We’ve all had it – that raw ground beef we bought, placed in the refrigerator, and didn’t cook by the use-by date. Or how about that cooked ground beef from taco night that’s been chilling for days in a container? So are they still good? How long does ground beef last in the fridge before it’s no longer safe to eat it? Let’s cover what you need to know. Plus, we’ll provide some tips on extending that ground beef’s shelf life, too.
Table of Contents
- Important note
- How long does raw ground beef last in the fridge?
- How long does cooked ground beef last in the fridge?
- How to store ground beef in the refrigerator to optimize shelf life
- Does cooked ground beef in a sauce make a difference to shelf life in the fridge?
- Will raw ground beef last past its expiration date in the fridge?
- How can you tell when ground beef has gone bad?
- Must-read related posts
The below times are estimates. It’s best to use your senses when checking whether your fresh ground beef has gone bad. Read our section below on tell-tale signs that your ground beef has turned, and use that along with these timeframes to gauge whether your beef is still cookable (or eatable.)
How long does raw ground beef last in the fridge?
The answer to this question largely depends on how the ground beef was packaged. If it’s in a clear plastic wrapper (like its original wrapping from a supermarket), it will last about three days in the fridge. If it’s still in that original packaging and placed in an airtight container or frozen, it could last up to four weeks.
If it is removed from its packaging and left in the fridge, your raw ground beef would last about one day. But here, you’ll want to take extra care to check your ground meat for any signs of turning. See our section below on signs that your ground beef could be bad.
How long does cooked ground beef last in the fridge?
Cooked ground beef will last in the fridge a little longer than raw ground beef — three to four days or in the freezer for two to six months, as long as it’s stored properly. Follow our recommendations below.
Airtight containers are the way to go to store both your fresh ground beef, as well as any cooked meats. It'll help extend your shelf life as long as possible.
How to store ground beef in the refrigerator to optimize shelf life
Raw ground beef
To extend the shelf life of your raw ground beef, it’s best to store it in an airtight container. You can also wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, but that is suboptimal compared to an airtight container, or (at minimum) a sealable heavy-duty freezer bag.
If you plan on freezing your ground beef after it’s been in the fridge, make sure to do so within two days of purchasing it.
Cooked ground beef
When it comes to cooked ground beef, always let it cool completely before storing it in the fridge.
Cooked ground beef must cool completely before storing in the fridge because bacteria can grow quickly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. When ground beef is cooked, the proteins inside the meat are broken down, and this creates an environment where bacteria can grow quickly.
By cooling the cooked beef to room temperature before placing it in the fridge, you give the bacteria less chance to grow. Though, do make sure to refrigerate it within two hours of cooking.
You can store your cooked ground beef in a covered container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
Does cooked ground beef in a sauce make a difference to shelf life in the fridge?
Cooked ground beef will last in the fridge a little longer if it’s in a sauce. This is because the bacteria are less likely to grow on the surface of the meat when it’s in a sauce. However, it’s still important to refrigerate it within two hours of cooking.
Will raw ground beef last past its expiration date in the fridge?
Yes, it is possible for raw ground beef to last past its expiration date when refrigerated. However, it is important to remember that the quality and safety of the meat may be compromised over time. For best results, it is recommended to cook ground beef as soon as possible after purchasing it.
How can you tell when ground beef has gone bad?
There are some obvious signs, which are similar to steak when it has turned. Simply, use your senses.
- The ground beef has an unpleasant odor (like a sour smell.)
- The ground beef is discolored.
- There is mold on the surface of the ground beef.
- The ground beef has a sticky or slimy texture.
If any of these are true (whether raw ground beef or cooked), it’s best to throw away the ground meat immediately, even if it has been stored in the fridge and is still within its sell-by date. Otherwise, you run the risk of food poisoning if you decide to eat it still.
Must-read related posts
- What Are USDA Beef Grades? Learn what these grades mean and why it matters to your cooking.
- Beef Cuts 101: Where do your favorite steaks come from on a cow?
- Ground Chuck Vs. Ground Beef: How do they compare?