Wondering how long ground beef lasts in the fridge? We’ve got the answers you need to make sure your ground beef is delicious and safe to eat!

raw ground beef in a pan with oil.

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Thinking about using that package of ground beef that’s been in the fridge for three days? You might want to think again before using it to make your favorite Mexican ground beef recipes, Southern meatloaf, or ground beef casserole for dinner. Ground beef has a short shelf life that ensures proper food safety. Here’s what you need to know.

How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

According to the USDA, raw ground beef lasts one to two days in the fridge after you bring it home from the store. Keep unopened, store-bought ground beef in its original packaging on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator towards the back.

You should also note the use-by date determined by the store. The USDA advises that this is the last date recommended to use the meat while it’s still at peak quality. If you buy a package of ground beef four days before its use-by date, it is probably fine to use it past the two days the USDA recommends to keep it in the fridge.

The quality of the meat you buy will also affect its shelf life (how long you can store it before it starts to deteriorate). So, if you can, purchase high-quality beef.

A pot of browned ground beef.

How to Tell if Ground Beef is Bad

If you’re worried your beef may not be safe to eat, there are signs you should skip the hamburgers tonight. For example, if the meat has a noticeable smell—fresh meat should not have a smell—it is beginning to spoil.

In terms of texture, if the meat seems slimy or sticky, it is best to discard it. And if most of the meat looks gray or brown, you should get rid of it.

ground beef in a saute pan.

Why Does Ground Beef Have a Short Shelf Life?

It may seem like you have only days to use that beef in the fridge. This is because it is fresh meat, with no preservatives or additives to make it last longer. The longer the beef sits, the more of a chance it has of developing bacteria.

Bacteria, like E.coli, will multiply more rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to keep your beef refrigerated and also use it (or freeze it) quickly to preserve the freshness and slow bacteria growth.

How to Freeze Ground Beef

As mentioned, you can store raw beef for up to two days in the back of the fridge after the purchase date. If you won’t use it by day two, the best and easiest way to extend its life is to freeze it. When kept in the freezer, ground beef will last for three to four months.

To freeze, leave it in its original packaging, and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Or, place it in a freezer-safe plastic bag. Alternatively, if you’ve already opened the package you can place the beef directly into a freezer-safe bag. Make sure to label it with the date so you know how long you’ve had it!

When ready to use, place the packaged meat in a large bowl of cool water, using a heavy weight to keep the meat submerged. Allow it to thaw for five to ten minutes. If you can plan ahead, defrost the beef overnight on a plate in the refrigerator.

Previously frozen ground beef should be used immediately and should not be refrozen. Also, never keep meat at room temperature for more than two hours!

Quick Tip

If you are unsure you will use your ground beef within a day or two of purchasing, it is always a good idea to just freeze it. Ground beef is very easy to defrost, and storing it in the freezer will ensure that it stays fresher for longer. When in doubt, just freeze your beef!

How Long is Cooked Ground Beef Good For In The Fridge?

Once you have cooked your beef, it will last about three to four days in the fridge. Make sure you keep the cooked beef in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.

Check your beef for freshness by smelling it. It should have no real smell but, if it smells sour or pungent, throw it away! Also, make sure the cooked meat does not have any mold growth or look wet and slimy. These are both signs that your meat is past its prime.

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About Kasey Schwartz

For over 15 years, Kasey Schwartz, the mastermind behind All Things Mamma, has been the ultimate go-to for mouthwatering family recipes. Her work has been featured on Today.com, Buzz Feed, Better Homes and Gardens, and more, making her your go-to mom next door for all things delicious and family-friendly.

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