If you’re a griller or pitmaster, you want to know the answer to the question “How long does ground beef last in the fridge?” The last thing you want to give yourself or your loved ones is food poisoning from bad burger.
That means you should know how long ground beef lasts in the fridge. If you’ve got fresh-from-the-store ground beef, it will last one to two days in your fridge. Cooked ground beef will last three to four days, giving you plenty of time to enjoy leftovers before freezing the remnants or disposing of them properly.
How Long Is Ground Beef Good In The Fridge?
The only true answer to how long does ground beef last in the fridge is it depends. Raw ground beef’s expiry time is different from cooked ground beef. It’s also possible for ground beef to go bad before the one-to-two-day timeline is up so you want to know how to tell if ground beef is bad.
So how long is cooked ground beef good for? Cooked ground beef is okay to keep in your fridge for three to four days provided it was cooked properly. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that all ground beef products be cooked to a minimum of 160°F to ensure that any bacteria that can cause food poisoning are destroyed.
Raw ground beef should only be stored in your fridge for one to two days before being cooked or frozen. If you buy your ground beef either the day of the sell-by date or the day before, you should still be good to keep it in your fridge for a day or two. Just because the date elapses while you’re storing it doesn’t mean it’s expired ground beef.
If you’re familiar with time ranges for other types of meat, you may find yourself questioning why is ground beef only good for that period of time.
Why Does Ground Beef Have Different Regulations Than Other Beef Cuts?
The surface of any cut of meat is the main area where bacteria congregates. That means you can sear a steak and serve it medium-rare without concern for bacteria in the middle of the steak. The surface of the steak reached well above 160°F due to the high-heat searing, killing any bacteria of concern.
Ground beef (or any ground meat) is a different concern. The outside of the original cuts of meat prior to grinding is now ground up throughout the package of ground beef. That means any bacteria that existed on the surface of the brisket or sirloin is now worked into the ground beef.
So while you can sear a burger and kill any bacteria on the surface, the interior can still have issues. That’s why having a high-quality instant-read thermometer, like the ChefsTemp Finaltouch X10 or the Thermapen ONE is so important for food safety.
The surface area problem is why the FDA recommends such a small timeline for storing ground beef in your freezer. If that’s frustrating, properly freezing ground beef can extend its life for a much longer period of time.
How Long Can I Keep Ground Beef In The Freezer?
You can keep raw ground beef in your freezer for three to four months if stored properly. To prevent freezer burn, wrap the ground beef package in a layer of aluminum foil or put it in freezer bags. You can store cooked ground beef in the freezer in freezer bags for two to three months.
Read our guide on grilling frozen burgers.
What Are The Signs of Spoiled Raw Ground Beef?
When you pull your package of ground beef out of the fridge, the first thing you’ll notice is the color. Just like in the store, you want to see bright red meat. This look is not from the blood in the meat, it’s created by a reaction of a protein called myoglobin with air. If the meat has turned gray without being cooked, that can be a sign that the ground beef is spoiling.
The concern with meat turning gray is only for the exterior of the ground beef. The interior hasn’t been exposed to much oxygen, so the meat will still be red.
When you open the package of ground beef, the meat should be firm but break apart when you handle it. If the meat is feeling slimy or sticky, then bacteria is probably spoiling the ground beef.
The easiest way to figure out if your ground beef has gone bad in the fridge is by taking a whiff of it. Fresh, good-to-go ground beef should not have much of a smell at all. If it has started to spoil, you should get some very unpleasant smells like tangy or sour smells.
If any of these signs turn up, don’t risk your health. Food poisoning is no joke, so if in doubt, throw the meat out.
What Are The Signs Of Spoiled Cooked Ground Beef?
You can still encounter spoiled ground beef after it’s cooked. The surface area problem discussed above still applies. If you don’t cook the ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F, you run the risk of bacteria still contaminating the meat. So how do you tell if that’s the case?
First, conduct another smell test. Does the ground beef dish still smell the same as it did when you put it in the fridge? If you’re finding new, unpleasant odors like sour notes or tanginess, it’s time to throw out the leftovers.
You can do a taste test, but if the texture or taste is wrong, spit it out immediately. The same goes for looking at it. With the ground beef being cooked, you won’t notice any differences in colors typically. If you do see any mold growth, though, that means it’s time for the food to go into the garbage.
How Does Cooked Ground Beef Go Bad?
If you’ve properly cooked ground beef to 160°F, that should kill all bacteria, right? So why are we worried about cooked ground beef spoiling? One of the biggest concerns with cooked ground beef is cross-contamination.
You can encounter cross-contamination through a number of means. Handling raw meat prior to handling cooked meat will create cross-contamination. So will placing cooked ground beef in dirty containers or using dirty utensils. Keeping your hands, containers, surfaces, and utensils clean is paramount to combating cross-contamination.
Figuring out how long ground beef lasts in the fridge is an important part of food safety at home. You don’t want to grab a package of ground beef, planning on making burgers or meatloaf or tacos, from the fridge only to discover it’s gone bad. Plan to keep raw ground beef in the fridge for one to two days to stay safe.
Remember to check the color, texture, and smell of ground beef when you go to use it so you know ahead of time if it’s gone bad. You should also check your cooked ground beef before you consume leftovers as well.
If you’re looking for a creative recipe using ground beef, check out Michael’s take on a Halifax Donair with sweet sauce!