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Ground beef is a versatile and inexpensive meat, but it also presents the risk of food-borne illness. The grinding process can mix bacteria from outside from inside, leading to higher risks for contamination if not stored or cooked properly. Due to an increased risk of contaminated ground beef cannot be stored for longer periods.
It needs to be tightly wrapped in an airtight container for better storage. Let’s reveal how long ground beef can sit out and continue reading this article. You can also read our latest guides on reheating and defrosting ground meat.
Table of Contents
How Long Can Ground Beef Sit Out?
The best way to keep raw ground meats fresh and safe from contamination will depend on what you plan on storing them. You should store all meat products in the refrigerator at reduced temperatures. If they’re kept anywhere between 40 and 140 degrees for too long, it could attract bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.
Raw ground beef cannot sit out for more than 2 hours or 1 hour in 90 degrees F. However, it has a longer shelf life if you can use the refrigerator and the freeze-ground meat for 2-3 months.
What Happens if Ground Beef Sits Out Too Long?
A general recommendation is to not leave raw ground beef out for more than two hours, or one hour if the temperature reaches 90 degrees. Make sure to defrost your ground beef only when you start cooking with this meat.
Ground beef should be cooked to at least Medium-Well (about 160 degrees Fahrenheit) before eating. If it’s been left out longer than 2 hours or 1 hour above 90° F, there is a chance that harmful bacteria could multiply, which will make the meat unsafe for consumption. However, it has a longer shelf life if you can use the refrigerator and the freeze-ground meat for 2-3 months.
What Should You Do If Ground Beef Is Left Out Too Long?
It would help if you disposed of ground beef left out overnight. Whether or not it looks and smells fine, it’s not worth the risk – even if it’s cooked. The ground beef left out too long will tend to spoil, and such beef is highly dangerous to eat.
It contains pathogenic bacteria responsible for food-borne illnesses that you would not want your family members or customers to get sick from!
How Long Can Ground Beef Be In The Car For?
The Department of Agriculture suggests that you should not leave perishable items like meat out more than four hours. On hot days the car’s temperature is already high, which can easily soil your food within no time.
If your car’s air conditioner is working, then don’t worry about storing it for approximately two hours. According to USDA’s recommendation, meat should never be left unrefrigerated for longer than 2 hours. It gets cut down to just an hour when the temperature reaches 90° F.
Does Ground Beef Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?
Store your raw ground beef in the refrigerator and make sure it stays there for no more than 2 days because then it’ll start to spoil. It’s also important not to forget about canned beef, which has a relatively long shelf life.
However, all these types of meat or beef, whether corned beef, canned ground beef or raw beef, there’s always a label on them so you can tell how long ago those responsible caught their prey!
Do Ground Beef Go Bad If You Lose Power?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends discarding any food that entered the danger zone. During a power outage, your refrigerator will start losing its cooling gradually. You can minimize it by keeping the door close.
It will also help to maintain its freshness. Also, make sure to store food in closed containers as bacteria can grow on open containers and spoil the product inside within hours. Remember, don’t forget to look for the sign of spoilage in your food after a power outage. Immediately discard the food if you notice any such signs, i.e., color change and bad odor.
What Temperature Is Safe For Ground Beef?
Last but not least, we would like to mention the safe temperature for your ground beef. The best way to store your ground beef is in the fridge. Keep it at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and never leave it on display for more than two hours – that’s when bacteria start growing. You may refrigerate ground beef for around one month.
How to Store Ground Beef?
All foods last for a little period if they are not stored properly. People do not store hamburgers for too long. If it is uncooked, it only lasts for a few days, but it can be stored for a bit longer if it is cooked. The beef used for making hamburgers can be stored for a long time.
If you want to store the hamburgers, then you need to take care of the following things.
Place in refrigerator
The refrigerator is always the best place for storing food products. Here the shelf-life of products is increased, and they can last for a long period retaining their best quality.
Similarly, if you have bought hamburgers and you have used some amount of them. You need to keep the remaining amount in a refrigerator to keep it fresh for a long period.
Don’t store it at room temperature
Room temperature is not suitable for hamburgers. They need a cool environment to sit in. If they are exposed to air for a long period, there will be more chances for bacteria to grow. It will result in hamburgers’ spoilage, and they won’t be fresh as they were before.
It would be best to keep the hamburgers at room temperature or hot environment for too long. Otherwise, they will rotten very quickly.
Store in a closed container
Once you have prepared hamburgers, you need to store them in closed containers to keep out moisture and other contaminants because keeping them unpacked will result in fast poisoning of hamburgers.
Store in freezer
The freezer can be the best option for storing food items for a very long period. If you have bought too many hamburgers, you can store them in the freezer. Here they can last for a longer period.
Can You Freeze Ground Beef?
Freezing hamburgers is a good option. The shelf-life of hamburgers is increased from days to months if they are stored in freezers. Hamburgers freeze well, and they can also retain their taste for months in the freezer.
If you have eaten some hamburger amount and left some and you don’t want to eat it. You can freeze it. It will remain fine for up to four months in the freezer. Always keep in mind, you need to defrost the hamburgers before eating them.
Moreover, refreezing the hamburgers that have been left for a long time at room temperature is not a good option because there might be a chance to multiply, resulting in spoilage.
How Long Does Ground Beef Last?
Hamburger is not a shelf-stable product. It can last for only a few days if it is not cooked. If it is kept in a freezer in a closed container, it can last up to six months.
Cooked hamburgers have a longer lifetime than uncooked hamburgers. But they cannot last for a long period at room temperature. If they are kept in the refrigerator, they can last for six days retaining their peak quality.
But if they are properly stored in the freezers, they will last for a long period. Cooked hamburgers can sit in the freezer for almost five months without losing their quality and taste.
How to Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad?
If the food products are not stored properly, they will get spoiled and won’t be okay to use. Similarly, if a hamburger gets rotten, you cannot eat it. But a question arises that how can you tell if a hamburger is bad?
Not up to perfection, but your senses are the tools that can help us to tell if the hamburger has gone bad. You can tell whether the hamburger has gone bad or not by checking its taste, color, and smell.
- The color change is the common trait of spoiled hamburgers. The fresh hamburgers are bright red. If you notice that your hamburger has turned brown, you should not use it because it is rotten. Try to get rid of it at once.
- The second thing to look after the color is the smell of hamburgers. Fresh hamburgers have a pleasant meaty smell. To check your hamburger, give it a good sniff. If it smells poor, then you should get rid of it.
- Another way to check the hamburgers is by conducting a touch test. Fresh hamburgers break apart when you try to squeeze. But if it feels slimy and sticky to touch, it indicates the presence of spoilage bacteria. You should not use it if you notice this change in the texture.
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Any cooked hamburger that has been sitting out for more than 2 hours should not be consumed. At room temperature, there is a fast bacterial growth and the shelf life of the meat decreases very quickly. What is this? The best way to avoid spoilage bacteria is to store ground beef as soon as possible after cooking.How long can raw ground beef sit out? ›
Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours. The safest place to thaw meat is in the refrigerator. Keeping meat cold while it is thawing helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.Is it safe to eat ground beef that was left out overnight? ›
If a perishable food (such as meat or poultry) has been left out at room temperature overnight (more than two hours) it may not be safe. Discard it, even though it may look and smell good.Can you cook bacteria out of ground beef? ›
The bacteria are killed by thorough cooking, which for ground beef is an internal temperature of 160 °F (71.1 °C) as measured by a food thermometer. Illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 have been linked with the consumption of undercooked ground beef.Can you tell if ground beef is bad? ›
To determine if your ground beef if spoiled, use your senses. Touch the ground beef. If it's slimy, that's not normal. Smell and visually examine at your ground beef, and if it's brown or an off odor, those could be signs that your ground beef is spoiled.Can you leave ground beef out for 4 hours? ›
How Long Can Raw Ground Beef Be Left on the Counter? According to the USDA, you can leave ground beef out for 2 hours at room temperature. If the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, however, then you can only leave raw ground beef for 1 hour. The reason for this is due to something known as the Danger Zone.How quickly does meat spoil at room temperature? ›
TWO HOURS is the MAXIMUM time perishable foods should be at room temperature (ONE HOUR at temperatures 90 degrees F and higher). This INCLUDES the time they're on the table during your meal. Just ONE bacterium, doubling every 20 minutes, can grow to over 2,097,152 bacteria in 7 hours!What happens if you forget to put ground beef in the fridge? ›
If ground beef has been left out of the fridge for longer than 2 hours (or 1 hour above 90° F), harmful bacteria can multiply to the point where the ground beef is no longer safe to eat and should be discarded.What does bad ground beef smell like? ›
This may be the first thing you notice if your beef has gone bad, even before you open the fridge. Spoiled beef will develop a scent to it similar to ammonia or sulfur. In short, it won't smell good. Occasionally ground beef will develop a light smell if it's been in airtight packaging, and that's alright.Can salmonella be cooked out of ground beef? ›
The short answer: Yes, cooking can kill Salmonella. Depending on the type of food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cooking food to a temperature between 145 degrees F and 165 degrees F to kill Salmonella.
Cooking of Ground Beef
Cooking ground beef to 160°F kills E. coli germs rapidly.
These effects of eating spoiled meat can be noticeable within the first two days and can last up to four days to potentially a week. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel sick due to the consumption of spoiled meat, drink water to prevent dehydration, which can be caused by food poisoning symptoms.How do you know if beef is rancid? ›
Spoiled meat has a strong smell that still has an odor reminiscent of steak but with undertones of ammonia. Some steaks may also have an egg-like smell. If your steak is past its expiration date and has an off-putting smell, it's likely not safe to eat.Is GREY ground beef bad? ›
If only the interior is gray, you can bet that oxygen hasn't touched it to turn it red. This means ground beef with a gray interior is safe to eat. On the other hand, meat that looks gray or brown all over (on the inside as well as the top layer) has likely begun to spoil and is not safe to eat.How long is too long to leave beef out? ›
The USDA advises that raw steak not linger out of the refrigerator for more than two hours – and if temperatures soar above 90 °F, even less time is recommended. So while a five-hour break from the cold can be enticing to your steaks, it's best to keep their outdoor exposure as brief as possible!Can you put room temperature beef back in fridge? ›
Don't put beef back after you've removed it
This is another rule that is particularly important for frozen meat, but as we mentioned before, frequent changes in temperature can help bacteria grow. So, it's a good idea to observe this rule for refrigerated meat that was warmed up to room temperature as well.
Leaving uncooked meat out for 8 hours increases the risk of bacterial growth, which can cause foodborne illness. Consuming meat that has been left unrefrigerated for an extended period of time can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever.Can I eat food left out for 3 hours? ›
Myth: You shouldn't put hot foods in the refrigerator.
If you leave food out to cool and forget about it after 2 hours, throw it away. Bacteria can grow rapidly on food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Abide by the two-hour rule for any perishables. Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy: If the temperature is above 40 °F, do not leave any of these perishable items out for more than 2 hours. Eat them before they go bad or throw them away. Leftovers, takeout: The two-hour rule also applies.How long does it take for raw meat to spoil? ›
Most uncooked meat, regardless of cut, can be stored in the fridge for three to five days. But there are definitely exceptions. Ground meat and offal like liver and kidneys should only be kept in the fridge for one to two days.
Meat. Both raw and cooked meat should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends following the “2-hour rule” for meats and other perishable items.Is it OK if beef smells a little? ›
Perform a smell test
It applies to both raw and cooked ground beef. Though the scent of fresh ground beef is barely perceptible, rancid meat has a tangy, putrid odor. Once it goes bad, it's no longer safe to eat.
The brown color doesn't mean the meat spoiled. Eat or toss: Does the meat otherwise smell and feel fresh? As long as it's been stored properly and it isn't sticky, slimy or smelly it should still be fine when cooked to a safe temperature.Is ground beef good after 3 days in fridge? ›
You are more likely to encounter the sell-by date on the packaging. It indicates how long the store should keep the meat on the shelves. After that day, the meat is safe to consume for 1-2 more days if kept well-refrigerated. Ground meat is generally safe to eat up to 5 days after grinding.What are the odds of getting food poisoning from ground beef? ›
That works out to odds of 1:50 of a burger-lover getting an E. coli O157 infection during his lifetime, but only to 1:800,000 odds of him being infected on a single eating occasion.Is Listeria killed by cooking? ›
The good news is that Listeria is easily killed by heating food to a high enough temperature. Find out why some foods are more likely to be contaminated with Listeria and learn about recent outbreaks linked to these foods.Does E. coli get killed by cooking? ›
The good news is, E. coli and many other harmful bacteria can be killed by cooking food properly. Food safety tip: Because ground beef can turn brown before disease-causing bacteria are killed, use a digital food thermometer to make sure you cook hamburger to an internal temperature of at least 71°C (160°F).How long does it take for ground beef to grow bacteria? ›
If ground beef is refrigerated promptly after cooking (within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F), it can be safely refrigerated for about 3 or 4 days. If frozen, it should keep its quality for about 4 months.Can E. coli be cooked out of meat? ›
E. coli can be killed if the meat is cooked thoroughly. E. coli are also sometimes found in other foods including fruits and vegetables, as well as in unpasteurized milk products, juice, cider and untreated or contaminated drinking water.What are the odds of getting E. coli from raw beef? ›
These types of beef components are frequently obtained from cuts of beef like steaks and so give a general idea of risk from those types of products. USDA testing of finished raw ground beef in processing plants in 2019 revealed that only 5 of 10,932 (0.05%) samples were positive for E. coli O157:H7.
Simple rest is one way to help your body heal from food poisoning. Take it easy until you are feeling better. Additionally, do not eat or drink for a few hours after the onset of symptoms. Once you do start eating and drinking again, try gentle and bland foods, like crackers, and sports drinks.How soon after eating spoiled meat will you get sick? ›
The symptoms of food poisoning usually begin within one to two days of eating contaminated food, although they may start at any point between a few hours and several weeks later.What are three signs that meat has spoiled? ›
Spoiled meat will have a distinct, pungent smell that will make your face scrunch up. Texture – In addition to an unpleasant scent, spoiled meats can be sticky or slimy to the touch. Color – Rotten meats will also undergo a slight change in color.Can you tell if beef is bad by taste? ›
Beef that has gone bad will develop a slimy or sticky texture and smell bad or "off." If beef develops a grayish color, that doesn't necessarily mean it has gone bad. Don't taste meat to determine if it's safe to eat or not.How long does it take for beef to spoil? ›
Beef, veal, lamb and pork roasts, steaks and chops may be kept 3 to 5 days. After cooking, meat, poultry and seafood can be safely stored in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days.How can you tell if thawed ground beef is bad? ›
Now, if you're wondering how to tell if ground beef is bad after thawing, here's what to look for: “Typically speaking, when you thaw frozen ground beef, if it has an odor, feels slimy to touch (and not just wet) or is off-color, it's likely best to toss,” says Shaw.Is beef safe to eat if it turns brown? ›
This darkening is due to oxidation, the chemical changes in myoglobin due to the oxygen content. This is a normal change during refrigerator storage. Beef that has turned brown during extended storage may be spoiled, have an off-odor, and be tacky to the touch and should not be used.What color should ground beef be? ›
Consumers expect fresh ground beef to be bright-red, but at times it may appear brown, mottled red and brown, or even purplish. Color variations can be confusing and may lead to the rejection of acceptable ground beef.Can ground beef sit out for 3 hours? ›
If ground beef has been left out of the fridge for longer than 2 hours (or 1 hour above 90° F), harmful bacteria can multiply to the point where the ground beef is no longer safe to eat and should be discarded.How long can meat sit out at 50 degrees? ›
The FDA recommends that all perishables left at room temperature for more than two hours be discarded. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), doubling in amount every 20 minutes.
It can be refrigerated or frozen in its original packaging if the meat will be used soon. If refrigerated, keep at 40 °F or below and use within one or two days. For longer freezer storage, wrap in heavy-duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic bags made for freezing.How long can you let beef sit? ›
Cooked meat can only sit out for less than two hours before it enters unsafe temperatures. According to the USDA, food items between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit are in the Temperature Danger Zone, and at risk of growing bacteria. To prevent food poisoning, don't leave food out for extended periods.Does meat spoil at 55 degrees? ›
However, temperature is one of the main factors that we can control. 55 to 85 degrees F (Dangerous): Food can become dangerous in several hours. 85 to 115 degrees F (Very Dangerous): Food could become dangerous in as little as a couple hours if other factors (mentioned previously) are ideal for bacterial growth.Will meat spoil at 45 degrees? ›
Discard any refrigerated perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs or leftovers) that has been at refrigerator temperatures above 40°F for four hours or more.How long can meat sit out at 55 degrees? ›
The four-hour rule
According to the FDA and USDA, certain perishable foods that have been kept at a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours should be thrown out. This includes meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, dairy products, eggs, cooked or cut produce, and cooked leftovers.
Meat that has turned bad will feel sticky, tacky, or slimy and should be thrown out. You can also use the color of the meat as a guideline. Ground beef that is brown or gray is still safe to eat, but if it is turning green, you should throw it away. Read on for tips on storing ground beef to keep it from spoiling!How do you preserve ground beef without refrigeration? ›
Dry curing meat
Apply the cure (curing salt) directly on the meat. After applying, place the meat into a plastic food storage bag and tightly seal. From there, put your meat in a cool place (between 36-40 degrees Fahrenheit).
The refrigerator and freezer are definitely your friends when storing the ground beef you purchase. When you're preparing to use your ground beef after freezing, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. Raw meat can be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days and kept frozen up to four months.What happens if you eat food left out for 12 hours? ›
Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter) to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness.Is it safe to eat food left out for 6 hours? ›
The USDA says food that has been left out of the fridge for more than two hours should be thrown away. At room temperature, bacteria grows incredibly fast and can make you sick. Reheating something that has been sitting at room temperature for longer than two hours won't be safe from bacteria.
The Bottom Line
It is OK to store hot foods in the fridge. You do not have to wait for the foods to cool before you put them away. In fact, it's better to store them right away, while they're still hot, than to forget them and leave them sitting at room temperature too long.