If you have ground beef in your fridge and wonder how long it can last, read on.
Ground beef is 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 a filling for your tacos. But you can’t store it for very long in the fridge.
How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?
Ground beef storage and cooking guidelines recommend refrigerating ground beef for 1-2 days and consuming leftovers within 4 days. Ground beef can be frozen for up to 4 months. It’s important to cook ground beef to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to ensure it’s safe to eat. Use a food thermometer for accurate temperature readings when cooking ground beef.
Refrigerate Ground Beef Video 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.
This is because raw beef can harbor bacteria and viruses. If not cooked and neutralized right away, these can continue to multiply and make us sick. Some types of bacteria can even release toxins resistant to heat, so no 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.
How Long Can Raw Ground Beef Last in the Freezer?
If you cannot use your raw ground beef within a day or two, it is recommended to store it in the freezer instead. In the freezer, the ground beef will be safe almost indefinitely, but it will deteriorate in quality over time. The USDA says to use your frozen ground beef within 4 months.
When storing in the freezer, ensure your ground beef is properly wrapped in foil, cling wrap, freezer bags, or other freezer-safe containers to minimize freezer burn. Make sure also to keep it away from other foods, especially those that will not be cooked before 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 in your fridge for 5 days, eating it won’t be safe. Even if you do not see, smell, or feel anything different.
Refrigeration does not stop bacteria from multiplying; it merely slows the process down.
Use your ground beef within 2 days or store it in the freezer.
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!
Regarding 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, owing to the presence of myoglobin, a pigment-rich protein that is responsible for giving the meat its red hue.
Myoglobin is responsible for oxygenating the muscles during the animal’s life, similar to what hemoglobin does for our blood cells. If the amount of myoglobin is higher, the redder the meat appears.
In its early lifetime stages, raw ground beef will exhibit this cherry red or pinkish-red color, signaling peak freshness. Still, 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.
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 fresh anymore.
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 immediately; it will be strong and off-putting. Fresh raw ground beef should only smell of meat and nothing else. If it smells like something has died or reminds you of rotten eggs, or 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. If a slimy or sticky texture or a slippery or filmy substance is coating it, it means it has gone bad and should be discarded.
4. Past the Expiry Date
While it may sometimes be possible to bypass expiration dates for certain things like the canned stuff, it is extremely dangerous with perishable items like meat.
Expiration dates tell us how long the meat is good to consume, considering the timeline of the whole production process. Remember, before seeing that package of ground beef on 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 regarding the freshness of the meat and how long bacteria has had time to work its way into your ground beef, even if you can’t see anything. If your raw ground beef is past its expiry date, I wouldn’t recommend consuming it.
5. Left Within The Food Danger Zone for More than 2 Hours
And finally, how your raw ground beef is 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 unsafe to eat. This is because bacteria proliferate wildly within these temperatures, and the more active they are, the more they can contaminate the meat, making it unsafe.
To prevent this, always make sure raw meat is always properly refrigerated.
What Happens if I Eat Ground Beef That Is Bad?
Eating bad ground beef puts you at risk for a food-borne illness ranging in severity from mild to serious.
Common symptoms include:
- Stomach Cramps
- Muscle Pains
- 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, when a dangerous toxin is 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.
Best Tips For Safe Ground Beef Consumption
Here are a few tips to remember to avoid getting sick from ground beef.
- Only buy raw ground beef when you 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 appropriately 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 increase and multiply.
- Be mindful of expiry and use-by dates.
- Notice your ground beef’s appearance, color, smell, and texture before cooking. If something seems off, you’re better off discarding it.
- Ensure your meats are properly cooked and meet the minimum safe internal temperature requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does Cooked Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?
Cooked ground beef can last a few more days 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 must be cooked within the same time frame as freshly bought ground beef or 1-2 days.
Is Ground Beef Bad if it Turns Brown?
If ground beef turns brown or grey it means that it oxidizes. That does not necessarily mean that it turns bad. Nevertheless, it is best to discard it.
The Last Ground Beef
Raw ground beef stays in the fridge for 1-2 days when it is properly stored. It should be used within this period or stored in the freezer, which can remain suitable for up to 4 months.
Ground beef left in the fridge for over 1-2 days is best discarded. It can be dangerous to consume given the proliferation of bacteria and viruses and the sometimes heat-resistant toxins they produce.