How long can you refrigerate cooked ground beef?

In this brief guide, we will be answering ‘how long can you refrigerate cooked ground beef?’ Also, we will discuss a few ways through which you can prolong its shelf life and will see some ways to know if it is spoiled or not.

How long can you refrigerate cooked ground beef?

Cooked ground beef can be stored in the fridge for no more than 2 to 33 to 4 days as per the guidelines issued by the Department of Food Science and Technology (1), Virginia State University.

Can you use refrigerated cooked ground beef after 7 days?

The determination of shelf life has criteria based on the measured numbers of spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms and their growth pattern, as well as on sensory changes (2). Even cooked beef is not safe from bacteria. If ground beef is refrigerated promptly after cooking (within 2 hours), After cooking and refrigeration you may be able to get 3 to 4 days out of your cooked batch but consuming the leftovers after 3 to 4  days can lead to an increased risk of some gut-related problems like diarrhea, vomiting or nausea. For this reason, USDA and FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) recommend discarding your leftovers even before it completes 7 days in the refrigerator (3). 

How long will cooked ground beef last at room temperature?

Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, therefore, cooked ground beef should be discarded if left for more than 12 hours at room temperature. After being cooked, ground beef should be promptly refrigerated and be kept no longer than 1 h above 90° F (3).

How long does raw ground beef last in the fridge?

Raw ground beef is not supposed to be kept in the fridge and if for some reason you have to, it will only last for 1 to 2 days in the fridge, based on guidelines provided by both USDA and FSIS (3). Although, you can measure a few measures to maximize the shelf life of ground beef without compromising on its quality. Ground meat products are more susceptible to spoilage due to the manufacturing process and increased surface area of the product. Bacteria in ground meats are distributed throughout, providing rapid growth in the presence of air. Therfore, it should be stored on the lower shelf of the refrigerator and used within 24 hours of purchase. Refrigerator storage slows bacterial growth; however, the product will eventually spoil (1).

Firstly, the quality of ground beef at the time of purchase will greatly affect its shelf life (the time period during which the food can be stored before the quality deteriorates). So make sure you are purchasing high-quality ground beef to get the longest shelf life. Food handlers have access to food products when they are unwrapped, the equipment used in making them and places where these unwrapped products are stored or displayed, and therefore can be potential sources of contamination. Poor handling practice at this level is a high-risk factor for foodborne outbreaks (4).

Second, you need to pay attention to how you store it. Keep unopened, store-bought ground beef in its original packaging and store it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator towards the back.

How long does frozen ground beef last?

The surest way to get the maximum shelf life out of your purchase is to freeze it. Freezing inhibits the growth of bacteria (1). Ground beef when kept in the freezer at 0 degrees F or below, can be kept for more than 3 to 4 months (1). However, FSIS (a sub-department of USDA that regulates meat, poultry and eggs) suggests using your frozen meat and meat products within 2 months (3).

To freeze ground beef, for maximum storage time, leave it in its original packaging and wrap it in wrap meats in moisture-proof, gas impermeable packaging, such as heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap, freezer paper or a freezer-safe plastic bag. This ensures that your meat is safe from freeze burn – the gray discolored shriveled patch due to excess moisture loss caused by prolonged freezing.

If you have already opened the packaging just transfer the content to a freezer-safe bag and label it with the date.

Defrosting can be done in a tray at the bottom of the fridge. It is recommended to defrost 5 lbs of meat for 24 h. However, when defrosting is done in a microwave, it should be consumed right away (4)

When you are ready to use it, simply take the package out of your freezer and place it in a large bowl with water. You may use a heavyweight to keep the bag fully submerged. Allow it to thaw and use as needed.

Storage tips to get the best shelf life of cooked ground beef

All meat types need to be properly cooked before consumption to avoid the intake of bacteria. Meats should be cooked for 180°C for 35 minutes (4). To maximize the shelf life of cooked ground beef for safety and quality, refrigerate the ground beef in shallow airtight containers or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

To further extend the shelf life of cooked ground beef, freeze it; freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags, or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer wrap. 

If properly stored, it will maintain the best quality for about 2 to 3 months but will remain safe beyond that time. The freezer time to get the best quality for cooked ground beef is the one that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.

Cooked frozen ground beef that has been thawed in the fridge can be kept for an additional 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator before cooking; ground beef that was thawed in the microwave or in cold water should be eaten immediately.

It is mostly important to separate raw meat from other cooked food to prevent cross-contamination of food (4). 

How to tell if the cooked ground beef has gone bad?

The best way is to smell and look at the ground beef. Signs of bad ground beef are a sour smell and a slimy texture; discard any ground beef with an off smell or appearance, do not taste first. When microbial spoilage occurs, it  causes changes in texture and the development of slime, off-odor, or any other characteristic making the meat undesirable for consumption (5).

If you want to learn more about FSIS guidelines for meat, please refer here.

Other FAQs about Beef that you may be interested in.

Can you boil beef brisket

How to store homemade beef jerky?

Can you cook a joint of beef in an air fryer?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered ‘how long can you refrigerate cooked ground beef?’ Also, we have discussed a few ways through which you can prolong its shelf life and seen some ways to know if it is spoiled or not.

Hopefully, you found this guide helpful and informative. In case of any queries or comments please do let us know.

Citations

  1. Boyer, Renee R., and Julie Michelle McKinney. Food storage guidelines for consumers. (2018).
  2. Kilcast, David, and Persis Subramaniam, eds. The stability and shelf-life of food. (2000).
  3.  Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ground Beef and Food Safety. Feb 29, 2016. 
  4. Ehuwa, Olugbenga, Amit K. Jaiswal, and Swarna Jaiswal. Salmonella, food safety and food handling practices. Foods, 2021, 10, 907.
  5. Casaburi, Annalisa, et al. Bacterial populations and the volatilome associated to meat spoilage. Food microbiol., 2015, 45, 83-102.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.