How Long Can Ground Beef Stay In The Fridge (And Why)?

Exact Answer : Up to 2 days

Ground beef is versatile meat that is commonly used to make burgers, sausages, meatballs, tacos, and lasagna. It is a very popular meat eaten all over the world, even though its shelf life is very less. Both spoilage and pathogenic bacteria might affect ground beef, thereby, spoiling its texture and quality.

Consuming spoiled ground beef is dangerous as it may contain pathogenic bacteria, that may cause foodborne illnesses. It may take several days for symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps to appear. It is important to properly handle and store ground beef, as it is the only way to avoid food poisoning caused by spoiled meat.

How Long Can Ground Beef Stay In The Fridge?

The budget friendly ground beef can only last for one to two days in the fridge. Since, ground beef has more exposed surface area to air, there is more space for spoilage organisms to attach to it, as a result, the meat gets contaminated faster than steak or other larger cuts. However, there are a few extra measures that you may try to extend the shelf life of your favorite ground beef.

Cooked ground beef may last in the refrigerator for up to four days. The only smart way to make your ground beef last for a few more days is to freeze it properly to avoid any kind of contamination. You may leave the ground beef in its original packaging, and wrap it in aluminum foil, freezer paper, plastic wrap, or place it in a freezer-safe plastic bag to prevent freezer burn.

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You may place the packaged ground beef in a large bowl of cool water to unfreeze the meat, whenever you are ready to eat it. Then submerge the meat by using a heavy weight that allows it to thaw for up to 10 minutes. Use previously frozen ground beef immediately and do not refreeze it.

In summary:

MeatTime
Frozen Ground Beef 1 – 2 days
Frozen Cooked Ground Beef 3 – 4 days

Why Can Ground Beef Stay So Long In The Fridge?

The shelf life of ground beef also depends on the meat’s freshness when it was bought in the first place. Only fresh and raw ground beef appears red due to its levels of oxymyoglobin. The interior of raw ground meat may become grayish brown due to a lack of exposure to oxygen, and not because of spoilage. Ground beef that has turned either brown or gray on the outside must be thrown out and not frozen for later use, as it indicates that the meat has begun to rot.

Fresh ground beef also has a relatively firm consistency that breaks apart, if squeezed very hard. If your ground beef has become sticky or slimy in texture, it indicates the presence of harmful bacteria. Therefore, one should avoid consumption of such meat by any means. Spoiled ground beef may also develop a rancid smell that confirms its spoilage.

The most commonly found bacteria that form colonies in ground beef are Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). These type of bacteria can easily proliferate under warm and humid temperatures, and can also rapidly grow in food that has been left at room temperature.

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If you have purchased ground beef from a retail store, make sure to check it’s sell-by and expiration dates before eating it. Avoid eating ground beef past its expiration date, if it has not been frozen. You can refrigerate and safely eat ground beef up to 2 days past this expiration date.

Conclusion

The quality of the ground beef inevitably affect its shelf life. Try to buy high-quality ground beef for the longest meat shelf life. Keep store-bought, unopened ground beef in its original packaging, and store it in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent any spoilage, at least for a few days.

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw ground beef, and clean kitchen counters and utensils to cut the risk of getting food poisoning or any related foodborne diseases. A few simple indications, such as changes in color, odor, and texture, can help one decide whether the ground beef has become unfit for consumption. Cook meat thoroughly and avoid eating undercooked ground beef to reduce the risk of getting foodborne illnesses.

References

  1. https://journals.asm.org/doi/abs/10.1128/aem.31.6.826-830.1976
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174013006384

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