How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?

How long does ground beef last in the fridge? Great question! And I’ve got the answers!

Raw ground beef.

Storing Ground Beef: Raw or Cooked

Got raw meat you feel a bit sketchy about?

Perhaps you made a supermarket ground beef purchase and haven’t had a chance to use it up.

Or maybe you took frozen ground beef, beef patties for burgers, or another uncooked raw meat dish out of the freezer and then changed your dinner plans.

You want to know how long you can store ground beef in the fridge before you put it to delicious use.

On the other hand, you might have cooked ground beef leftovers and are trying to figure out its shelf-life.

I’m a food scientist and I’m here to tell you everything you need to know for food safety, quality and optimal freshness.

Mushroom Beef Burgers Recipe

How Long Does Ground Beef Last In The Fridge Cooked

Here are the guidelines based on current food safety information for recipes with cooked ground beef:

  • Cooked Ground Beef: In the fridge, cooked ground beef lasts for about 3 to 4 days when cooked and stored properly.
  • The fridge temperature should be at 40°F or less, according to USDA.


Cooked meatloaf for question about how long does cooked meatloaf last in the fridge

How Long Does Ground Beef Last In The Fridge Raw

Here are the guidelines based on current food safety information for recipes with raw ground beef:

  • Uncooked Ground Beef: Raw ground beef can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to two days, according to USDA safety guidelines.


keema naan ingredients.

How To Store Raw Ground Beef Safely In The Fridge

Here’s a deeper dive into keeping ground beef fresh before cooking:

  • Safe Storage: Seal ground beef in airtight containers, plastic bags or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This prevents cross-contamination other foods and keeps its quality intact.
  • 48-Hour Rule: Store it in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below. Aim to use it within two days to avoid spoilage bacteria-caused illness.

Raw ground beef patties on a tray.

How To Store Cooked (or Leftover) Ground Beef Safely

Storing cooked or leftover ground beef the right way is key to keeping it tasty and safe.  Make sure you do these things properly to safely store cooked beef for quality to avoid getting sick. Here’s what to do:

  • Ensure it Was Cooked Properly: Ground beef should always be cooked to a safe Internal temperature of 165ºF. Don’t rely on the color of the juices to tell you if it’s done. Grab a thermometer and be sure. 
  • Cooling Down: Let the cooked ground beef cool at room temp for no more than 2 hours.
  • Wrap or Container: To keep a cooked ground beef dish fresh and stop it from drying out or picking up smells from the fridge, make sure to seal it well in heavy-duty aluminum foil or put it in a container that’s airtight.
  • Fridge Time: Keep it in the fridge at 40°F (4°C) or lower. It should stay good for 3 to 4 days.
  • Reheating: Warm up leftovers until they hit at least 165°F (74°C). This ensures it’s hot and safe to eat.

 Sticking to these steps ensures your ground beef stays fresh and safe, reducing the risk of harmful bacteria causing foodborne illness.

Ground beef kafta recipe.

How Can You Tell if Ground Beef Has Gone Bad

You can tell if raw ground beef has gone bad by using these cues shared by the US Food Safety and Inspection Service:   

  • Off Smell: Fresh beef should have a mild, almost non-existent odor. If your ground beef smells sour or off, trust your nose and toss it.
  • Color Change: Fresh ground beef is usually a bright red. If it’s turning gray or brown due to extended storage, it may be bad.
  • Slimy Texture: If the beef feels slimy or sticky when you touch it, that’s a no-go. Fresh beef should be slightly moist but never have a slimy consistency. That’s a sign of bacterial growth.
  • Expiration Date: Always check the sell-by or use-by date. If it’s past that date, it’s safer to get rid of it.

When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Keep an eye out for any of these signs of spoilage mentioned by the united states department of agriculture and just throw it out.

Checking meatloaf temperature with an instant thermometer.

Freezing Ground Beef

If not using your ground beef within two days, consider freezing it.

Wrap the ground beef well in plastic wrap, freezer paper, foil, or a freezer bag.

Make sure it’s well sealed to avoid freezer burn. Mark the package with the date. Follow USDA guidelines and freeze at 0°F (-18°C) or below.

Safe Thawing of Ground Beef

Here’s how to safely thaw ground beef, without including other cuts for simplicity:

  • In the Refrigerator: Thawing ground beef in the fridge is the safest option. It usually takes about a day. Once thawed, you can keep it in the fridge for 3 to 5 days before cooking. If you decide not to use it, you can safely refreeze it without cooking.
  • In Cold Water: Keep the beef in its original packaging or place it in a leakproof bag. Submerge in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Small packages may thaw in an hour or less.
  • In the Microwave: If you thaw ground beef in the microwave, cook it immediately afterward. This method might partially cook the beef, making it unsafe to leave at room temperature.

Cooking beef directly from frozen is also an option, just increase the cooking time by about 50%.

Safety Tips for Thawed Beef: 

  • Remember, beef thawed in cold water or the microwave should be cooked and never refrozen.
  • Don’t use a slow cooker for frozen ground beef as it will be held too long at temperatures for growth of pathogenic bacteria.

Forming meatloaf.

FAQS on How Long Ground Beef Lasts in the Fridge

Just skimming through? Here are some common questions about how long ground beef lasts in the fridge:

How long is too long for ground beef in the fridge?

Keeping ground beef in the fridge for more than two days is too long. Aim to use or freeze it within this timeframe to ensure freshness.

How can you tell if ground beef has gone bad?

Ground beef has gone bad if it smells off, changes color to gray or brown, feels slimy, or is past its use-by date.

Is ground beef OK if it turns brown?

Ground beef turning brown isn’t always a sign of spoilage if it’s within the use period. It can happen due to lack of oxygen but check for other spoilage signs.

What does spoiled beef smell like?

Spoiled beef often smells sour, rancid, or ammonia-like. Trust your nose; if it smells off, it’s best to throw it out.

How do you know if beef is bad before cooking?

Before cooking, check if the beef smells bad, has a slimy texture, or has changed color. These are signs it’s spoiled.

Is it OK if ground beef smells a little sour?

If ground beef smells even slightly sour, it’s not OK to use. It’s a clear sign of spoilage.

What happens if you eat ground beef that has gone bad?

Eating bad ground beef can lead to food poisoning. Symptoms include stomach pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Meatloaf with Brown Gravy on a plate.

Don’t Miss These TASTY Ground Beef Recipes:

Or skip right to all of my favorite ground beef recipes right here.

Next reading: 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *