How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge (Explained)

November 18, 2022

The short answer is that raw ground beef can only last 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. Ground beef has the shortest shelf life of all processed meats. When minced and unseasoned, it can spoil quickly in the fridge. So, I would advise you to consume it within 24 hours after purchase.

I have a soft spot for pasta Bolognese, hamburgers, and sausages. They're my favorites whenever I crave Midwestern or Italian cuisine.

Since they all involve the use of ground beef, there is one question I always have: how long does ground beef last in the fridge? From fresh to cooked ground beef, these are the answers.

How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge

Can I Store Packaged Ground Beef in the Fridge?

You can certainly store raw, packaged minced meat in the refrigerator. But what's the right refrigeration temperature? I recommend a temperature of around 28 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit for this type of meat.

dim sum with ground beef

You can leave the ground beef in a plastic container for storage. Likewise, you should not remove the foil to protect the food from environmental influences.

How to Refrigerate Ground Beef Properly?

You can freeze the ground beef in small portions, whether it's raw or cooked. Make it cool down to minus 1 degrees when you read the temperature with a food thermometer. Freezer bags are suitable for this. You can flatten the bags after filling them with the meat so that no oxygen remains.

Ideally, you should keep the ground meat on the level directly above the vegetable compartment or crisper drawer. This is usually the coolest part of most refrigerators.

You can keep fresh ground meat from the butcher in the fridge for 24 hours. The earlier you process it, the better. With packaged minced meat from the supermarket, it's important that you don't exceed the best-before date.

Also, ensure the specified storage temperature. Discard it immediately if the meat smells sour and is dark in color. You don't want to risk getting diarrhea and other food-borne illnesses. 

Tip: Write the freezing date on the freezer bag. You can freeze fatty ground beef for up to four weeks, while lean ground beef can last for up to six months in the freezer.

How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

Raw ground beef from a butcher's shop that was only put into the mincer when you ordered it can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. Meanwhile, unlike raw meat, cooked ground beef can last for up to four days.

If you bought the ready-made ground beef from the refrigerated counter, you can't be sure how long the ground beef has been on the counter. In that case, you're on the safe side if you don't store the ground beef in your fridge for more than 12 hours.

If you decide to buy pre-packaged ground beef from the supermarket, you should use it on the same day. Ideally, you should only store it in your fridge for a few hours. This refers to the minced meat sold in small styrofoam bowls wrapped in foil.

If you buy minced meat sealed in plastic, this meat is vacuum-packed. This means that the oxygen has been completely sucked out of the pack and replaced with nitrogen. This process does not affect the minced meat or your health.

Here, nitrogen deprives the harmful bacteria of their means of survival (oxygen). As a result, the microorganisms cannot multiply and spoil your minced meat. 

Ensure that the pack is completely undamaged. Small holes in the foil will allow some oxygen to get in and spoil the minced meat.

How Long Can Packaged Ground Beef Be Kept in the Fridge?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),you should consume packaged ground beef within 24-48 hours from the time of purchase. 

Minced meat is a relatively sensitive food that reacts strongly to environmental influences. 

beef burger and fries

Therefore, the shelf life is not particularly long. Although spoilage is not always immediately evident, microorganisms accumulate quickly on fresh minced meat.

How Long Does Fried Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

Fried, processed ground meat can stay in the refrigerator for around 4 days. Cooked meat can also last as long as that. This is provided you don't interrupt the cold chain. Otherwise, bacteria, which multiply rapidly, will spoil the meat sooner.

Editor's tip: If you want to store minced meat in the fridge for a short time, we recommend the lower compartment. The bottom shelf of the fridge is cooler than the upper compartments. Why you may ask, when the actual cooling happens in the freezer compartment above? Well, this is because cold air is denser and sinks while hot air is lighter and rises.

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How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Freezer?

First, you can freeze ground beef in its original packaging, in a container or heavy-duty freezer bag designed for this purpose. According to the USDA, this allows you to extend the shelf life indefinitely when the cold chain is not broken. However, it's ideal if you consume the meat within 4 months.

Ensure that you freeze the minced meat immediately after purchase, so you can preserve the freshness. However, freezing ground beef does not entirely stop spoilage, especially if the meat has been out of storage for some time.

When the beef starts to spoil even before you buy it, you'll find that a well-frozen ground beef can get bad quickly even though microorganisms multiply much more slowly. 

Finally, it is better to label the packaging with the freezing date to keep track of the shelf life.

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What Should I Watch Out for When Storing Packaged Minced Meat?

Never keep packaged ground beef too warm. The kitchen shelf or pantry is not suitable for storing ground beef. The temperature should not go above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It is better to store ground beef even cooler than this specified temperature.

Moreover, packaged minced meat should always be transported chilled. You should use a cool bag or cool box to transport it back home.

As a rule, supermarkets offer special cooler bags for sale. After all, the cold chain of packaged minced meat should not be interrupted to preserve absolute freshness.

How Do You Know When Ground Beef Has Gone Bad?

Certain features can indicate that your ground beef has gone bad:

1. Smell, dark spots, and mold

Spoiled ground beef can have dark spots or smell unpleasant and sour. Condensation may also have formed on the foil. Such food is no longer suitable for consumption. A large number of bacteria may have already formed that cannot be destroyed by heating.

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ground beef filling

2. Color variation

Bad ground beef can have bright red color in the middle when broken and light brown on the outside. If the raw beef or cooked beef has color variation and has gone gray or brown, then it has gone bad, and you should throw it away.

3. Refrigerated or frozen for more than three months

Storage for too long can also make ground beef lack freshness. In the case of frozen minced meat, however, you won’t immediately recognize the spoilage. Therefore, you should dispose of food stored for too long. The longer you keep it, the grayer it will get. If all the meat is gray rather than red or brown, discard it.

4. Feel the texture of the ground beef

Squeeze it gently between your fingers to feel its texture and consistency. It should break into pieces in your hands if it's fresh. 

If the ground beef is sticky or has a slimy texture, it's most likely bad. Consuming it can be the beginning of stomach troubles for you. Again, the only option is to discard it. 

Also, wash your hands before touching raw meat to avoid spreading bacteria or contaminating surfaces.

How Do I Recognize Fresh Minced Meat?

The color of fresh, high-quality beef is pink, bright red, or purple. Sometimes, the color of beef in good condition can also be mottled red. Fresh ground beef is free of streaks or a slimy texture. The film of the package should be undamaged, and the packaged minced meat should have no visible spots. In addition, the ground meat must not smell particularly strong or pungent.

Note: If the heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic tray is damaged, the minced meat is no longer suitable for consumption. Suppose you didn't notice before purchasing that the packaging was damaged. In that case, you could usually exchange the minced meat in the supermarket without any problems (with a receipt).

How to Increase the Shelf Life of Ground Meat in the Refrigerator?

If you want to buy minced meat, always buy the meat at the end of your shopping tour. Also, have a cooler bag with you if you want to buy ground beef to protect its shelf life.

If you bought the minced meat frozen, you should place it in the freezer immediately after purchase. Here, you can keep it much longer at very low temperatures.

ground beef tacos

The warmer you store ground beef, the more harmful microorganisms can multiply. In the case of minced meat, the cold chain must not be interrupted under any circumstances.

Always store the meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator, and don't cover it with other foods, even though it can get cramped in the refrigerator.

Finally, the best way to store minced meat in the refrigerator is to place a freezer pack directly on the minced meat.

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FAQs

1. Is ground beef good in the fridge for 2 days?

Ground beef is still safe to eat after two days (even up to four days) in the fridge in most cases. However, if you want your ground beef to remain safe indefinitely, I advise you to freeze it.

2. How long does ground beef last in the fridge unopened?

Refrigerated ground beef is best consumed after two days. When refrigerating ground beef, the fridge should not be opened frequently. The cold chain may be disrupted if the fridge temperature gets warm when opening it.

3. How long can cooked ground beef be refrigerated?

You can keep cooked ground beef in the refrigerator or freeze it. Safely store cooked ground beef in the fridge for 3 to 4 days before it starts to spoil. After that, you can store it in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. Remember to put it in an airtight container.

Final Thoughts

Cooking ground beef the same day it is bought and processed is always ideal. Then you can store or consume it immediately. However, when stored properly in the fridge, it can remain safe for 1-2 days.

Since the meat fibers are severely chopped up, and the meat has a larger surface area, it provides ideal living conditions for bacteria. That's why ground meat is so susceptible to microorganisms. So, for food safety reasons, you need to know for how long ground meat can be kept.

You can refrigerate ground meat and consume it within 1 or 2 days. Otherwise, the meat might begin to deteriorate after 48 hours. A strong pink-red color characterizes fresh ground meat. Avoid old ground meat that shimmers gray and contains dried pieces or dark spots.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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