In this article, I will answer the question: “How long is frozen ground beef good for after thawed” and I will explain the phenomenon behind ground beef spoilage. I will also give you the tips to store and thaw frozen beef properly.
How long is frozen ground beef good for after thawed?
Frozen ground beef that has been defrosted in the refrigerator can be safely kept in the refrigerator for an additional one to two days before cooking.
However, if you have used other thawing methods (microwaving or cold water), you cannot refrigerate the ground beef. The USDA recommends that you cook meat that has been thawed using either of these techniques right away since it could easily warm up to the 40°F temperature at which hazardous bacteria reproduce quickly (1).
What causes ground meat to spoil?
Any bacteria on the surface of the meat is distributed throughout the meat when it is ground. Bacteria reproduce quickly in the “Danger Zone,” which is defined as temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 and 60 degrees Celsius).
Ground beef provides a favorable environment for the growth of bacteria. Bacteria normally found on the meat surface are distributed throughout the entire product during the grinding and mixing processes used in fabrication of ground beef. The bacterial population in ground beef depends upon the bacteriological quality of the trimmings and cuts of beef that are ground, sanitation during fabrication, type of packaging, and time and temperature of storage (2).
Some of the microorganisms originate from the animal’s intestinal tract as well as from the environment with which the animal had contact at some time before or during slaughter (4). Ground beef may be affected by either spoilage bacteria or pathogenic germs:
- Spoilage bacteria are not hazardous in most cases, but they can cause food to deteriorate or lose quality by giving it an unpleasant odor or making it sticky on the outside (1).
- Pathogenic bacteria, on the other hand, are dangerous because they can cause food poisoning. Salmonella or E. Coli are common causes of contamination, which can result in food poisoning (1).
- Studies have reported the contamination of ground beef by antibacterial-resistant bacteria, which includes some strains of following bacteria: Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Enterococcus spp, and Staphylococcus aureus (3).
How to tell if ground beef has gone bad?
Here are four warning signs that your ground beef has gone bad:
- Aspect and texture: Ground beef that is suitable for consumption should have a solid consistency that breaks apart when squeezed. If it becomes slimy, it’s time to discard it. Bacterial cells can build up on the surface, resulting in the slime. The population of pseudomonads to the arbitrary level of 107-8 CFU/g, has been attributed to slime and off-odors formation. In practice these characteristics become evident when the pseudomonads have exhausted the glucose and lactate present in meat and begin to metabolise nitrogenous compounds such as amino acids (4).
- Smell: Fresh meat will have a barely perceptible odor, whereas rotten or sour beef will have a strong odor. The odor is generated by gases released by bacteria on your beef. It is no longer safe to eat if it becomes rancid and sour. Glucose has been found to be the precursor of many off-odors during meat storage. Common descriptions of spoiled ground beef odor are sulfide, cabbage and putrefaction odor (4).
- Color: Fresh ground beef should always be bright red because it contains high quantities of oxymyoglobin, a pigment generated when myoglobin interacts with oxygen. Deterioration causes strong discoloration of the meat (4).
Temperature, light, microbial development, and oxygen exposure are all factors that might cause ground beef to change color. When you notice brown or grey patches on the meat, this is a sign that it’s starting to decay. You should throw it away.
- The best before date: Additional criteria for assessing whether your ground beef is good include expiration date. Commonly known as the “best before” date, it indicates when the product will begin to spoil. Before this date, the food will be at its finest in terms of taste and quality. Ground beef should not be eaten past its expiration date unless it has been frozen, in which case it can be kept for up to four months.
Consequences of Bad Beef Consumption
Ground beef that has been undercooked, contaminated with raw meat fluids, or left out at room temperature for several hours could be infected with bacteria. Even your stomach’s strong acid can’t stop these germs from multiplying at an exponential rate inside your body.
It’s risky to eat spoiled ground beef because it could contain pathogenic bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Fever, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea are some of the symptoms. Surveys estimate that in the United States alone, bacterial enteric pathogens cause 9.4 million episodes of foodborne illness in humans, 55,961 hospitalizations, and 1,351 deaths each year. 7% of the outbreaks are caused by the consumption of beef products (5).
Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) are the most prevalent bacteria identified in ground beef. Infections caused by these bacteria have been reported in the United States on a frequent basis (1). Shiga toxin causes hemorrhagic diarrhea, acute abdominal cramping and vomiting, and hemolytic uremic syndrome, as a sequela. Salmonella causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, septicemia or bacteremia, and reactive arthritis as a post-infection sequela (5).
To kill these bacteria and limit your risk of food poisoning, fully cook ground beef and check its internal temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches 160°F (71°C).
Useful hints to handle ground beef safely
Avoiding food contamination from ground beef requires careful handling and storage. Here are a few helpful hints (1):
- Always make sure your ground beef is bright red. Check the sell-by date on the packaging when purchasing meat and avoid buying a product with brown or gray patches.
- Ground beef that has been refrigerated should be used within 1 to 2 days of purchase. If ground beef is removed from its original package and wrapped in freezer paper or stored in freezer bags, it can be frozen for up to three months.
- Using a vacuum food sealer to remove oxygen before freezing meat is one of the best ways to minimize freezer burn.
- Place frozen ground beef in the refrigerator the night before to thaw. The frozen ground beef can also be defrosted in the microwave. Allowing frozen meat to thaw at room temperature is never a good idea.
- Ground beef should never be eaten raw. Make sure it’s cooked when the inside is no longer pink and the temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- Cook the meat until it is brown to drain the extra fat. Push the meat to one side of the pan with a spatula, allowing the extra fat to pool on the other side. Use a soup spoon to scrape out the fat and throw it away.
- Refreezing previously frozen and thawed meat is not recommended.
Remember to properly wash your hands after handling ground beef, and keep your kitchen counters and utensils clean as well.
Other FAQs about Beef that you may be interested in.
In this essay, I answered the question: “How long is frozen ground beef good for after thawing?” and I provided details about soilage of ground beef and its hazards on health. I also provided useful tips to properly store and handle ground beef.
Feel free to contact me if you have any additional requests on this subject.
- Ground Beef and Food Safety. United States Department of Agriculture.
- Emswiler, B. S., C. J. Pierson, and A. W. Kotula. Bacteriological quality and shelf life of ground beef. App environ microb, 1976, 31, 826-830.
- Zhang, Yangjunna, et al. A comparative quantitative assessment of human exposure to various antimicrobial-resistant bacteria among US ground beef consumers. J food protec, 2021, 84, 736-759.
- Nychas, George-John E., et al. Meat spoilage during distribution. Meat sci, 2008, 78, 77-89.
- Heredia, Norma, and Santos García. Animals as sources of food-borne pathogens: A review. Anim nutr, 2018, 4, 250-255.