How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge? (5 Tips)

Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: June 22, 2024

I’ve been on a carnivore diet for over eight years, and I’ve learned that there's no room for compromise when it comes to food safety and storage. This is particularly true with ground beef.

In this article, I will share my experience and the results of my research on how long ground beef lasts in the fridge so you can eat this versatile meat safely.

Quick Summary

  • Ground beef should be stored in the fridge between 32°F and 40°F.
  • Cooked ground beef can last up to four days in the fridge.
  • Unopened packed beef can stay good for 1-2 days past the sell-by date.

How Long Does Ground Beef Last in the Fridge

Raw ground beef

Uncooked, raw ground beef can last in the fridge for up to two days when stored properly.

Cooked ground beef can last in the fridge for up to three days if stored at a temperature of 40°F or below.

It's essential to keep the refrigerator temperature between 34°F and 40°F to prevent bacterial growth.

If you won't use the raw beef within two days, it's best to freeze the raw meat to extend its shelf life.

If you don't plan to use the cooked ground beef within three days, it must go in the freezer.

Leftover cooked ground beef should be treated like any other cooked meat. If you have leftover ground beef from a meal, it should be consumed within three to four days of cooking.

However, if the cooked ground beef was not stored promptly or was left out at room temperature for too long, it may not last that long and should be consumed sooner.

It's important to note that ground beef can carry harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, which can cause food poisoning [1].

Cooking ground beef to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F using a food thermometer and storing it properly in the fridge or freezer can prevent illness.

Also Read: How Long Does Ground Turkey Last in the Fridge

Tips for Refrigerating Ground Beef

Ground beef in the fridge

Storing ground beef in the fridge is essential to prevent foodborne illness, but it's important to do it correctly.

The first step is to ensure the meat is stored in either its original packaging, heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a resealable plastic bag in an airtight container.

This will prevent air from entering and help the beef stay unspoiled longer.

1. Temperature

When placing the ground beef in the fridge, ensure the temperature is set at or below 40°F.

This will slow down the growth of bacteria and help the beef stay fresh for longer.

The meat should be stored on the bottom shelf, typically the coldest part of the fridge.

This will ensure that the refrigerated ground beef is kept at a consistent temperature and will not be affected by fluctuations when the refrigerator door is opened and closed.

2. Timing


It's also important to remember to store the ground beef as soon as possible after purchasing it.

Make sure the meat is at a safe temperature before storing it in the fridge.

Ideally, the meat should be placed in the fridge within two hours of purchasing it or within one hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F.

Do not put the meat in the refrigerator directly after it has been cooked.

Hot, cooked ground beef can raise the fridge temperature, causing bacteria to grow and the ground beef to spoil quicker.

"Raw and undercooked meat may contain harmful bacteria. USDA recommends not eating or tasting raw or undercooked ground beef."

- U.S. Department of Agriculture

You can make ground beef last in the fridge as long as possible by following these simple storage tips:

  • When you purchase fresh ground beef from the store, immediately put it in the refrigerator. It's best to keep the meat in its original packaging, but if you want to transfer it to a different container, make sure it's airtight and leak-proof.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, keep raw meat away from cooked items. This will help you avoid spreading bacteria to other foods.

Tips to Make Ground Beef Last in the Freezer

Ground beef in the freezer

Here are ideas for freezing ground beef so your meat will remain safe for a longer period:

  • If you won't use the ground meat within a few days, it's best to freeze it immediately. You can freeze ground beef in its original packaging, but it's better to repackage it in a freezer-safe container or heavy-duty freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.
  • Make sure to label the freezer package with the date it is frozen. You can freeze ground beef for up to 4 months. But for best taste and quality, it should be used within 2-3 months [2].
  • If you're going to use frozen ground beef, it's crucial to defrost it safely. The most highly recommended way to defrost ground meat is to transfer it to the refrigerator and let it thaw slowly overnight.
  • If you need to defrost packaged ground beef quickly, use the microwave or place it in a plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. Do not use warm water in order to keep the food safe.
  • Do not defrost ground beef on the counter at room temp, as this can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria.

Also Read: How Long Will Fish Keep in the Fridge

How To Tell If Ground Beef Has Gone Bad

Person touching ground beef

You can tell ground beef has gone bad by inspecting its smell, appearance, and texture.

Here are some signs to look for when checking if ground beef has gone bad:

  • Smell: Give the ground beef a good sniff. If it has a sour smell or ammonia-like odor, it's likely spoiled meat and should be discarded.
  • Appearance: Raw ground beef should have a bright red color without dark spots. If it looks gray or mottled, it may be bad ground beef.
  • Texture: Ground beef with a sticky film or slimy texture has spoiled and should not be consumed. The bacteria release volatile compounds, which create these texture changes.

It's important to note that sometimes ground beef can look and smell okay but still be bad.

Always use caution, look for other signs, and trust your senses when it comes to spoiled ground beef. When in doubt, throw it out.

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Why Does Ground Beef Turn Brown After a Few Days in Fridge?

Ground beef turns brown in the fridge after a few days due to oxidation. Oxygen in the air reacts with the myoglobin in the meat, turning its color from bright red to brownish-gray. However, the meat is still safe to cook as long as it is stored correctly and used within its expiration date.

How Long After Buying Is Ground Beef Good?

Unopened ground beef is good for 1-2 days after buying, provided that its sell-by date is OK and it’s kept in the refrigerator. However, you should cook raw ground beef within 2 days of purchasing it for optimal freshness and safety.

Can I Store Ground Beef in the Fridge Without Packaging It?

No, you cannot store ground beef in the fridge without packaging it. Exposure to air and moisture can accelerate bacterial growth and spoilage. It should be wrapped tightly in plastic or aluminum foil or stored in an airtight container to maintain its freshness.


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About the author

Gabriel Woods
Chef/Food Editor
Gabrielle Woods holds a BSc degree in Hospitality Management with a summa cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas, majoring in Culinary Entrepreneurship. She helps clients achieve specific fitness goals through protein-based meal prepping. She believes cooking is both an art and a science best done with a balance of tradition and innovation.
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