how long can you leave ground beef in the freezer

Cold Food Storage Chart

Freezer [0°F (-18°C) or below]
Hamburger, ground meats and ground poultry
Hamburger, ground beef, turkey, chicken, other poultry, veal, pork, lamb, and mixtures of them
3 to 4 months
Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and pork
4 to 12 months
4 to 12 months
4 to 12 months

If you bought a little too much ground beef at the store, this is the best way to freeze and defrost it.

Ground beef is so versatile and easy to whip up into a variety of fast and flavorful weeknight meals that it makes sense to stock up when its on sale. But, it never seems to fail — you head to the freezer to store your score and find a forgotten pack or two of ground beef hanging out in the back in a Ziploc bag with no date on it, leaving you to wonder How long has this been in here? And more importantly: How long can you freeze ground beef before it goes bad?

Not knowing how long meat can stay safely frozen has led many of us down the better-safe-than-sorry path, which heads straight from the freezer to the trash can. Whether the rising prices of groceries — especially meats — or concern for how food waste impacts the environment has inspired you to finally find out, weve got you covered.

With help from agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture this guide to ground beef will teach you how to keep fresh meat on the table and your money in your pocket. Youll even learn how to properly store and defrost ground beef. Adhere to these rules and youll never have to worry about spoiled meat again.

How To Freeze Ground Beef To Maintain Flavor

As you may know, foods that have been frozen are safe to eat indefinitely, if they have been stored properly at the right temperature. As you may also know, just because something is safe to eat doesnt mean it will taste good. For the best flavor and texture, the United States Department of Agriculture says frozen ground beef should be cooked and eaten within four months.

What exactly does ground beef taste like, if frozen too long? When left in the freezer too long, the cellular structure of the meat starts to deteriorate. due to ice crystals that begin to form. This is where the flavor starts to become lost, leading to a less enjoyable taste, overall. You will not fully know how affected your frozen meat is until you thaw it out, but knowing that the flavor threshold stands at four months will give you even more cause to date your frozen ground beef.

how long can you leave ground beef in the freezer

In the Microwave

  • Put frozen ground beef, still in its zip-top bag, on a plate in the microwave.
  • Using the defrost setting, start defrosting for three to four minutes.
  • Flip the meat halfway through your set defrost time.
  • Microwave wattages vary, so keeping your eye on the meat is a best practice.
  • Some ground beef may have started cooking during defrosting, which is safe, but you should cook the meat immediately.
  • Its also safe to place ground beef that is still a little frozen in the middle into your skillet to begin cooking.

How To Package Frozen Beef

If you picked up a few pounds of “buy one get one” ground meat at the grocery store and want it to last for four months, you need to know how to store it so that the meat is exposed to as little air as possible. This will prevent freezer burn and discoloration. While you can freeze meat in its supermarket packaging (typically a shrink-wrapped plastic container), its not ideal. The plastic wrap is permeable enough for air to get in. Instead, wrap the container with a layer or two of heavy-duty aluminum foil and write the date on the foil so youll know how long its been in the freezer.

If your beef was sold wrapped in butcher paper or in a plastic bag, you also need to create a barrier to protect it from the air. Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap or put it in a ziplock freezer bag and push out as much air as possible. Then, cover it with a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil and date the package.

You can cook ground beef while frozen as long as it cooks at the proper temperature. Frozen ground beef should cook at temperatures above 140°F to prevent bacteria from developing.

Hamburger, ground meats and ground poultry


Is ground beef safe after 2 years in the freezer?

Ground beef can be frozen indefinitely, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, it is recommended to use ground beef within four months of freezing, as the quality of the meat will begin to deteriorate over time. Ground beef that has been frozen for too long may not be as flavorful.

How do you know if ground beef has gone bad in the freezer?

To determine if your ground beef if spoiled, use your senses. Touch the ground beef. If it’s slimy, that’s not normal. Smell and visually examine at your ground beef, and if it’s brown or an off odor, those could be signs that your ground beef is spoiled.

Is meat still good after 2 years in freezer?

Poisonous microbes like bacteria are put into sleep mode by freezing. In simpler terms, it’s almost impossible for most frozen foods to ever become spoiled in a working freezer. So, from a food safety perspective, your two-year-old meat is good to go.

Is ground beef OK if it turns brown in the freezer?

Information. Color changes can occur in frozen foods but the foods remain safe to eat. The bright red color of meat as purchased usually turns dark or pale brown depending on its variety. This may be due to lack of oxygen, freezer burn or abnormally long storage.

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