How Long Does Ground Beef Last: Answering The Burning Question

From good old burgers to fancy lasagna, ground beef is my first choice when it comes to delicious meals. But if you want to enjoy safely in favorite specialties, you'll need to find out how long does ground beef last.

Beef is one of the best quality red meat (red meat is the meat of mammals, which contains higher amounts of iron than chicken or fish) and it is appreciated all around the globe because of impeccable taste and health benefits.

Like any other red meat, it is rich in various vitamins and minerals, especially iron and zinc. Beef is subject of many controversies, but there is much evidence of its health benefits.

Rich in high-quality protein, beef may help maintain and grow muscle mass, can improve exercise performance and may prevent anemia.

If you want to make the best of beef benefits, you'll need to pick the right and fresh one. Before I answer how long does ground beef last, I have to share a little bit of knowledge on how to buy and store ground beef.

How to pick perfect ground beef?

The most popular way to use this gorgeous meat is ground beef, ideal for enchiladas, stuffed peppers and of course - burgers.

I like to make everything from scratch so a few years ago I bought myself a meat grinder and since then I ground beef by myself every time I get it. That’s the best way of getting the freshest, highest-quality ground beef.

Read more: Most Recommended Burger Presses

If you don't have one or don't like all that trouble my advice is to buy it locally - from your butcher shop. This way, you can ask the butcher to grind something on the spot for you. Tell them what you will be preparing from this meat, their advice is golden.

Why? Well, beef can be ground fine, medium, or coarse. Depending on what you are making, different ground plates will give you the best results:

  • Fine ground beef is commonly found in grocery stores and butcher shops and will fit perfectly for most recipes.
  • Medium size ground beef has more meat texture while holding in more moisture, and it is ideal for burgers.
  • Coarse ground beef is ideal for recipes like chili - the meat will not break down as much as a fine grind, therefore producing a moist, chunky texture.

But this is not an ideal world, so sometimes you'll have to pick your beef without help from the butcher. In those cases, the first thing is to check the sell-by date. The second thing you need to check is color.

Fresh ground beef has a bright pink color with visible flecks of meat and fat in it. Avoid pale and pasty one - it was probably ground too many times or sat on shelves for a long time.

Ground beef is the most perishable item in the meat case, so extra caution is essential.

Following these simple steps, perfect ground beef will be on your plate in no time! Now, let's find out how long does ground beef lasts in the freezer and fridge.

How long does ground beef last in the fridge?

Nobody likes to cook and suddenly realize that there’s no more required ingredients. It is a familiar story for every household, so most people buy more than they need. I do that very often, especially with ground beef.

The problem is that ground beef is prone to going bad very quickly; after a couple of days, it starts to change color. No matter how no one likes food waste, eating spoiled meat, it causes more damage than to throw it.

In foods of animal origin, pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli and other cause serious illness. Also, grinding allows any bacteria present on the surface to be mixed throughout the meat.

Fresh ground beef can usually stay in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, but that's not something to rely on.

So if you want to be safe and enjoy that yummy burger, follow these instructions:

  1. Use good quality ground beef that has an extended shelf life; if you grind the meat at home, surely the quality is unquestionable.
  2. Maximize the shelf life of beef with proper storage - if it is possible, leave it in the original package. If not, use airtight plastic containers. Knowing the correct position in the fridge to store raw meat can also extend the shelf life of the meat.
  3. Never leave raw meat at room temperature for more than two hours; bacteria starts to grow rapidly on higher temperatures.

Important tip: If you grind beef at home leave it in the fridge for maximum one day, then freeze it for ideal results.

If you are not sure that you'll use ground meat within two days, it is better to put it in the freezer.

How long does ground beef last in the freezer?

  • I'm not a fan of cooking from the freezer - that usually means defrosting, and that takes time. But in this case, putting beef in the freezer means keeping you and your family are in good health.
  • By lowering the temperature at which the meat is stored, you are slowing down bacteria grow and minimizing health hazard. In my opinion, if you are not planning to use ground beef soon place it in the freezer - ground beef lasts 3-4 months when frozen.
  • When freezing meat, you'll need to overwrap the original store package in with heavy-duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil or freezer paper. If you are freezing home-ground meat use bags for the freezer - be sure to protect it from freezer burns!

How long does cooked ground beef lasts?

  • "Cooked meat lasts longer" - this is a very wrong and very dangerous myth. Yes, it can extend the shelf life of meat but not as much as we think.
  • Cooked ground beef also has an expiration date and can only last long up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and the freezer for 3 months.
  • Avoid another rookie mistake - never partially cook ground beef. The partial cooking of food ahead of time allows harmful bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.

Additional advice - How to thaw ground beef?

When it comes to defrosting ground beef, you should stick to a proven and safe method - the refrigerator method. Take your meat out of the freezer up to two days before you plan on cooking it, put it on a plate or in a bowl and place on the bottom shelf in your fridge.

This may seem like a slower way, but it's far safer.

Further Reading: 


Conclusion

I'm glad I can help, answering the burning question and sharing a little extra knowledge. Answering how long does ground beef lasts is essential to be safe and healthy.

Food borne illness and bacteria on red meat are no joke; it is always better to be safe, not sorry. If you are not sure that ground beef is still good, don't risk - throw it away.

I'm always open to discoveries, so feel free to share your experiences and ask the tough questions!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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