How long can ground beef be left out? (+5 Ways)

In this article, we will answer the question “How long can ground beef be left out?”, and how to store ground beef to prevent spoilage?

How long can ground beef be left out?

Ground beef should not be left out for more than two hours or one hour if the temperature was 32°C or above. These guidelines are recommended by the FDA and apply to both uncooked and cooked ground meat. The quality of ground beef deteriorates quickly than whole meat parts because of a larger exposed surface area for microbial attack.

Read on if you want to know how to store ground beef for later use keeping it fresh and safe.

How to store ground beef?

Refrigerate your ground beef in its original packaging if it is to be consumed within 3 days of its purchase. Keep at a steady temperature of 4.4°C or below.

Cured ground meat will last more in the fridge than raw meat. It is not recommended to store partially cooked ground meat. This allows the bacteria to multiply to unsafe levels that cannot be destroyed by subsequent cooking.

If meat is to be stored for longer time periods, then freezing is a good choice.

For freezing, take out the meat from the original packaging and transfer in a freezer bag or a heavy-duty plastic bag to prevent freeze injury. The meat will remain safe indefinitely at a steady freezing temperature but gradually loses quality over time.

How to thaw ground beef?

Do not thaw your meat at room temperature. Instead, plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Refrain from refreezing thawed ground beef as it will considerably damage the quality.

Freeze-thaw cycle will result in the formation of larger ice crystals each time. These crystals, each time when they melt, disrupt the texture and deprive the meat of essential nutrients.

Although it is not recommended, if you are in a hurry and will be cooking your meat immediately after thawing, you can thaw your meat under cold running water.

The second option is to microwave it. This is going to damage the quality and partially cook your meat and is not recommended.

You can also thaw ground beef by keeping the bag in a bowl full of water and changing the water every 30 minutes or so.

How to handle raw ground beef?

  • Wash your hands properly after touching raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.
  • When shopping, cover your ground beef with an additional wrap to prevent any drippings.
  • Keep the raw ground beef separate from other food items. 
  • Buy the perishables at the end of your grocery shopping and make sure the package is not damaged and is frozen. 
  • Check the meat has a printed manufacturing and expiry date.

How to tell if the ground beef has spoiled?


If the ground beef has developed grey, green or brown patches on the surface, throw it out because it is a clear sign of spoilage. Fresh meat has a bright red color due to the oxymyoglobin. Raw ground beef that looks grey or brown from the inside is safe to eat.


Fresh meat looks juicy and firm. If the meat develops a slimy texture and feels tacky upon touching, discard it immediately.


If the meat is rotting, it will give off a rancid and putrid odor due to the growth of spoilage bacteria like Lactobacillus and Pseudomonas.

Expiration date

Keep a track of the expiration dates and do not consume if the ground beef is past its expiry. In case the meat was frozen, it will be safe to eat past its expiry.

The-shelf life of ground beef

The meat will remain best quality for the time periods suggested below. It may remain safe beyond this time but not of the prime quality.

In the fridgeIn the freezer
Raw ground beefUp tp 3 daysUp to 4 months
Cooked ground beefUp to 4 daysUp to 3 months

Why does ground beef spoil?

Meat is at high risk of contamination by bacteria like Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, Staphylococcus and Campylobacter etc. these bacteria multiply in the meat to unacceptable levels and cause food-borne illnesses.

Grinding makes the meat more susceptible to attack by these bacteria because of larger surface area and even distribution throughout the meat.

The meat should be cooked to an internal safe temperature of 71.1°C to destroy the harmful pathogenic microbes.

Other FAQs about Beef which you may be interested in.

Can you make beef jalfrezi?

Can you make beef gumbo?

Can you make beef enchiladas?


In this article, we answered the question “How long can ground beef be left out?”, and how to store ground beef to prevent spoilage?