cooked meatloaf last?
Or yours has been in the fridge for a couple of days, and you’re wondering if it’s still safe to eat.
If it does, you’re in the right place. Let’s jump right in.
How Long Does Meatloaf Last?
Cooked meatloaf lasts for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. If you need more time, you can portion it and freeze it for a few months tightly wrapped in plastic or freezer bags.
Of course, you can refrigerate your meatloaf leftovers for an extra day or two beyond the recommended period, but you run the risk of it going bad. So instead, I suggest chucking it in a freezer bag and into the freezer. This way, it’ll retain quality for much longer.
(And if your meatloaf is any good, which it probably is, you definitely don’t want it to spoil.)
The 3 to 4 days period is the official USDA guideline for all perishable leftovers, so it applies to meatloaf as well as to pretty much any other cooked dish. So it’s also how long cooked quiche lasts and how long lasagna is good for.
Refrigerate your meatloaf within two hours of removing it from the oven, ideally as soon as it cools to about room temperature. Bacteria multiply rapidly in temperatures between 40°F and 140 °F (5°C to 60°C), so you want your meatloaf to stay in that danger zone for as short as possible.
Of course, a big uncut meatloaf will keep warm for quite a while, especially if it’s still in a loaf pan.
That’s why I suggest removing it from the pan after baking and slicing it after letting it rest for the usual 10 to 15 minutes. As long as you give each slice a bit of breathing room, the leftovers should be nice and cold within an hour.
How to Tell if Meatloaf Is Bad?
Discard your meatloaf leftovers if there’s mold or other changes visible on the surface, the leftovers smell sour or “funny,” or if they’ve been in the fridge for more than 5 to 6 days.
Any signs of fuzz or other visual changes are a sure sign it’s game over for your meatloaf. Don’t even think about cutting off the moldy area and using what’s left. That’s not safe.
An off odor is the next spoilage sign that’s difficult to miss. Give the meat a good whiff, and if it doesn’t smell like baked beef with herbs, it’s likely no good.
Next, make sure your leftovers never sit in the fridge for more than 5 to 6 days. I know 3 to 4 days is what’s recommended, but raise your hand if you’ve never gone beyond that period.
I know I did, and as long as the meat is tightly sealed and refrigerated at all times, in most cases, it’ll be fine. Just give it a thorough check before eating, and don’t make it a rule to keep all the cooked leftovers for a week or so.
Finally, remember that a soft or mushy meatloaf isn’t spoiled. It’s usually a result of not enough mixing, that’s all.
If you often forget how long your leftovers sit in the fridge, slap a post-it note with the date on the container. This way, you don’t have to track it in your head.
Next up, let’s cover storage.
How to Store Meatloaf
Let your baked meatloaf cool to about room temperature, then cover it tightly and refrigerate. Stored this way, it’ll last for at least 3 to 4 days. If you need more time, you can freeze the leftovers.
Storing meatloaf isn’t rocket science. Just put the leftovers in an airtight container, chuck it in the fridge, and it will be fine. Or you can use a freezer bag or plastic wrap if your meatloaf isn’t glazed.
(Okay, technically, you could use a bag or wrap for a glazed meatloaf, but that would spread the glaze all over the place. And you probably don’t want that.)
Finally, let’s talk about freezing meatloaf.
Can You Freeze Meatloaf?
You can freeze both uncooked and cooked meatloaf, depending on your preferences. In both cases, you should wrap it tightly using plastic wrap or place it in a freezer bag and squeeze out any extra air.
For an already-cooked meatloaf, I suggest cutting it into meal-sized portions and freezing each one separately. This way, you can defrost exactly as much as you need for a meal and don’t have to worry about any leftovers you’ll have to deal with.
If your meatloaf is glazed and you’d like to keep things this way, pre-freeze it uncovered for two to three hours on a cookie sheet. That should be long enough for the glaze to freeze properly.
After that, you can proceed to wrap the meatloaf, as explained above.
If you expect the meat to sit in the freezer for more than a few weeks, double wrapping it should help preserve its quality for longer. Use plastic wrap for the first layer, and then place the wrapped meatloaf into a freezer bag.
When it comes to defrosting, leaving the meat in the fridge overnight is your best bet.
(If you’re defrosting a large portion, you might need more than 10+ hours, so account for that.)
Or you can reheat it directly from frozen. But that will be more difficult and take longer to reheat the meatloaf evenly without scorching the surface or leaving the inside cold.