It happens to the best of us. We unearth a package of raw meat that’s been sitting in the fridge for days—maybe even a week. The question is, can we still salvage it, or do we have to throw it out?
If you’ve had raw ground beef in fridge for 7 days or more, here’s a guide on how to handle the situation. Your senses should take you the rest of the way.
Raw Ground Beef in Fridge for 7 Days
Ground beef usually only keeps in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. If it’s been in there for 7 days, check it for signs of spoilage. Discoloration, a slimy texture, or a rancid odor indicate that the meat has begun to spoil and should therefore be discarded.
First of all, we have to stress the importance of keeping meat products properly refrigerated. If they’re exposed to warm temperatures, they’ll spoil more quickly.
The range between 40 and 140 degrees is known as the “danger zone” for meat. These temperatures are a breeding ground for bacteria. When meat remains in this range for too long, it isn’t safe to consume.
Refrigerate ground beef immediately after bringing it home. It might be a good idea to bring a cooler or other insulated bag to the store with you when you plan on buying any type of meat product.
Also, check your refrigerator temperature periodically to ensure that it stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal range is between 34 and 36 degrees, especially when it comes to meat.
The best way to store meat products is to keep them far away from the door. Every time the door to the fridge is opened, the contents are exposed to blasts of warm air. Keeping the meat on a lower shelf, pushed towards the back, is preferable.
How Long Does Raw Ground Beef Last in the Fridge?
The harsh truth is that ground meat spoils more quickly than whole muscle cuts. That’s because when the meat is ground, more surface area is exposed to the air. This exposure is what hastens bacterial growth.
While you can safely keep a steak in the fridge for 3 or 4 days, that time frame is cut in half when you’re dealing with ground beef. A package of raw hamburger will only retain its peak freshness for a day or two.
That doesn’t mean you can’t buy ground beef in bulk, even if you don’t plan on cooking it that day. When we see quality product on sale, we often buy it in large batches. The solution is to portion it out and freeze it immediately.
Unwrap the beef and separate it into portions weighing about 1/2 pound apiece. You can use larger increments if you’d like, but these will take longer to thaw. Remember that you can always thaw more than one package at a time.
Form the portions into patties, if desired. This makes them easier to stack, saving room and minimizing their exposure to the air. Wrap each portion in a double layer of plastic wrap, then add a layer of aluminum foil.
Be sure to label each package with the contents, as well as today’s date. You might be able to tell that it’s ground beef by looking at the shape, but it will be tough to remember how long it’s been in there unless you date the package.
When you keep ground beef in the freezer, it won’t spoil, because the subzero temps halt the growth of bacteria. However, it will begin to dry out after a while, so try to thaw it within 2 to 3 months.
Raw Ground Beef in Fridge for 7 Days
We’ve established that it’s best to cook ground beef immediately, or at least within 2 days. So what if you’ve had raw ground beef in the fridge for 7 days?
The immediate answer would be to discard it. After all, the meat has been around for more than three times as long as it should have been. If that’s what you want to do, we can’t argue against it.
That said, you can rely on your own senses to make the decision. Depending on how long the ground beef was sitting on the shelf before you bought it, it might already have turned the corner—or it might still be safe to consume.
For example, if you’ve purchased your ground beef from a local and reputable source, it should keep longer than just a couple of days. It might even have gone through the grinder on the same day you bought it.
On the other hand, ground beef that comes from the supermarket was probably already starting to outlive its best days before you brought it home. The sell-by date can serve as a useful guideline in this case (see separate section below).
How to Tell if Ground Beef is Bad
You should be able to tell if ground beef is still good by inspecting it. When meat has spoiled, it exhibits various signs, though not all of them may be present. If it displays even one of the following traits, you can assume that it’s no longer fresh.
The smell test is the most useful indicator of freshness. Raw ground beef doesn’t have a strong odor on its own. A sour or overly sweet scent indicates that the meat has spoiled, as does the smell of ammonia or rotten eggs.
Does it still smell okay? Test the texture. It should be firm and slightly sticky when you take it in your hands. Meat that’s slimy to the touch has become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Finally, take a good look at the color. When it was fresh, the meat was likely pink to dark red. If it’s been around for 7 days, it may have turned brown, gray, or even green. There may also be patches of mold. In these cases, discard it at once.
How Long is Ground Beef Good For After Sell-By Date?
Retailers mark their products with sell-by or best by dates as reminders to their staff. These dates are there to indicate how long the product has been offered for sale. When the date has expired, the store will pull the product from the shelf.
Since ground beef has a relatively short shelf life, the sell-by date can come in handy to you as a consumer as well. Ground beef that’s outlasted its sell-by date by 3 or more days should probably be tossed in the trash.
Again, you should rely on the criteria we’ve provided above when it comes to determining freshness. The dates are only there to let you know how long ago the meat was packaged—they can’t tell you whether or not it’s gone bad.
Seven days is a long time to hold onto a package of ground beef. No matter how well it’s been wrapped, or how ideal the storage conditions are, there’s a good chance that the meat has spoiled.
Check the beef before making a final call on whether or not to throw it out. If you decide to risk it and then start to notice a foul odor while the meat is cooking, you have your answer.