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If you’ve ever bought ground beef, chances are you’ve found yourself throwing some out because it went bad. Everyone hates to feel like they’re wasting food, so just how long does ground beef last in the fridge?
How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge? (Raw and Cooked)
Ground beef can be used in so many different dishes. It’s versatile and affordable, which explains why it’s so popular. The only problem with this meat is its short shelf life.
–Looking for some ground beef recipes to try? Check out these Frugal Ground Beef Recipes to Stretch the Budget.
We have all had our fresh ground meat end up being slimy, brown, and just plain gross at some point. You head to the fridge to make some burgers or tacos and find something less than appetizing.
By how long did it actually take for it to spoil?
How long does ground beef last when stored in a fridge? Ground beef lasts 1 to 2 days when stored in a fridge if it’s raw. However, if it’s cooked, it can last 3 to 4 days. Its shelf life mainly depends on the meat’s quality, how you store it, and whether it’s cooked or not.
If you want to know more about how long ground beef lasts and how you can make it last even longer, keep reading.
How Long Does Ground Beef Last When Stored in a Fridge?
When storing beef in the fridge, it can last anywhere from 1 day to 4 days, depending on the storage conditions and whether the meat is cooked or not.
Here’s a quick comparison between the shelf life of raw and cooked ground beef and how they should be stored in the fridge:
|Ground Beef||Shelf-Life||How to Store|
|Raw ground beef||1-2 days||
|Cooked ground beef||3-4 days||
How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last?
As mentioned earlier, ground beef safely lasts for only 1 to 2 days when stored in a fridge if it’s raw.
Its shelf-life also depends on the quality of the ground beef you buy. The better the quality of your ground beef, the longer it will last in your fridge.
How Long Does Cooked Ground Beef Last?
Ground beef lasts 3 to 4 days when stored in a fridge if it’s cooked, but it is still recommended to eat it within 1 to 3 days even after it’s cooked to preserve the best flavor from when it was fresh.
The reason cooked ground beef lasts longer than raw ground beef, though, is the composition of the beef. When cooked, ground beef becomes a combination of moisture and protein until the moisture evaporates.
Protein doesn’t absorb as much moisture, so when the moisture is gone, the protein won’t dehydrate as easily. The evaporation of moisture will also block out oxygen that causes bacteria to grow.
When beef is uncooked, however, the protein doesn’t hold together as well. Instead of forming a solid piece, it clumps into small particles that separate when cooked.
Another reason why cooked ground beef lasts longer than raw is because of the fat in the meat. When exposed to air and bacteria, fat can become rancid and cause infections. It’s best to go for ground beef that has less than 30% fat content to protect your health and slow down spoilage.
What Makes Ground Beef Spoil So Quickly?
Some parts of the cow tend to spoil faster than others. The part of the cow used for ground beef is high in moisture content, which can cause bacteria to grow quickly.
Grinding the meat also increases its surface area and, therefore, increases the odds of harmful bacteria infecting it. When ground beef sits at room temperature for too long, the harmful bacteria will multiply quickly and can cause illness if consumed.
How to Store Ground Beef So It Lasts Longer
You can learn how to properly store ground beef, raw or cooked, to ensure it will last longer. Here are some tips for storing raw and cooked ground beef:
Raw Ground Beef
1) Never leave raw ground beef at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
After getting home from the grocery store, your main aim is to store your ground beef in the fridge as soon as possible. If you live far from your grocery store, I recommend storing your ground beef in a cooler bag so it does not spoil on the way home.
2) Keep raw ground beef in its original package or store it in an airtight container.
Keep your raw ground beef in its original package before storing it in the fridge. If you have already opened the package, don’t worry; you can use plastic wrap to seal the beef and then put it in an airtight container to prevent moisture. If the package is not labeled, be sure and mark or label it in some way with the date for when you brought it home.
3) Keep fridge temperature at 40°F or below.
This will ensure that your raw ground beef stays fresh for longer. You can get one of these Refrigerator Thermometers if your fridge doesn’t have one.
4) Keep raw ground beef on the lowest shelf near the back of your fridge.
The safest place to put your raw ground beef is the back of the fridge on the lowest shelf. This is usually the coldest part of the fridge and won’t be affected by temperature changes when you open and close the fridge door.
5) Keep away from other food in the fridge.
To avoid cross-contamination and bacteria, keep raw ground beef away from other food in the fridge. You can do this by keeping it in its own package and not letting it sit out in the open in the fridge.
Cooked Ground Beef
1) Let the cooked ground meat cool for less than 2 hours before storing.
Leaving your meat out to cool before storing is advised; just make sure you do not leave it out for too long, as it will start to spoil.
2) Drain excess fat.
This tip is especially useful if you’re planning on storing multiple meals made with ground beef at once.
2) Store in an airtight container with a lid.
This will help keep out moisture and other odors, which can lead to spoilage. In addition, if you’re storing ground beef for more than one day, it’s recommended that you divide the amount of meat into multiple containers so as not to overcrowd them.
3) Store on the bottom shelf at the back of your fridge.
Like raw ground beef, cooked ground beef should be stored in the coolest area and most stable area of your fridge. This will slow down its spoiling process and help keep it fresh for longer.
It is helpful to cook your ground beef before you store it if you want to extend its shelf life without putting it in the freezer.
Does Sell-By Date Matter on Ground Beef?
The sell-by date for ground beef is a term used by manufacturers as a guide for how long their product will remain at optimum quality after it has been packaged. It can last in the fridge for 2 days after this date.
The expiration date, also known as the best-before date, indicates when the product will start going bad. Ground beef will have the best taste and quality before this date.
The only time you should eat ground beef past its expiration date is when it has been frozen. Frozen ground beef can last around 4 to 6 months.
Can You Freeze Ground Beef?
Freezing ground beef is a great way to save money and stock your freezer with an essential ingredient for quick and easy meal prep. It’s also one of the best ways to preserve beef for long-term storage.
Frozen ground beef can last somewhere between 4 and 6 months. It’s best used within 4 months to get the best taste and ensure that there will be no spoilage.
Here are some tips on how to store ground beef in the freezer:
1) Prepare the meat for freezing.
First things first, you need to prepare your ground beef before freezing it. This preparation will make it easier for you to thaw and use later on. A good way to prepare your ground beef is by separating it from its gravy or water mixture.
You can put the meat in a strainer or separate jar so that any excess liquid can be poured out. Doing this will provide you with a better storage method since freezing gravy or water will not help the meat retain its quality and flavor.
2) Store in an airtight container.
The best way to store ground beef is to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then place it inside a large heavy-duty freezer bag. This will prevent moisture from building up inside the bag and causing freezer burn.
Freezer burn is when the meat becomes dried out due to exposure to air, which can make it tough or unpalatable when defrosted. It also allows for ice crystals to form in the packaging, which increases the risk of bacterial growth.
Another good tip is to remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it shut. A good rule of thumb is to squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag.
You can use a straw or another handy tool to help you suck out the extra space, which will make your life much easier in the long run.
Another thing I recommend you do is to divide up your ground beef into smaller portions and place them all in separate freezer bags.
This way, you’ll be able to thaw out just what you need for recipes without worrying about thawing the rest later on down the line.
If you want to avoid using single-use plastic, you can use these Reditainer Freezer Storage Containers.
3) Thaw and cook the ground beef correctly.
Once you’ve thawed your ground beef, you must cook it thoroughly to avoid food-borne illnesses. It’s also important to remember that thawed ground beef will not cook as fast as fresh meat, so be sure to adjust your cooking times accordingly.
4) Store the ground beef properly in the freezer after cooking.
Once thawed and used, you can refreeze beef that was previously frozen if it hasn’t been contaminated by other foods or bacteria.
How Do I Know If Ground Beef Is Bad?
Knowing whether ground beef is spoiled or not can be tricky, especially when you’re purchasing it fresh from the grocery store.
However, there are a few telltale signs that will help you to determine whether or not your meat is spoiled.
- It smells off. If you open up your ground beef package and it smells rancid or even has a hint of an odd smell, then you know that it’s spoiled and should be thrown out immediately.
- It has an unusual color. If your ground beef has an unusual color to it, then it’s spoiled. You want to make sure that when looking at the meat that there are no black spots or mold. If you see any discoloration, then it’s time to throw away your beef and get a new package.
- It has a weird texture. Another sign that your ground meat is spoiled is if it has a weird texture. If you touch the meat and it has a sticky or slimy texture, then it’s time to throw the meat away. This applies to whether the meat is cooked or raw. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat, spoiled or not.
- It’s past its expiration date. The meat’s expiration date might be another indicator that it’s spoiled. If any of the other factors apply and the meat is past its expiration date, then I would advise you to throw it away.
If you eat spoiled ground beef you might have symptoms or side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, or stomach cramps. It’s good to know and be able to check if your beef was spoiled when you consumed it or if the cause was something else like salmonella or another pathogenic bacteria.
What Should You Do With Bad Ground Beef?
Throw away any beef that has gone bad or is spoiled. Be sure and wrap it up well so that animals do not dig in your trash and spread the bacteria or get sick themselves.
Is Ground Beef Safe to Eat if It Turns Brown in the Fridge?
If your ground beef turns brown in the fridge, it could be a sign that it is spoiled. Most fresh meat will be a bright red color and only turns brown when it’s exposed to air. This doesn’t always mean it’s gone bad, but make sure you smell and touch the beef to check for other signs of spoilage before throwing or consuming it.
What Shelf Should Ground Beef Be Stored On?
Ground beef should be stored on the bottom shelf of your fridge because that is the coolest area of your fridge, and it does not allow as many internal temperature fluctuations when you close and open the fridge door.
Recipes With Ground Beef
Now that you know how to properly store and save your ground beef, here are some yummy recipes that you can make with it!
- Frugal Ground Beef Recipes to Stretch the Budget
- Taco Dip Recipe with Ground Beef
- Easy Old Fashioned Vegetable Soup with Ground Beef
- Must Try Cheap and Easy Recipes With Ground Beef
- Homemade Beef and Bean Burritos for the Freezer
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Merissa has been blogging about and living the simple life since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to the 100-acre farm and ministry on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.
This post on How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge was originally posted on Little House Living in February 2023.