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How long do things keep?

I normally don't prepare food in advance but with a busier schedule, I'd like to try doing most of my cooking on a Sunday for the rest of the week. The problem I'm having is I find that the chicken/beef/pork on a 2nd or 3rd day is pretty dry.

If i marinade everything in advance, is it still okay in the fridge (not the freezer) after 3 or 4 days? What is the general rule of thumb when it comes to keeping food (meat/poultry/fish).


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  1. Personally, I wouldn't keep fish or poultry more than overnight. Beef, maybe 2 days. If you are purchasing them fresh, you could freeze for use later in the week.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sarah galvin

      Fish, i normally buy the day I'm using but even chicken? You're talking raw, right?

    2. I try to buy fish and use it the same day. The next day may be OK, but after that I wouldn't push it. Chicken I try to use that day or the next -- otherwise, I freeze it and then thaw the day I plan to use. Meat, I treat like chicken.

      Veggies last longer, but don't eat them too past their prime. For example, some leafy greens can grow bacterias and such if left too long.

      1. wet marinades are a breeding ground for bacteria and also begin to break down the meat proteins after a certain point, destroying the texture and turning it mushy.

        your best bet is to cook the stuff, portion it out and freeze some for later use.

        for example, roast some chicken pieces. if you'd normally eat 2, cook 6 or 8. freeze some, then pick the meat off the remaining 2 or 3 to use for tacos, pasta or chicken salad later in the week. the cooked meat will easily last 4-5 days in the fridge if well-wrapped, and you've got back-up in the freezer for a rainy day. same for meats and pork.

        this won't work as well with fish. plan on eating that same day, or the next at the very latest.

        4 Replies
        1. re: hotoynoodle

          thanks guys. any suggestions on what i can make ahead that'll be good for a week besides chili and spaghetti sauce?

          1. re: hotsauce28

            --Pot roast is perfectly fine after a week, esp if you 1)don't preslice it and 2)refrig it covered in the pan juices. Eat it with mashed potatoes or rice for Sunday night supper, and slice it up for roast beef sandwiches later in the week.
            --bean dishes (creamy red beans, black beans, lentils/dal, white beans)
            --slow-cooked southern style veggies (green beans, okra & tomatoes, crowder peas, blackeyed peas); they're supposed to be soggy/soft textured, so they reheat just fine
            --non-cream soups

            "Pot cooking" dishes age really well....gumbos, thick stews & soups, smothered dishes like etouffee or smothered chicken. In other words, braised proteins with a sufficient amount of liquid to cover any slight dryness or loss of texture produced by several days in the fridge & a reheating.

            1. re: hotsauce28

              beef stew. I usually make a crock pot full on sunday and my husband has it for 4-5 days after he gets home from work. (he works 2nd shift) another idea is ghoulash. both actually taste better reheated.

            2. re: hotoynoodle

              i like hotoynoodle's approach - i use something one night and then use leftover the next - easist example is roast chicken - 1st night its roast chicken....2nd night pulled chicken in something.....last i get a soup or a stock from bones.
              Doesn't work as well with fish - they are right but still i get 2 days out of a lot of fish - by making a fish salad or a fish cake with any leftovers. Any meal that lends itself to freezing - i make in double portions if not more. Chicken Zingara, stewed items, meatloaf, enchiladas, lasgna, meatball, pulled pork.

            3. The only time a marinade something for several days is when I make saurbraten. It's a 5 day marinade in the bottom of the fridge and I use vinegar and red wine so it's more like curing the meat.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Paul Weller

                Paul, can you tell me more about this marinade?

              2. I sometimes cook on Sunday for Monday and Tuesday night.
                For example, I'll make a chicken dish like paprikash (using the epicurious recipe) in a crockpot. I will get everything ready on Sunday to the point where I turn on the crockpot and then put the crockpot interior in the refrigerator overnight. I also sometimes half prepare gumbo to the point where I add the shellfish. I cool it and refrigerate it (I think the recipe I use says it is okay for two days). Then on the night we are eating it, I reheat--add the shellfish and serve. I also prepare casseroles like moussaka and refrigerate for up to two nights. That only gets me dinner through Tuesday but it is a help.

                1. I cook quite a bit ahead of time for my 4 1/2 year old daughter and me: thick pureed carrot, vegetable, lentil, and bean soups (for each soup--five liters at a time, four frozen and one in the ref), yogurt (also make five liters at a time--these keep in the ref until consumed), pasta (plain, al dente), microwave defatted locally made sausages (keep nicely up to a week), shredded poached chicken beasts (slightly salted, about 5-6 days), and quick pickled vegetables (depends on seasoning base). I have fish in the freezer, lots of fruit, vegetables (in the ref), and usually some smoked ribs that keep for at least a week prior to preparation. Also have eggs, cheeses, milk, juice in the ref. Couscous, canned tuna, anchovies, smoked eel, and the like in the pantry. Usually have left over rice in the ref as well.

                  With the above, I can rapidly (in minutes) make different hot dishes, full meal salads, and quick Asian meals. A quick meal for my daughter might be a mix of fusili pasta, carrot soup, and shredded chicken served cold as she prefers. Prep time (not counting initial food prep done on the weekend)--one minute. A salad with different lettuces, tomato, onion, cheeses, pasta, and a dressing using my yogurt as a base--three to four minutes.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: hotsauce28

                      Another good idea, mac and cheese. that holds up well for a few days and once again is good reheated.

                  1. I think marinating for 3 or 4 days would destroy the texture of most meats.

                    Often I will buy 2 kinds of fish on Saturday, make one on Sunday and the other on Tuesday. If it's fresh and from a reputable fish monger that cuts it from the whole filet as needed (as opposed to pre-cut and stored at a grocery store), it is perfectly fine.

                    You can wash lettuce and keep it wrapped in a clean cotton towel for 4 days or so to speed salad making. Soups are good, often better, 2 days or so later. You can do vegetable prep (e.g. peeling and cutting carrots) a couple of days ahead of time. I find that having a menu prepared allows me to A. do the shopping in one trip B. On Sunday I can make a more labor-intensive nice dinner and do most of Monday's dinner in advance which leaves me time after Monday's dinner to do some of Tuesday's dinner, etc.

                    Also if your roast beef, say, is to dry for you after day 3, maybe using it in a stroganoff sauce would help?

                    1. I don't marinate in advance (except for accidentally doing it this weekend) but I've brined in advance. Sometimes, just to change things up, I'll brine a game hen or two on a Sunday and have that for dinner along with some quick veggie sides. It's relatively quick and effortless, especially for a mid or end-of week treat.

                      Your best bet, though, is the freezer. Portion things out, and just pull it out of the freezer and into the fridge in the mornings. It'll be good to go when you come home.