Depending on how much ground beef you’re cooking off, you might have some serious leftovers on your hands. How long is cooked ground beef good for when you store it in the fridge?
How Long Does Cooked Hamburger Last in the Fridge?
Most cooked meat products, including ground beef, will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. That’s longer than you can expect it to keep when it’s still raw, so you might want to cook it off even if you won’t be eating it right away. Freezing it is another option. Once the cooked meat is frozen, it should retain its texture for 2 to 3 months.
Before you put leftover cooked meat in the fridge or freezer, it should have a chance to cool off. Otherwise, the meat might turn sour.
Let leftovers cool for about an hour at room temperature. Don’t wait too long, or else the meat won’t be safe to eat anymore. Two hours is the maximum amount of time that meat can be safely left out. If the weather is very hot, refrigerate leftovers after one hour.
Leftovers will keep longer if you wrap them well or store them in tightly sealed containers. The less air there is in the package, the better. That’s true especially if you plan to freeze the leftovers.
How Long Does Cooked Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?
When safely stored in the fridge, cooked ground beef should last for 3 to 4 days. Make sure that the refrigerator temperature is set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, it should be set to 34-36 degrees.
It’s also a good idea to store meat in the rear of the fridge, preferably on a lower shelf. If you put it toward the front, it will be subjected to gusts of warm air each time you open the door.
What if you need to store the cooked hamburger for longer than just a few days? If that’s the case, you should freeze it instead. Put the wrapped leftovers in a zip-top freezer bag and label them with the date and contents. Freeze for up to 3 months.
We should point out that the frozen leftovers will technically still be safe to consume if you keep them in the freezer for longer than that. The trouble is, the meat will start to dry out through long exposure to freezing temperatures.
We’ve provided more tips on how to thaw and reheat cooked ground beef below.
How Long Can You Store Raw Ground Beef in the Fridge?
Cooked ground beef might keep for up to 4 days under the right conditions. But how long will the meat stay fresh before you cook it off?
Raw ground meat has a shorter shelf life than cooked leftovers. You should either freeze or cook the ground beef within 2 days of bringing it home. In fact, if we aren’t sure yet what we’ll be doing with the meat, we tend to freeze it right away.
Whole muscle cuts should last a day or two longer than ground meat. This is because more surface area is exposed to the air when you’re dealing with ground meat products. That’s one reason why it’s a good idea to grind your own beef at home whenever possible.
How To Defrost Cooked Ground Beef
The refrigerator is the preferred method for defrosting any meat product. Take the wrapped package out of the freezer and put it on a plate large enough to catch any liquid runoff, then transfer the plate to the refrigerator.
The defrosting process should take just a few hours for packages weighing 1 pound or less. If you’re thawing a huge quantity of ground beef, it can take up to 24 hours.
You can thaw the meat faster by submerging the wrapped package in a water bath. Make sure it’s well sealed—it might be necessary to put the package in a zip-top bag, if it isn’t already. Then fill a large container with cold water and set the wrapped meat inside.
The water has to stay cold to ensure food safety. If the meat isn’t thawed within 30 minutes, empty the container and fill it with a fresh batch. The entire process should take no more than 2 hours.
Be aware that there’s no need to defrost the meat before you reheat it. However, if you reheat it from a frozen state, the ground beef might expel a lot of liquid as it heats up. This can affect the consistency of the finished dish.
How To Reheat Cooked Ground Beef
Once the ground beef is thawed, take it out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Depending on the amount of meat you’re dealing with, you can reheat it in a skillet on the stove top, or in the oven.
For large quantities of ground beef, set the oven to 225 degrees. Transfer the meat to a baking sheet. When the oven has warmed to the set temperature, place the baking sheet inside and heat until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees.
If you only need to reheat a small amount of hamburger, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low. Add a teaspoon or so of neutral oil to help keep the meat moist. Then add the ground beef and warm it up, stirring frequently, until it’s heated to 120 degrees.
Sometimes, ground beef that’s been reheated can still seem dry, even when you’ve used one of these techniques. If that’s the case, you can liven things up by adding a gravy or sauce. A little bit of warm beef broth can also do the trick.
How To Tell if Cooked Ground Beef is Bad
First of all, if you know that your cooked hamburger has been kept at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees for longer than 2 hours, you should discard it at once. The spoilage bacteria might not be evident, but there’s no way to be sure whether or not it’s present.
The ground beef should look and smell about the same as it did when you first cooked it off. If it smells sour, or if you catch a whiff that reminds you of rotten eggs, then it’s best to throw it out.
The same rules apply if the meat is discolored, or if it has a mushy or slimy texture. Although congealed beef fat can turn a whitish color as the meat cools, you should be able to tell the difference between solidified fat and spoiled meat.
As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Discard the cooked ground beef if you have any reason to suspect that it’s gone bad.
Can You Reheat Grilled Burgers?
When you’ve made too many burgers and are faced with a platter full of leftovers, don’t worry. You can reheat them just as easily as you might reheat leftover steak or beef brisket.
Just follow the instructions we provided above for reheating ground beef in a pan. Turn the burgers a few times to ensure that they reheat evenly, and serve them when their internal temperature hits 120 degrees.
The only issue you might run into is with the moisture content. Burgers that have been reheated won’t be as juicy as they were when they first came off the grill.
You can offset this somewhat by taking the burgers off the heat as soon as they’ve heated to 120 degrees. Still, it’s nearly impossible to replicate the texture of freshly cooked burgers.
The Bottom Line
It’s a good idea to enjoy leftovers as soon as possible, preferably the next day. If you already know that you won’t be able to reuse the cooked hamburger within a few days, consider freezing the meat as soon as it’s had a chance to cool.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!