Ground meat is very popular nowadays because there are numerous ways to use it. Aside from making hamburger patties for your delicious BBQ hamburger or cheeseburger, you can also use ground meat to make meatloaf, casseroles, meatballs, tacos, etc.
Various types of meat can be used for making ground meat and beef is one of the most popular ones. You can find it in almost any grocery store or supermarket, as well as in most butcher shops.
That is all good and well, but since ground meat can be very sensitive, it is extremely important to know how to handle it properly. From there, many questions arise and one of them is “How long is cooked ground beef good for?”.
Here in the introduction, I will just say that this mainly depends on the way you store it and, in this article, I will reveal more details.
I will also say a few words about raw ground meat’s shelf life and answer the most commonly asked questions related to this important topic.
How Long Is Cooked Ground Beef Good For?
How long is cooked ground beef good for? Cooked ground beef’s shelf life mainly depends on the way you store it. You can store it for a certain period of time at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer.
As you probably already know, almost every type of food should be stored at lower temperatures because harmful bacteria can not spread at those temperatures. It is best to keep ground beef at 40 degrees F or below to prevent if from spoiling.
According to the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), harmful bacteria will rapidly grow in the so-called “temperature danger zone”. Those are the temperatures that range between 40 and 140 degrees F.
Ground meat is especially prone to spoilage because it passes through several stages of processing where it is exposed to many types of germs and bacteria that stay on the large surface area of the ground meat.
The surface area of the ground meat is much larger than the surface area of steaks and other larger cuts. That is also the reason why it is harder to protect ground meat from spoiling.
But, if you know the exact information about ground beef’s shelf life as well as how to store it properly, there shouldn’t be any problems with spoiling. So, below I will present to you important pieces of information that will help you handle ground meat the right way.
How Long Does Ground Beef Last At Room Temperature?
I will start with room temperature because it is the most tricky one. When it comes to storing almost any type of food, it is not recommended to leave it for long periods of time on the countertop, i.e. at room temperature.
The same applies to cooked ground beef. Since room temperature is considered to be around 70 degrees F, it is clear that it falls in the “temperature danger zone” that ranges from 40 to 140 degrees F.
According to the USDA, cooked ground beef can not stay at a temperature that ranges from 40 to 90 degrees F for more than 2 hours because the harmful bacteria will start to grow rapidly.
Moreover, if the temperature ranges from 90 to 140 degrees F, you can not leave your cooked ground beef out there for more than 1 hour.
To sum it up, when you cook your ground beef, make sure that its internal temperature is 160 degrees F when it is done. You can check that by using a food thermometer. After that, you can leave it to cool down at room temperature for not more than 2 hours, and if the temperature is higher than 90 degrees, no longer than 1 hour.
I would recommend you cool it down for about 30 minutes. After those 30 minutes, you can consume it or you can store it in the fridge or in the freezer and use it later.
How Long Will Cooked Ground Beef Last In The Refrigerator?
Let’s take a look at the shelf life of cooked ground beef in the fridge.
Cooked ground beef can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days and refrigeration is definitely one of the best methods to store cooked ground beef according to the USDA.
All you have to do is to store the cooked ground meat the right way. When it comes to refrigerating cooked beef in the fridge, the most important thing to look out for is the right packaging.
It means that you need to wrap your cooked ground beef with plastic wrap or heavy-duty aluminum foil so that it doesn’t come into contact with air. You can also use a shallow airtight container because it will also protect it from coming into contact with air.
It is important to separate cooked ground beef from other food as well in order to avoid cross-contamination. Do not refrigerate cooked ground meat alongside raw ground meat because the bacteria in raw meat juices can contaminate cooked meat.
Also, make sure that the cooked ground beef is stored far from the fridge door because that is where the temperature is unstable.
If you follow all these tips, your cooked ground beef will retain its freshness and quality in that time frame and you will be able to consume it safely when you pull it out of the fridge.
Can You Freeze Cooked Ground Beef?
Yes, you can definitely freeze your meatloaf or any type of cooked ground beef and it will last there for up to 2-3 months. Theoretically speaking, it can be kept in the freezer indefinitely if stored at 0 degrees F constantly but it won’t retain its freshness and quality if stored for longer than 2-3 months.
Freezing Cooked Ground Beef
Freezing ground beef is not a complicated process at all and it can preserve it for quite some time.
1. STEP: After you cook your ground beef, it is best to immediately transfer it to a large bowl or plastic container.
2. STEP: Place that uncovered bowl or container in the refrigerator and let your cooked ground beef cool overnight.
3. STEP: After those 12 hours of cooling, transfer your ground meat to a freezer-friendly plastic bag or freezer bag.
4. STEP: Place the unsealed bag on the countertop and press out as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn that can ruin the flavor and texture of your ground meat. After that, you can seal the bag.
5. STEP: Label the bag with the exact date of storage and put it deep in the freezer. Don’t forget to set your freezer to 0 degrees F or lower. According to the USDA, leftovers can be kept in the freezer for 3 to 4 months not for safety but for quality reasons.
Thawing Cooked Ground Beef
When you decide to use your frozen cooked ground beef again, it is essential to defrost it properly. There are several ways to do that. You can defrost frozen cooked ground beef in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. It is best to use the refrigerator if you have some extra time.
• In The Refrigerator: If you have some extra time, it is best to thaw your ground meat in the refrigerator. All you have to do is to transfer the wrapped package of frozen ground beef and let it thaw overnight.
• In Cold Water: The Cold water method is a quicker method than thawing cooked ground beef in the fridge. You have to transfer your wrapped ground beef to a resealable bag, press out all the remaining air, and put it in a bowl of cold water.
Change the water every 30 minutes to remain cool. This process will take you about 2 hours of your precious time.
• In The Microwave: The last option is to thaw it in the microwave. It is the quickest method and the easiest one as well, but the final result is not as good as in the two previously mentioned ones.
When thawed in the microwave, ground meat becomes tougher and that is certainly not something that you want to achieve.
So, just be aware of that fact.
Reheating Cooked Ground Beef
And, finally, you have to reheat your successfully frozen and defrosted ground beef in order to enjoy its wonderful flavors in one of your delicious meals.
• In The Pan: If you have frozen ground beef hamburgers, it is best to reheat them in the pan. All you have to do is to pour a little bit of vegetable oil on the surface of your pan and put the patties on an oiled surface.
Heat it on medium-low heat for about 2-3 minutes and then flip them and heat for an additional 2-3 minutes. They should be done in that time frame.
• In The Oven: After you have thawed your ground meat in the refrigerator, let it sit out for up to 30 minutes to reach room temperature. During that time, you can preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.
After those 30 minutes, put the meat on a baking sheet elevated on an oven-safe cooling rack set inside the baking sheet.
Heat your ground meat until it is warm enough. Check its internal temperature. According to the USDA, “foods should be reheated thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steaming.”
How To Tell If Cooked Ground Beef Is Bad?
There are several signs that can reveal that your cooked ground meat is bad and that you probably should discard it. Those signs include changes in smell, taste, texture, and appearance.
• Smell: Much like is the case with any other food, an odd smell can tell you a lot when it comes to spoilage. So, if you sense different odors like a foul or sour smell, then there is a high probability that your ground beef has gone bad.
• Taste: If the cooked ground beef has some odd taste that differs a lot from the taste of the fresh ground meat, then that is a clear sign that it has gone bad. Discard it immediately.
• Texture: If your ground meat is not tough enough and if you notice some changes in texture, i.e., if you notice the mushy or slimy texture, then that is a clear sign of spoilage as well. Throw that meat in the trash immediately.
• Appearance: Raw ground meat has a bright red color, so it is not that difficult to notice that it has changed its appearance once it’s spoiled.
A substance found in all warm-blooded animals known as oxymyoglobin is responsible for the bright red color of the meat.
The story is different when it comes to cooked ground meat because it is harder to tell if its appearance has changed.
However, if you notice any type of discoloration, any dark spots, molds, or fuzzy growths, know that might be a sign of spoilage and that it is best to discard the meat.
Get to know the spoilage signs of your ground turkey.
How Long Can Raw Ground Beef Last?
If stored on the countertop, i.e. at room temperature, raw ground beef can not sit out for more than 2 hours. If the temperature is higher than 90 degrees F, you shouldn’t let your raw ground beef stay there for more than 1 hour.
If stored properly in the fridge, raw ground beef can stay there for up to 1-2 days.
And, finally, if properly stored in the freezer, raw ground beef can be frozen for up to 4 months.
Can You Keep Cooked Ground Beef In The Fridge For 7 Days?
No, you can not keep cooked ground beef in the fridge for 7 days. Cooked ground beef can last in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
If it’s been in the fridge for more than that time frame, the growth of dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, E.Coli, Staphylococcus, etc., is inevitable. Those types of bacteria are pathogenic and they cause illness.
Can I Eat Cooked Ground Beef After 5 Days?
It depends on the way of storage. If cooked ground meat has been at room temperature for 5 days or longer, it is definitely not good for consumption because the bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest at room temperature.
If it has been in the refrigerator, it might be good but I still wouldn’t recommend that you consume it.
If it has been stored in the freezer for 5 days, you can definitely eat it if it has been properly frozen, thawed, and reheated.
How Long Can A Cooked Hamburger Stay In The Fridge?
How long is a cooked hamburger good for in the fridge?
If it is made from ground beef, a cooked hamburger can stay in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. You just have to package it properly so that it doesn’t come into contact with air.
And it is also good to store it somewhere far from the fridge door because the temperature is unstable close to the fridge door.
Why Does Cooked Ground Beef Go Bad?
The main reason for the spoilage of cooked ground beef is the harmful bacteria that can rise inside the meat.Those harmful bacteria will grow if the meat is in the “temperature danger zone” (40-140 degrees F) for too long.
Cooked ground beef can not be left at a temperature that ranges from 40-90 degrees F for more than 2 hours.
If the temperature ranges from 90-140 degrees F, cooked ground beef can not sit out for more than 1 hour.
And here are my final words on the shelf life of cooked ground beef.
As you could have seen, the answer to the question of how long is cooked ground beef good mainly depends on the way you store it.
So, if you store it on the countertop, i.e. at room temperature (40-90 degrees F), it will last for up to 2 hours. If you let it stay at a temperature that ranges from 90-140 degrees F, it will last for up to 1 hour.
If you refrigerate cooked ground beef properly, it will last in the fridge for up to 3-4 days and that is the best method that you can choose.
And, finally, if you want to extend the shelf life of your cooked ground beef for 2-3 months, it is best to store it in the freezer. It won’t retain the exact flavor and texture, but it will still be good for consumption.