Ground beef is commonly used to make burgers, meatballs, and sausage, as well as tacos, lasagna, and savory pies. It accounts for about 62% of all beef sold in the United States
However, since grinding the meat exposes more of its surface to air, spoilage organisms have more space to attach to it. Thus, it goes bad faster than steak or other larger cuts
Spoilage and pathogenic bacteria may both affect ground beef.
Spoilage bacteria are generally not harmful but cause food to lose quality and develop a bad odor and taste.
On the other hand, pathogenic bacteria are dangerous, as they can lead to food poisoning. Furthermore, spoilage makes it more likely for them to be present in your food.
Therefore, even though spoilage bacteria won’t make you sick, you should always discard spoiled ground beef to avoid consuming disease-causing microorganisms.
Here are 4 ways to tell whether your ground beef has gone bad.
1. Check the color
Ground beef may change color due to multiple factors, including temperature, light, microbial growth, and exposure to oxygen
Fresh, raw ground beef should be red due to its levels of oxymyoglobin — a pigment formed when a protein called myoglobin reacts with oxygen.
The interior of raw ground meat may be greyish brown due to a lack of exposure to oxygen. This doesn’t indicate spoilage.
Nevertheless, you should throw away ground beef if it has turned either brown or gray on the outside, as this indicates that it’s beginning to rot.
Additionally, mold can spoil cooked ground beef, so you should toss your leftovers if you notice any fuzzy blue, grey, or green spots.
Raw ground beef should be bright red on the outside and brownish on the inside. If its surface has turned thoroughly brown or gray or grown mold, it has gone bad and should be discarded.
2. Inspect the texture
Another way to check your ground beef is by conducting a touch test.
Fresh ground beef should have a relatively firm consistency that breaks apart when you squeeze it.
However, a sticky or slimy texture — either when cooked or raw — may indicate the presence of spoilage bacteria. You should toss it immediately.
To avoid spreading bacteria from one surface to another, wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat.
If your ground beef has a sticky or slimy texture when raw or cooked, it has most likely gone bad.
3. Perform a smell test
This test is probably the easiest and fastest way to determine whether meat has spoiled. It applies to both raw and cooked ground beef.
Though the scent of fresh ground beef is barely perceptible, rancid meat has a tangy, putrid odor. Once it goes bad, it’s no longer safe to eat.
The scent changes due to the increased growth of spoilage bacteria, such as Lactobacillus spp. and Pseudomonas spp., which may also affect the flavor
If you don’t notice a funny scent but still see signs of spoilage in color or texture, it’s still safest to throw it away, as pathogenic bacteria cannot be smelled.
Spoiled ground beef develops a telltale rancid smell that indicates it’s dangerous to eat.
4. Check the expiration date
Sell-by and expiration dates are additional guidelines for determining whether your ground beef is good.
A sell-by date tells the retailer how long a product can be displayed for sale. Ground beef can be refrigerated and safely eaten up to 2 days past this date.
Meanwhile, the expiration date — also labeled as “best before” — tells you when the product is likely to start going bad. Food will have the best taste and quality before this date.
You shouldn’t eat ground beef past its expiration date unless it’s been frozen, in which case it can last up to 4 months.
Be sure to carefully read the product label when buying ground beef.
Sell-by and expiration dates tell you the best time to eat ground beef. Freezing can further extend its shelf life.
Side effects of eating bad beef
Spoiled ground beef is dangerous to eat because it may contain pathogenic bacteria, which are responsible for foodborne illnesses. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea — which may be bloody
Disease-causing microorganisms grow rapidly in food that’s been left at room temperature and are more likely to occur in spoiled food.
The most commonly found harmful bacteria in ground beef are Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). Outbreaks of infections related to these bacteria occur fairly frequently in the United States It may take several days for symptoms to appear.
To destroy these bacteria and reduce your risk of food poisoning, cook ground beef thoroughly and use a meat thermometer to verify that its internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C).
It’s safest to never eat raw or spoiled ground beef.
How to safely handle ground beef
Proper handling and storing are key to avoiding food poisoning from ground beef. Here are a few safety tips.
To minimize the time that ground beef is left unrefrigerated, buy it last and head home directly from the store.
Choose a package that’s cold to the touch and in good condition, without holes or scratches.
Check the color and expiration date of the meat.
Keep raw meat separately in your cart to avoid cross-contamination or the spread of bacteria to other food items.
Refrigerate or freeze it as soon as you get home or within 2 hours of purchase. Make sure the fridge temperature is below 40°F (4°C).
Keep it in a bag on the lowest shelf to prevent its juices from leaking.
Thaw frozen beef in the fridge to keep it cold while defrosting. Never leave at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Refrigerate your leftovers within 2 hours of cooking and eat them within 3–4 days.
Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling ground beef, and don’t forget to clean kitchen counters and utensils.
Handling and storing ground beef properly reduces your risk of foodborne illnesses.
Ground beef has a shelf life of only 4 days, but some say it can last even longer.
Is it true?
Ground beef is one of the most commonly consumed meats in America.
It’s also one of the most perishable foods.
The USDA recommends keeping ground beef refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
It’s true that ground beef does have a shorter shelf life than other types of meat.
But it can last much longer than four days.
According to the USDA, ground beef should be stored in the refrigerator for no longer than three days.
After that, it starts going bad
How long can ground meat stay in the fridge?
Ground beef can last about 5 days if stored properly. It’s important to store it in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed plastic bag. This helps prevent bacteria from growing. Ground beef can be frozen for longer storage. Once thawed, it can be used within 3 months.
What is the optimum temperature to store ground meat?
To avoid spoilage, ground meats should always be refrigerated. Refrigeration slows down bacterial growth and prevents the development of off flavors. However, ground meats should not be stored at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit 4 degrees Celsius. At these higher temperatures, the fats in the meat begin to break down and form free fatty acids. These free fatty acids can produce rancid odors and flavors. How long does ground meat last in the freezer? Answer: Ground meat can be frozen for up to 6 months. To freeze ground meat, place it into a ziploc bag and squeeze out any air. Then, label the package with the date and write "Freeze" on the top. Place the packages into a freezer safe container. Make sure to remove the packages from the freezer at least 2 hours before using.
How long does ground meat keep at room temperature?
Ground meat can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. Store it in a cool dry area away from direct sunlight.
How long does ground meat keep in the freezer?
Ground beef can be frozen for up to 6 months. It is recommended to freeze it in portions of about 1 pound each.
How long does ground meat last after being frozen and thawed?
Ground meat can be stored in the freezer for up to six months. After that, it should be used within three months.
How to vacuum seal the ground meat?
To vacuum seal the ground meat, place it into a ziploc bag and lay flat in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer and let sit until completely thawed. Place the bag back into the freezer for another 15-20 minutes. Once again remove from the freezer and allow to sit until thawed. This process needs to be done twice. Once the meat is thawed, fold the top of the bag down and place it into the freezer for about 20 minutes. Remove from the bag and repeat the process. Once the meat is fully thawed, fold the bottom of the bag up and place it into the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Remove from the fridge and repeat the process.
Tips to store ground meat properly
To store ground beef properly, you need to freeze it immediately after purchasing it. It is important to follow these steps to ensure the safety of your family. 1. Always buy ground beef that is labeled “ground beef”. Do not buy ground beef that says “ground chuck” or “ground round”. These terms refer to different cuts of beef. 2. Never refrigerate ground beef. Refrigeration kills off the bacteria that causes E. coli.