Spoiled food can ruin your dinner at best and bring you and others to the hospital at worst. So how long does ground beef actually last in the fridge? And how can we make it last longer? Here's what you need to know.
How Long Does Cooked Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?
USDA recommends using cooked beef within 3 to 4 days, kept refrigerated (40°F or less). Refrigeration slows but does not stop bacterial growth. USDA recommends using cooked leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
Is ground beef good after 7 days in the fridge?
All perishable items that have been opened or cooked should be thrown away after seven days, according to the FDA Food Code. If you have leftovers in your fridge for longer than that, throw them out. Some foods should even be thrown out before the seven-day period has passed.
How to Freeze Ground Beef?
To maximize the shelf life of cooked ground beef for safety and quality, refrigerate the ground beef in shallow airtight containers or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
Properly stored, cooked ground beef will last for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
To further extend the shelf life of cooked ground beef, freeze it; freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags, or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer wrap.
When you're ready to use it, place the packaged ground beef in a large bowl of cool water. Use a heavy weight to keep the meat submerged. Allow it to thaw for 5 to 10 minutes. Previously frozen ground beef should be used immediately and should not be refrozen.
How long does cooked ground beef last at room temperature?
Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F; cooked ground beef should be discarded if left for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
So why does ground beef spoil so much quicker?
It's all about the surface area of the meat. When livestock is butchered, it passes through several stages of processing before it reaches your grocery store.
In this process, it is exposed to many types of germs and bacteria, but these stay on the surface of the meat. Steaks and other, larger cuts have relatively small surface areas, and these surfaces are all directly exposed to heat during cooking.
This kills the microorganisms and makes the meat palatable, and since the germs aren't able to penetrate the inner portion of the meat, rare steaks are safe to eat.
Ground beef, on the other hand, has a lot more surface area. It also goes through additional processing steps, including the grinding process, which exposes it to even more microorganisms and mixes these into the meat.
That's why ground beef typically has the most bacteria compared to other types of meat. This makes it much more susceptible to spoilage.
How to Know if Ground Beef Is Spoiled?
The only way to make sure is to open it up, stick your nose in there and give it a good sniff. If it smells off or sour in any way then throw it out. You don't want to risk food poisoning.
If it smells fine then try a small amount. Stick it in your mouth and give it a taste. If it tastes off, sour or nasty in any way spit it out immediately and rinse your mouth with water. That’s more to get the taste out than anything else.
Unlike raw ground beef, it's much harder to tell if cooked meat has gone bad by just the appearance. However, you can check for molds, fuzzy growths, or dark spots on the meat to check if it's still good. If you find any indication of fungi on the surface, then throw the meat away.