Ground beef is a staple in many kitchens. It goes well in many dishes, cooks quickly, and is less expensive than whole cuts of beef. But it’s very important not to consume beef past its expiry date. In this article, I’ll describe how long cooked ground beef lasts in the fridge so that you are kept safe.
How long does cooked ground beef last in the fridge? According to the USDA, cooked ground beef lasts for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Store the beef properly in an airtight container and on a shelf in the refrigerator with a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or lower.
If you need to store cooked ground beef longer than four days, store it in the freezer. Cooked ground beef in the freezer will last for 3 to 4 months.
Read on to learn more about how long cooked ground beef lasts in the fridge, as well as important beef handling and storage tips.
How Long Does Cooked Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?
Most meats have a similar amount of time that they last in the fridge. Cuts of beef or steak could last up to 5 days in the fridge. Ground beef lasts a bit less, 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
This recommended amount of time is set by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). You could use common sense through sight or smell to determine if the beef looks or smells off; but to be safe, it is better to stick to the USDA guidelines.
You need to store cooked ground beef properly by using airtight and leak-proof containers. This way, there will be no contamination.
Also, store it on a refrigerator shelf and not on the refrigerator door. Each time the fridge door is open, the temperature near the door rises, which would shorten the expiry date.
Keep cooked ground beef in the fridge with a constant temperature of 40°F. Although you can eliminate bacteria with proper cooking at 160°F, you can still get it from contamination or cross-contamination. That is why it is important to store cooked ground beef in airtight containers in your fridge.
Let me stress that the freshness of ground beef starts with your purchase from the store. Ground beef should be cold to the touch upon purchase. It should also be bright red, not brown, and definitely not gray. The packaging should be very well intact, with no rips or tears. Also, only purchase grade A ground beef.
Cooking, Handling, and Storage
Cook your ground beef on a hot pan or griddle so that it sears and keeps all its flavors and juices. After cooking your ground beef, refrigerate it within two hours.
If the temperature of your room is 90°F (32°F) or higher, refrigerate the beef within an hour. It can then stay in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. If you need to store cooked ground beef longer than four days, keep it in the freezer.
Here’s how to properly store cooked ground beef. Storing it in divided portions according to your need will make it easier to take out as needed.
- If your cooked ground beef is still warm or hot, let it cool in a bowl in the refrigerator first.
- When your cooked ground beef is already cool, place it in an airtight, leak-proof container. Thick, freezer-safe, resealable bags will work, too.
- If you’re using a freezer bag, lay it out flat and get as much air out of it. Seal well. Storing the beef flat will save space in your refrigerator or freezer.
- Label your container with the date of when you cooked the ground beef.
- Store in the refrigerator or freezer. If your cooked ground beef is coming from the freezer, it is best to thaw it out in the refrigerator before reheating. This method lessens the chances of bacterial growth.
Storing Cooked Ground Beef in the Freezer
Whether you’ve accidentally cooked too much ground beef or intentionally cooked to eat later, and if you’re storing it for more than four days, freeze it. Cooked ground beef only lasts in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. It can last at room temperature for up to two hours.
Storing cooked ground beef in the freezer needs to be done correctly. Store your cooked ground beef in freezer-safe, airtight, leak-proof containers. If you’re storing large quantities of cooked ground beef, divide them into your desired proportions.
When stored properly, cooked ground beef will last 3 to 4 months in your freezer.
Tips for Properly Storing, Cooking, and Handling Ground Beef
Ground beef is made from bigger chunks of beef that are minced in a meat grinder. Depending on the beef parts, it contains different amounts of fat and lean meat when you purchase them at stores. They are usually labeled as lean ground beef or regular ground beef. Knowing how to handle, cook, and store ground beef is very important to keep the meat fresh.
Here are some tips in handling and storing ground beef:
- Ground beef is minced, so naturally, it has more surface area exposed to bacteria and other germs. Bacteria grow faster in temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. Refrigerate or freeze as soon as possible, particularly after purchasing ground beef to ensure freshness.
- Make sure you cook ground beef well. It needs to reach an internal heat of 160°F to eliminate bacterial contamination. Salmonella and E. coli are some of the bacteria that can be found in ground beef. They can cause foodborne illnesses.
- Wash your hands with soapy water before and after handling the ground beef.
- Always use tightly sealed or airtight containers to avoid contamination. The ground beef will keep for longer in the fridge if it is kept in a tightly sealed container.
- If you’re going to store cooked ground beef for more than four days, store it in the freezer. Remember, cooked ground beef will only last 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
We answered the question, ‘how long is cooked ground beef good for in the fridge’; next, let’s look at the tips for cooking ground beef.
Tips for Cooking Ground Beef Properly
It’s important to properly cook your ground beef so that it will last longer. But, the secret is usually in the cooking process. If you have raw beef sitting in your fridge, you can cook it in no time before it goes bad. Here are some tips on cooking ground beef properly:
1. Thaw Frozen Ground Beef Before Cooking
As much as possible, avoid cooking frozen ground beef. It is okay to do so, but it isn’t recommended. When you freeze ground beef, its natural juices turn into ice.
Cooking the beef frozen, you’ll most probably drain the fat along with the juices. By doing so, you’ll be lessening the flavor of the beef. It’s best to completely thaw out the beef before cooking it to keep all its flavorful juices intact.
2. Use Lean Ground Beef to Avoid Shrinkage
Beef shrinks a lot while cooking. To lessen shrinkage, buy lean ground beef. Lean ground beef has less fat. Fat in beef is rendered down upon cooking, so you get more shrinkage.
3. Use a Strainer or Warm Water to Lessen Fat
Beef has a lot of fat. Even lean ground beef will render fat. To lessen the fat, you can run the ground beef through a strainer to take out the fat. If you’re extra concerned about the grease, you may wash it under warm tap water.
Just give it a brisk run under running water, and that will reduce the fat. However, this method will lessen the flavor of the beef.
4. Cook over Medium Heat
Cook your ground beef over medium heat. Cooking in high heat will further shrink your ground beef. Overcooked ground beef will also taste dry, tough, and flavorless.
I always slow cook ground beef before I put it in the fridge for about 3 or 4 days. I then add the beef into salads, tacos, pasta, and more.
5. Soak Your Hands in Cold Water
Ground beef sticks to your fingers when you handle it with your bare hands. To avoid this, soak your hands in a bowl of cold water before forming your burger patties or meatballs. Also, avoid mashing or mixing the ground beef too much.
6. Use Ice Cubes When Grilling Beef Patties
When you’re making burger patties, press the center of the patty before grilling. You may also put a small ice cube in the center of the patty as the burger cooks. This technique will keep the burger moist and juicy as you’re grilling them.
7. Do Not Press Beef Patties While Cooking
Do not pat burgers flat with your spatula while cooking. By doing this, you are actually pressing out all the juices from your beef.
Also, do not poke them with a fork, as this will have the same effect. Use tongs or a spatula to flip the beef over.
8. Get Your Griddle or Pans Hot
Your pan or griddle must be really hot before placing your ground beef. This step ensures that your beef will sear and retain all those juices.
How to Tell If Cooked Ground Beef Is Spoiled?
It can be tricky to know when beef has gone bad. More so if it has come from the refrigerator or freezer. But, yes, it can happen. Any food can still go bad even if it has been in the refrigerator or freezer. So, how will you know if your cooked ground beef has gone bad? Here’s how:
1. Bad or Rancid Smell
Sometimes food can still look like it’s okay to eat. But, if you have doubts, smell it. Spoiled cooked ground beef will smell bad. It will also have a rancid smell. When this happens, discard the beef. Don’t taste it. Even a small portion of spoiled ground beef can cause foodborne illnesses.
2. Presence of Slime
Spoiled cooked ground pork will feel slimy and sticky to the touch. Sometimes, you will also notice a slimy substance covering your ground beef. It is a sure sign that there’s spoilage in your cooked ground beef. Discard it when this happens. Make sure to wash the ground beef container thoroughly, too.
3. Presence of Mold
When food is spoiled, it will sometimes be covered in mold. If there are layers of molds covering your cooked ground beef, never attempt to eat it anymore. Simply discard the whole batch.
Some people will try to remove the parts with mold. Do not do this because you’ll never know how much of it was contaminated. And mold can cause foodborne illnesses, too.
Check your cooked ground beef for any discoloration. If you notice that it has gone gray, brown, or even black, throw it away. If it is accompanied by a sticky film or a rancid smell, then it is a sure sign that it is spoiled.
All of the above indications are sure signs of spoiled meat. It is never worth the risk. So, if there is any doubt that your ground beef is spoiled, discard it.
Conclusion – How Long Is Cooked Ground Beef Good For in the Fridge
So, to recap, how long does cooked ground beef last in the fridge? Cooked ground beef lasts for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, provided it is stored properly. Cook it well, letting the internal temperature reach 160°F to kill any bacteria in the meat. It will also ensure freshness.
Ground beef is a popular type of meat that’s used in many dishes. Because of its versatility, you can cook up a huge batch and then store it for future use. Store your cooked ground beef in airtight, leak-proof containers to avoid contamination. Keep the beef in the refrigerator at a constant temperature of 40°F.
If you follow all the tips mentioned above, your cooked ground beef will last 3 to 4 days in the fridge, keeping all its taste, texture, and safety.