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How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last In the Fridge? Find Out!

Ground beef is very versatile. You can use it in stir-fries, add it to pasta sauces and chili, turn it into burgers, meatloaf, or sausages and use it as filling for your tacos. There’s so much you can do with it that it’s pretty useful to always have it on hand. 

But is it a good idea to stock up on ground beef or will it go bad on you fast?

How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

Raw ground beef can only be kept in the fridge for one to two days. It must be cooked within that time period or alternatively stored in the freezer where it can last for a longer period of time.

How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last In the Fridge?
How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last In the Fridge?

Refrigerate Ground Beef Vide Tutorial

How Long Can Raw Ground Beef Be Refrigerated?

As versatile as it is, raw ground beef will only remain fresh and safe in the refrigerator for one to two days when properly stored. Beyond this time frame, it may not be safe to consume anymore.

This is because raw beef can harbor lots of bacteria and viruses, and if not cooked and neutralized right away, these can continue to multiply and make us really sick. Some types of bacteria can even release toxins that are resistant to heat, so no amount of heating and cooking can make the meat safe.

This is why the USDA says to use raw ground beef within 1-2 days to ensure food safety.

Raw ground beef must be used within 2 days when stored in the fridge.
Raw ground beef must be used within 2 days when stored in the fridge.

How Long Can Raw Ground Beef Last in the Freezer?

If you will not be able to use your raw ground beef within a day or two, it is recommended that you store it in the freezer instead. In the freezer, the ground beef will be safe almost indefinitely, but of course, it will deteriorate in quality over time. The USDA says to use your frozen ground beef within 4 months so it’s still of good quality.

When storing in the freezer, make sure your ground beef is properly wrapped in foil, cling wrap, freezer bags, or other freezer-safe containers to minimize freezer burn. Make sure to also keep it away from other foods, especially those that will not be cooked prior to consumption like ice cream, frozen bread and others.

Raw Ground Beef Left in the Refrigerator for 5 Days – Can I Still Use it?

If your raw ground beef has been hanging around in your fridge for 5 days, it won’t be safe to eat. Even if you do not see, smell or feel anything different, it still would not be a good idea to consume it. 

Refrigeration does not stop bacteria from multiplying, it merely slows the process down, so your raw ground beef will still have bacteria and viruses that can proliferate and cause harm. 

Even if you do not see anything happening on the surface, there is no guarantee that they are not there, and that they have not produced dangerous toxins that can make you really sick. As such, it is a really big health risk and a gamble to proceed with its consumption. 

To avoid such a predicament, either uses your ground beef within 2 days or store it in the freezer.

Raw Ground Beef In the Fridge
Raw Ground Beef In the Fridge

When Should I Discard My Raw Ground Beef?

Raw ground beef is not safe to eat anymore if any of the following are present.

1. Discoloration and Mold

What your raw ground beef looks like will tell you a lot about its freshness.

Ground beef that has spoiled will have gray or green discoloration, mold, fuzzy growths, and even worms. If any of these are present, don’t even think about it, toss it out!

With regards to its color, raw ground beef often passes through natural color changes the older it gets. Fresh raw ground beef will often be pink or reddish in color, owing to the presence of myoglobin, a pigment-rich protein that is responsible for giving meat its red hue.

During the animal’s life, myoglobin is responsible for oxygenating the muscles, similar to what hemoglobin does for our blood cells. If the amount of myoglobin is higher, the redder the meat appears.

In the early stages of its lifetime, raw ground beef will exhibit this cherry red or pinkish-red color signaling peak freshness, but through prolonged exposure to oxygen, it begins to darken and turn a duller brown color, before turning gray. This process is similar to what happens when a piece of metal rusts.

Now raw ground beef that has brown spots or has turned a slight shade of brown is not necessarily bad at that point, but it does mean that it has oxidized a little bit and is not at optimum freshness.

It is prudent to check for other signs of spoilage to determine its fitness for consumption. If there are no other signs, it may still be used but best to use it right away as it will not last very long.

2. Strong Foul Smell

There’s no denying the smell of bad ground beef. You will notice it right away and it will be quite strong and off-putting. Fresh raw ground beef should only smell of meat and nothing else. If it smells like something has died or if it reminds you of rotten eggs or it has a metal-like, ammonia smell, it means it has gone off and shouldn’t be consumed.  

If there is also some other smell that you don’t recognize, it is also a good idea to stay away from it.

3. Slimy and Sticky Texture

The texture of fresh ground beef should be somewhat firm, and it should break apart and separate when you squeeze it. A slimy or sticky texture, or if a slippery or filmy substance is coating it, it means it has gone bad and it should be discarded.

Ground beef that has an unusual smell, color and texture should be discarded.
Ground beef that has an unusual smell, color and texture should be discarded.

4. Past the Expiry Date

While it may sometimes be possible to bypass expiration dates a little bit for certain things like the canned stuff, it is extremely dangerous to do so with perishable items like meat.

Expiration dates tell us how long the meat is good to consume for, considering the timeline of the whole production process. Remember, prior to seeing that package of ground beef in the grocery shelves, it has undergone processing through several stages, which means it took added time to get to you. 

This added time matters a lot with regards to freshness of the meat and with regards to how long bacteria has had time to work its way into your ground beef, even if you can’t really see anything. If your raw ground beef is past its expiry date, I wouldn’t recommend that you consume it.

5. Left Within The Food Danger Zone for More than 2 Hours

And finally, how your raw ground beef was stored will determine if it is still fit for consumption.

If your ground beef was left within the temperatures of the food danger zone, or 40-140 °F, for longer than a couple of hours, it is not safe to eat. This is because bacteria proliferate wildly within these temperatures, and the more active they are, the more that they can contaminate the meat, which makes it unsafe.

To prevent this, always make sure raw meat is always properly refrigerated. 

What Will Happen If I Eat Ground Beef That Is Bad?

Eating bad ground beef puts you at risk for a food-borne illness which can range in severity from mild to serious.

Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Muscle Pains
  • Dizziness
  • Neurological issues
  • Muscle issues

If it is just a mild case, the symptoms will usually resolve within a few hours to a few days, but there are cases where the symptoms persist for weeks and may require medical attention or hospitalization.

In some cases, usually, when there is a dangerous toxin ingested, it may have lingering long-term effects.

Usually, though, it clears up after 24-48 hours in healthy individuals but for children, the elderly, and those immunocompromised, it may take longer.

Eating bad ground beef can lead to a foodborne illness.
Eating bad ground beef can lead to a foodborne illness.

Can Cooking Kill Bacteria and Neutralize Dangerous Toxins?

Cooking food to safe internal temperatures can kill and neutralize bacteria that cause foodborne illness. However, if the meat was improperly handled and stored and allowed to remain in the food danger zone where these bacteria are able to proliferate and produce toxins that are heat-resistant, these won’t be solved by simply cooking the meat.  

Bacteria like Staphyloccocus Aureus and Clostridium perfringens can be killed off by cooking, but the toxins they produce cannot be killed off by heat, and can cause serious diseases.

This is why proper storage and keeping within the recommended storage periods is important if we do not wish to find ourselves on the receiving end of not just an inconvenient foodborne illness, but a potentially dangerous one as well.

Best Tips For Safe Consumption of Ground Beef

To avoid getting sick from ground beef, here are a few tips to remember.

  • Only buy raw ground beef when you plan to use it within 1-2 days.
  • If you find you can’t use it within a day or two, you have the option to store it in the freezer instead, where it can last for a longer time.
  • Whether storing ground beef in the fridge or the freezer, make sure ground beef is properly wrapped and kept away from other food that will not be cooked before eating.
  • Use separate containers and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat.
  • Do not leave meat or any food out for more than 2 hours. In the food danger zone, bacteria more easily proliferate and multiply.
  • Be mindful of expiry and use-by dates.
  • Notice the appearance, color, smell and texture of your ground beef prior to cooking. If something seems off, you’re better off discarding it.
  • Make sure your meats are properly cooked and meet the minimum safe internal temperature requirements.
Always cook your meat to safe internal temperatures.
Always cook your meat to safe internal temperatures.

Frequently Asked Questions to How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

How Long Does Cooked Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

Cooked ground beef can last for a couple of days more in the fridge when properly stored. In general, they last from 3-4 days.

How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last After It is Thawed?

While it is thawing in the fridge at temperatures of 40°F or lower, ground beef remains safe. After it is fully thawed, it needs to be cooked within the same time frame as freshly bought ground beef or 1-2 days.

Conclusion to How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

Raw ground beef keeps for 1-2 days in the fridge when it is properly stored. It should be used within this period or stored in the freezer where it can remain good for up to 4 months.

Ground beef left in the fridge for longer than 1-2 days is best discarded, as it can be dangerous to consume given the proliferation of bacteria and viruses and the sometimes heat-resistant toxins they produce.