How long do cooked meatballs last in the fridge? (5+ factor affecting shelf life)
In this article we are going to answer the question “How long do cooked meatballs last in the fridge?” and discuss what factors affect the shelf life of cooked meatballs in the fridge and what are the risks of eating cooked meatballs after the expiration date.
How long do cooked meatballs last in the fridge?
Cooked meatballs last for about 3-4 days when kept under appropriate conditions in the fridge at or below 40°F (°C). It should be kept in an air-tight container or plastic zipper bag.
As meatballs are made from ground meat, the meat itself is a highly perishable commodity, and when it is ground its surface area increases, thereby giving more room for bacteria to grow. Therefore special care should be taken while handling, cooking, and storing meatballs (2).
Moreover, the shelf life of the cooked meatballs also depends on the ingredients of the meatballs, the quality of the cooking practices and other factors (1,2).
What determines the shelf life of cooked meatballs in the fridge?
The main factors that affect the shelf life of cooked meatballs in the fridge are (1,2,3,4):
- The initial microbial contamination of the meat: meat can be contaminated by several pathogenic microorganisms during slaughtering, handling, transportation and storage.
- The microbial load of the meat before the preparation of the meatballs can influence the shelf life. In addition, an additional microbial load is added to the meat upon the grounding process, due to the high exposure of the meat to surfaces and air.
- The ingredients used to make the meatballs: studies showed that the addition of essential oil from anise seed could extend the shelf life of chicken burgers from 4 days to 9 days.
- Another study showed that the addition of phytochemicals from bay leaf and sage to cooked meatballs could reduce the loss of quality of the meat and preserve the flavor during frozen storage.
- Essential oils contain compounds with antibacterial and antioxidant properties that help prevent the microbial growth and oxidation of lipids. These are the most important factors that limit the shelf life of meat.
- Finally, the packaging can have a great influence on the shelf life of meat products. Vacuum packaging and modified atmosphere packaging systems are able to reduce the rate of oxidation and favor a longer shelf life.
How long do cooked meatballs last in the freezer?
Cooked meatballs last for about 3-4 months in the freezer (5). You can easily store the cooked meatballs in the freezer in air-tight containers or plastic zipper-bags.
Freezing halts the bacterial growth owing to the extremely low temperature, thus preserving the quality of the food for a long time. However, the quality of the cooked meatballs is reduced with extended storage.
Freezing cannot halt the chemical and enzymatic reactions and during frozen storage, reactions causing oxidation of lipids as well as degradation of proteins occur, both leading to the formation of undesirable compounds (4).
How to tell if meatballs have gone bad?
To tell if meatballs have gone bad, you should be aware of the signs of spoilage. The most evident signs are the alterations of the odor and flavor of the cooked meatballs.
Off-odors and off-flavors, such as rancid, sour, or ammonia-like or putrid are indications that the cooked meatballs have gone bad. Other possible signs are formation of slime or gas and change in the texture, such as extreme softening (6).
Discolorations are also possible signs of spoilage in cooked meatballs.
What are the risks of eating cooked meatballs after expiration?
The risk of eating meatballs after the expiration date is of having a foodborne illness due to the ingestion of contaminated cooked meatballs by pathogenic microorganisms.
The ingestion of contaminated food can cause infections which possible symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain (5).
Ground meat in the meatballs can carry pathogenic bacteria, including Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter, E.coli, and Listeria on it, which can cause serious health implications if consumed (1).
In this article, we answered the question “How long do cooked meatballs last in the fridge?” and discussed the factors that affect the shelf life of cooked meatballs in the fridge and what are the risks of eating cooked meatballs after the expiration date.
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Mahdavi V, Hosseini SE, Sharifan A. Effect of edible chitosan film enriched with anise (Pimpinella anisum L.) essential oil on shelf life and quality of the chicken burger. Food science & nutrition. 2018 Mar;6(2):269-79.
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