how long is ground beef good after cooking

If ground beef is refrigerated promptly after cooking (within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F), it can be safely refrigerated for about 3 or 4 days. If frozen, it should keep its quality for about 4 months.

Ground beef may be your kitchen burger staple, but how do you tell your ground beef has gone bad? Changes to color, texture, and smell, along with the expiration date can offer clues.

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. These 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 will likely 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, which can last up to 4 months.

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 common 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).

Proper handling and storing are key to avoiding food poisoning from ground beef. Here are a few safety tips:

Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling ground beef, and don’t forget to your clean kitchen counters and utensils.

How to Defrost Cooked Beef

The best way to defrost cooked beef is in the refrigerator. Transfer the wrapped package of frozen meat into the refrigerator, and let it thaw slowly.

This method can take a long time depending on the size of the meat, up to 24 hours for steaks or roasts.

A faster method is to put the wrapped meat in a resealable bag if it isnt already, press out any excess air, and submerge the bag in a large bowl of cool water. Change the water every half hour or so, replacing it with fresh cold water, until the meat is thawed, which can take up to two hours, depending on size.

How to Store Cooked Beef

Cooked beef should be stored in the refrigerator. It will cool more quickly if big pieces are cut into smaller ones, or if it is spread out on a baking sheet.

Once its no longer hot, wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. Its best to refrigerate the meat as quickly as possible, and definitely within two hours of cooking. If meat is left at a temperature of 40 degrees F or warmer for longer than two hours, harmful bacteria can multiply quickly.

Once refrigerated, cooked beef should be eaten within three to four days, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Cooked beef can be stored in the freezer for a longer window of time. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, making sure there is as little air as possible in contact with the meat. Its a good idea to place the wrapped meat in a zip-top freezer bag to further protect against freezer burn, and be sure to label the contents and the date.

According to the USDA, cooked beef will keep in the freezer for two to three months; after that it may still be safe to eat but the texture and flavor may begin to deteriorate.

Can ground beef smell a little but not expired?

All ground beef has a slight aroma of iron. Ground beef nearing its expiration date may have a slightly more noticeable smell but is still safe to eat. However, if a product has a noticeable, pungent smell, it is most likely spoiled and should be discarded.

If ground beef is refrigerated promptly after cooking (within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F), it can be safely refrigerated for about 3 or 4 days. If frozen, it should keep its quality for about 4 months.

FAQ

Is cooked ground beef good after 5 days?

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.

Can you eat cooked meat after 7 days?

While refrigeration helps slow the growth of bacteria, it’s generally recommended to consume cooked ground beef within 3-4 days to ensure its safety and quality. After 7 days, there is an increased risk of bacterial growth, and the safety of the meat may be compromised.

Is ground beef good after 7 days in the fridge?

Raw ground beef will only last in the fridge for one or two days before it goes bad. Cooked ground beef, as with any leftover cooked ground meat, lasts for three to four days in the fridge.

How long is cooked taco meat good for?

Say you’ve cooked up a pound of ground beef for taco night, how long will that last you in the fridge? Like all leftovers, cooked meats will last in the refrigerator for three to four days, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

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