This can be a loaded question, because it depends to a large degree on the storage conditions. In my early days of learning to cook, calling my mom was the norm to ask questions like, how long does ground beef last in the fridge? I remember her response was more questions to determine when I bought it, if it had been frozen, what was the sell by date, if it had reached room temperature, and on and on.
Who would have thought there were so many variables to proper storage of meat. After eating out one night and getting sick off meat, I knew I didn’t want that to happen to the ones I loved.
Let’s start off with a few guidelines on food storage and temperatures.
Of course, you wouldn’t store your ground beef in the pantry, we’ll cover it anyway just because…
Pantry storage is normally room temperature of 60°- 70° F, refrigerator storage temperature should be around 35° – 40° F, and freezer storage temperature of 0°F or lower.
Now let’s get into the different tips that will help you determine how long your ground beef will last and this depends on storage conditions.
- Always keep your ground beef, including any raw hamburgers refrigerated after purchase.
- Check the “sell by” date. Always do your best to use it by this date and if kept refrigerated properly it will still be good up to 2 days after. For best results, keep it in its original packaging.
- If you have forgotten and left your ground beef out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, discard it. Bacteria grows rapidly in temperatures of 40° F and 140° F.
- When you buy ground beef and do not intend on using it immediately, it would be better to freeze it. It will maintain its freshness for around 3 to 4 months. For extra care, place in a freezer bag or wrap in freezer paper. This will help prevent freezer burn.
- To thaw, place frozen ground beef in the fridge. Once thawed use it within 2 days. If you choose to microwave or place in cool water t to thaw, then use it immediately.
- Once cooked in a dish or on the barbeque for hamburgers, you may keep it in the fridge for around 4 more days.
Best practices with beef or any type of meat is to look at the sell by date when you buy it. Plan on using it immediately, however I know the best of intentions don’t always work out how we planned. If you open ground beef and it has a pungent sour smell, looks dull in color, or feels slimy, then toss it. These are sure signs of meat you do not want to cook. I have experienced this with thawed ground beef and I can promise you the smell is really bad.
I’m from the south and many of my friends love nothing better than the perfectly cooked burger off the bbq and home-brewed beer.
For tried and true sources on food safety you may take a look at these U.S. government agencies, United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.