After a week of takeout, you finally decide that today is the day you make that recipe you found online and bought ingredients for last week.
You open your fridge and gather your ingredients, and find that package of ground beef that you bought at the grocery store last week. It’s been sitting there untouched and unopened, for 7 days, but you wonder, is it still safe to eat?
Ground beef in the fridge for 7 days – is it bad?
Ground Beef in the Fridge for 7 days
Ground beef that has been left in the fridge for 7 days should not be consumed as it may already contain pathogens and bacteria that may cause serious food-borne illnesses. Raw ground beef can only safely be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days, and cooked ground beef, for a maximum of 4 days. Even if it doesn’t show any tangible signs of food spoilage, it is best to discard it.
What is Ground Beef?
“Leftover” here does not mean substandard or less quality than other cuts. It just means that these cuts cannot be sold on their own in their current form, but quality-wise are still the same as your sirloin or your chuck roast.
Contrary to what most believe, it does not contain any organ parts or parts of the cow that are not usually sold like the ears or snout.
The exception here is the heart and tongue, which are allowed under certain guidelines, but unless specified to contain organ meat, ground beef is made purely from muscles and meat trimmings that are a mixture of lean meat and fat.
Some stores would actually specify the part where these trimmings came from, and you might see them labeled as “ground chuck” or “ground sirloin”. It just means that the ground beef is made from those specific parts.
Ground beef would always have a label that identifies the ratio of lean meat to fat in the mix so that consumers would have an idea and would be able to properly decide which type to buy, depending on what they are using the ground beef for.
This is what is called the “lean-to-fat” ratio. An 80/20 ratio means that there is 80% lean meat and 20% fat in the ground beef. A ratio like this is typically ground chuck. A 90/10 ratio means that there is 90% lean meat and 10% fat, and a 70/10 ratio means it’s 70% lean and 30% fat.
If the ground beef has an added label for example, like ground sirloin or ground chuck, the law requires that no other type of fat from other sources or parts can be added, except for the primal source.
This means that if it is labeled as ground sirloin, the fat should only come from sirloin and not other beef parts like chuck, even if they are both technically ground beef.
Is Hamburger Meat the Same As Ground Beef?
Hamburger meat is also ground beef and follows all the guidelines required for ground beef. By law, it also cannot have more than 30% fat, but it is different in that it is more flexible in how that fat is added.
While the fat in ground beef needs to come only from what is used in the ground beef to begin with, fat from other sources can be added to hamburger meat to achieve the desired fat level.
For example, adding fat from other less expensive cuts of beef is allowed as long as the fat does not go over 30%.
For the best burgers, most cooks recommend a lean-to-fat ratio of 80/20. This is generally agreed on to produce a moist, juicy burger with just the right balance of lean meat and fat.
In general though, the longer you plan to cook your burger, the higher the fat content you should go with to make sure you don’t end up with something that’s dry and flavorless.
What Is Ground Beef Used For?
The most well-known use for ground beef is for burgers, but it can be used for so much more, from spaghetti Bolognese to picadillo, to tacos, to stuffed vegetables shepherd’s pie and even pizza, there are a lot of recipes you can make with ground beef, making it a versatile ingredient worth having on hand always.
How to Properly Store Ground Beef
Ground beef can be stored in the fridge or the freezer in its original packaging if you plan on cooking it soon. For longer storage in the freezer, you may wrap it in plastic wrap, or foil, or store it in freezer bags. It is best, however, to consume them within 4 months to keep freshness and quality.
In the fridge, make sure they are properly wrapped and that they are kept away from other foods that will not be cooked before they are consumed, such as salad greens, fruits, and cheese. Make sure the ground beef is stored below 40 °F.
Practicing proper hygiene and safety precautions in storing and handling raw beef ensures that you can safely enjoy your ground beef within the designated time frame and ensures you are protected against food-borne illnesses.
How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Refrigerator?
Raw, uncooked ground beef only lasts 1-2 days when stored in the refrigerator. After that, they may harbor pathogens and bacteria that may lead to serious food-borne illnesses.
Only store your ground beef in the fridge if you plan to cook them right away.
Cooked ground beef, on the other hand, only lasts for 3-4 days even when stored in the refrigerator. For the same reasons as raw ground beef, they are best discarded after this time frame to prevent sickness.
How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Freezer?
Raw ground beef, when stored properly in the freezer, should last for about 3 to 4 months. The USDA recommends consuming it within four months.
Cooked ground beef will maintain its quality for 2 or 3 months when stored properly in the freezer. After that, it may suffer from loss of moisture or unpleasant texture changes.
While technically food will not go bad in the freezer, freezing affects the texture and moisture content of food and after a certain period, it may not be appealing to eat anymore.
Freezing also does not kill the bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses. It simply deactivates them for a while, until such time that the right temperature is met and they can reactivate again.
That’s why it is still important to be mindful and careful with how we store and handle food, especially raw food.
Ground Beef in Fridge for 7 Days- Is it Bad?
Ground beef that’s been left in the fridge for 7 days has probably gone bad. It is highly unlikely that it will not show signs of visible spoilage, but even if it doesn’t, it is not a good idea to consume it.
Bacteria and pathogens that cause serious food-borne illnesses proliferate at the food danger zone of between 40 °F- 140 °F, and even if you store your ground beef in the fridge, it will still spoil, albeit at a slower pace.
Raw ground beef should only be stored in the fridge for a maximum of 2 days, and cooked ground beef, for a maximum of 4 days.
Even if by 7 days, there’s no visible sign of spoilage (highly unlikely!), and you are a daredevil and a natural risk-taker, it is not worth risking your health for a potentially serious food-borne illness.
How to Tell If Ground Beef Has Gone Bad
You will definitely know that ground beef has gone bad. Signs include:
Fresh ground beef should have a reddish hue. If it has turned brown, it is not necessarily unfit for consumption but it definitely means that it is on its way there. Ground beef that has turned gray, or that has turned any other color, has gone bad and should be discarded.
Fresh ground beef should be firm and should break apart easily. If the texture of your ground beef is sticky or slimy, throw it out. It means it has gone bad.
Fresh meat should smell like well, meat. Any other unusual strong smell is a sign that your ground beef has gone off.
Especially if stored in the fridge, you will definitely know because as soon as you open your fridge, this rotten meat smell will be like a slap in the face. Throw the meat out and to be safe, throw out any of the exposed food that has been sitting next to it.
4. Check best-by date or check how long you have had it
If it was stored in the fridge for longer than the recommended time of 2 days or longer than 4 months in the freezer, toss it out.
Aside from harboring bacteria, the quality of the ground beef would have deteriorated and would not be good to eat.
What Are the Risks of Eating Bad Ground Beef?
Bacteria and pathogens like Salmonella, E.Coli, Listeria, Staphylococcus Aureus, may all be found in raw beef and are even more of a risk in ground beef, as the ground beef would have more exposed surface area for them to proliferate.
The process of making ground beef, with more exposure to machines and other cuts of beef, also makes them extra vulnerable to pathogens that may cause illnesses.
While most of these types of bacteria can be killed by cooking, it is possible that the toxins they release won’t be, and will be heat-resistant. Also, allowing them free rein on your ground beef for 7 days is not a good idea.
We don’t know what they have been up to in the last 7 days that they were hanging around in the fridge. The CDC doesn’t trust them, and you shouldn’t too.
Ingesting these bacteria and the toxins they release, and other bacteria that cause food spoilage can lead to the following:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Abdominal pain
Symptoms of mild food poisoning may go away after a few days but if you ingested a dangerous toxin, your symptoms can be more serious, and lead to hospitalization and in some cases, death.
It is best to be prudent in our consumption of high-risk foods and to not consume those that haven’t been handled or stored properly.
Conclusion to Ground Beef in Fridge for 7 Days
Ground beef is an especially high-risk food that needs to be properly handled and stored. Ground beef that does not show any visible signs of spoilage does not necessarily mean it is safe.
Because of the pathogens that commonly affect them that may potentially release dangerous toxins even when cooked, it is always best practice to adhere to storage and handling requirements to ensure that our food is safe and won’t make us sick.
Frequently Asked Questions to Ground Beef in Fridge for 7 Days
Should I Store Raw Ground Beef in the Fridge or Freezer?
If planning to cook them within 1-2 days, you can store ground beef in the fridge. If you’re not planning to cook it soon, you can store it in the freezer for up to 4 months.
How Long Can I Store Cooked Ground Beef in the Fridge?
Cooked ground beef will only last a maximum of 4 days even if you properly store it in the fridge. After that, it is best discarded rather than risk a food-borne illness.