Ground beef is such a versatile ingredient but sometimes it can be left in your fridge a day or two longer than you would have hoped. The period for which it is okay to leave ground beef in the fridge is difficult because it really depends. The following guide is here for these situations to help you make the best judgment about your meat, to avoid making unsafe meals, without being wasteful!
Table of Contents
- How Long Is Ground Beef Good Once Cooked?
- How Long Does Ground Beef Actually Last in the Fridge?
- How Can You Tell if Cooked Ground Beef has Gone Bad?
- So, Is Ground Beef Actually Safe?
- How to Store Cooked Beef
- Tips for Storing Your Ground Beef
- Preventing Cross-Contamination
- How to Defrost Cooked Beef
- Is Ground Beef Good After Seven Days in the Fridge?
- How long does cooked ground beef last in the fridge – FAQs
- Ground Beef: The Safe Way!
How Long Is Ground Beef Good Once Cooked?
Most meats have a similar length of time where they are good after they have been cooked. According to the USDA, this length of time is 3-4 days.
If you are cooking ground beef or other ground meats (such as ground turkey or ground chicken) though, there is much more surface area to which bacteria can attach themselves to.
How Long Does Ground Beef Actually Last in the Fridge?
Food safety authorities and organizations will tell you that raw ground beef can be kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days after purchase.
Using meat that is out of date can completely spoil the taste of the meal. Not only this but you can potentially get quite sick from using meat out of date. This is due to the fast bacterial growth on meat that occurs after a period of time.
In all honesty, it will last between 1-4 days. But if you are on day 3 or 4, you need to be more careful when using the meat.
That said, there are a few different ways in which you can ensure the meat you are using is safe. In the section below, we’ll discuss signs to look out for that your cooked ground beef is bad, inside or outside the fridge.
How Can You Tell if Cooked Ground Beef has Gone Bad?
There are a couple of checks you should always make when using cooked ground beef that has been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of days. This will ensure the meat you are using is in good condition to make safe meals for your family.
It can be much harder to tell if cooked ground beef is gone bad compared to raw beef. Since you have already combined the beef with its other ingredients, this makes checking the texture futile. It won’t give the same texture test it does when the meat is raw.
You can still follow some other tips which are more suited to testing meat that has been already cooked, which you can find below:
While the appearance of cooked ground beef is much harder to tell if it has been spoiled than uncooked, there will always be some signs of gone bad.
Look out for mold, fuzzy growths, or dark spots on the meat.
If you see any of these signs, put the meat in the bin. This is a sign of fungi and can make you really sick if consumed.
The feeling of the meat also plays an important role. Ground beef should be firm and can be torn apart between your fingers.
If you notice when doing this that your meat has a slimy texture with a sticky feeling, then your meat may be gone bad.
This slimy texture is caused by a growth of bacteria. The structure of the meat has been changed by this growth of bacteria. These bacteria have caused it to take this slimy texture.
Smell is an important factor in deciding if food is good or bad. The smell test is the easiest way of knowing if your meat is gone bad. This is because its strongest indicator of going bad is its smell.
Just like uncooked ground beef, the smell is an important factor in testing if meat is still edible. If the meat is still good, it should still have the same smell it had when you put it into the fridge.
If it begins to smell different or weird, then you need to make sure it is binned. Any weird smell is a strong indicator that the meat is gone off.
If you haven’t had any weird smell from your cooked meat, give a small amount the taste test to see if it still tastes the same. If there is anything changed about the texture or taste, you should throw it out.
Try not to swallow the spoiled meat. Just simply spit it out and give your mouth a rinse with a little water.
So, Is Ground Beef Actually Safe?
Don’t let me scare you off buying ground beef with all this talk of bacteria.
While it has the capacity to harbor more bacteria, this is why we need to cook it quicker than you would a steak.
This doesn’t mean that it is unsafe, and is why we need to consume it within a certain time frame.
Follow the safety tips below to ensure you’re cooking your ground beef safely.
How to Store Cooked Beef
Cooked beef should cool either on the counter for a short period of time, loosely covered, or in the refrigerator. It will cool more quickly if big pieces are cut into smaller ones, or if it is spread out on a baking sheet.
Once it’s no longer hot, wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. It’s best to refrigerate the meat as quickly as possible, and definitely within two hours of cooking.
If your meat is left at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or warmer for longer than two hours, harmful bacteria can multiply quickly.
Once refrigerated, cooked beef should be eaten within 3 to 4 days, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Tips for Storing Your Ground Beef
The following is a list of tips you should follow to ensure that you can keep your meat good for up to 4 days. You’ll prevent wasting any meats that go bad!
Use a Clean Container
Make sure that the storage container you use for your cooked ground beef is clean and dry before you put your meat in the container.
This is important because if there is already some bacteria within the container, then the meat is much more likely to grow bacteria at a much quicker rate.
If there are already lots of bacteria in the container – remember, all of these bacteria will grow exponentially!
Make sure you keep your refrigerator temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). This is an optimum temperature to prevent bacteria growth within your refrigerator for all foods.
Make sure not to leave the fridge door open for too long either. This will raise the temperature and waste electricity trying to keep the temperature low.
Its important to practice refrigerator hygiene by keeping the different food groups separate. This will avoid cross-contamination where uncooked food bacteria get on foods that don’t need to be cooked.
If you are putting your meat in the freezer, make sure that it is wrapped up properly in some plastic wrap or stored in a proper container. This will prevent your cooked meat from getting freezer burn.
Only Defrost When Reheating
If you plan to reheat your frozen cooked meat, only defrost it in time to cook. Leaving it sitting out or in the refrigerator for too long will cause it to go bad also. If you are defrosting it, the safest way is to leave it in the fridge as opposed to leaving it out.
Choose USDA- Certified Meats
Having the USDA certification on your meat source is a great way to start. This way you know that the production of your meat has reached a high level of standards and is produced in a safe, clean environment.
That being said, there is no way of preventing some harmful bacteria from growing on even the most rigorously prepared ground beef. The most common meat bacteria are E. Coli and salmonella, and they do not change the smell or taste of the meat. These can cause food poisoning.
It is important to be aware of these bacteria. But by cooking your meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius), you will kill off these bacteria.
If you would like more information, watch this easy video below. It describes perfectly the optimum length you should store cooked meat!
Once you’ve cooked your beef thoroughly, There shouldn’t be any danger of micro-organisms within your food while consuming it. It can still be susceptible to cross-contamination which is important to be aware of.
After cooking, when the meat is left to cool before refrigerating leftovers, this is the time it is most susceptible to growing bacteria. You shouldn’t leave it cool for longer than two hours
Once, left to cool, the warm meat becomes the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply. This is why it is important to keep your storage containers clean and clear of any bacteria. Keeping your work surfaces clean and sanitary is important too. Wiping down surfaces often is an excellent way to avoid cross contamination. You can have high quality beef. You can be practicing optimal ways of storing food. But all that gets erased if your workspace is dirty!
In the fridge, keep your raw and cooked meats separated. This will avoid any juices from leaking across and causing any of your meat to be spoiled.
How to Defrost Cooked Beef
The best way to defrost cooked beef is in the refrigerator. Transfer the wrapped package of frozen meat into the refrigerator, and let it thaw slowly.
This method can take a long time depending on the size of the meat, up to 24 hours for steaks or roasts.
A faster method is to put the wrapped meat in a resealable bag if it isn’t already. Press out any excess air, and submerge the bag in a large bowl of cool water. You can change the water every half hour or so, replacing it with fresh cold water, until the meat is thawed. This can take up to two hours and depends on the size of the meat.
Is Ground Beef Good After Seven Days in the Fridge?
It is hard to say one sweeping statement for all cases – each time is different. You need to use the above factors of taste, smell, and appearance to decide whether your cooked ground beef is good enough to eat.
If it tastes fine and doesn’t smell bad, then I would say it would be okay. That being said, a week is approximately double the professional guidelines of 3 to 4 days, give or take a few hours. Bacteria growth, as we all know, is exponential, and given this time frame it probably is quite long.
If you are using ground-cooked meat that is this old, it hasn’t any bad taste or smell – make sure that you heat it up properly. This will kill off a good bit of the bacteria. But it is impossible to say that it will kill off all bacteria.
How long does cooked ground beef last in the fridge – FAQs
It is safe to store raw ground beef in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days, and then cooked leftovers can last 3 to 4 days. Uncooked beef can be stored in the freezer for up to 4 months. An important point while cooking is to make sure the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees fahrenheit (71 degrees Celcius).
Usually, the meat will last in the refrigerator for 1 to 4 days, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. It is best to test the meat by smell, texture, and look – if it looks gray, feels slimy or smells foul, then you should not use the meat.
Ground Beef: The Safe Way!
Raw ground beef can usually last 1 to 2 days in the fridge. Once cooked, it will last 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
If you are unsure of how long the meat has been sitting in the fridge, you can always test it by looking at its color, feeling its texture, or checking its smell. Make sure your meat (no matter if it’s beef, chicken or turkey) is safely stored, to extend shelf life.
If you want to check out more on this topic, I have a great recipe for marinading your ground beef to give it a delicious taste. Check it out!