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How Long is Hamburger Meat Good For?

Posted Aug 04 2009 7:00pm

Hamburger, c.1985-86

B efore the question, “How long is hamburger meat good for?” can be answered, it’s important to know…

  • Whether the hamburger meat is raw or cooked
  • How fresh it was when you placed it in the refrigerator
  • If the refrigerator maintains a temperature of 40 or colder
  • If the raw meat was kept cold when transported from the store

As you can see, there are lots of variables to answering the how long is hamburger meat good for question.
Raw hamburger meat (ground beef) is much more perishable than other cuts of beef and will keep in the refrigerator for only 1 to 2 days.  Cooked hamburger meat will keep 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has a lot of information on its website to help insure food safety and most general all-purpose cookbooks include tips on buying, storing, and cooking all kinds of meat and poultry, which can be very helpful.

According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) the USDA suggests that consumers cook or freeze hamburger meat (ground beef) within 2 days after purchase for maximum quality.  ”To keep bacterial levels low, store ground beef at 40 °F or less and use within 2 days, or freeze. To destroy harmful bacteria, cook ground beef to 160 °F.”

Buying and Handling Raw Hamburger Meat (Ground Beef)
At the store, select wrapped packages without tears, holes, or leaks that feel cold. If possible, put the packages in plastic bags so leaking juices won’t drip on other foods, especially items that won’t be cooked. Have the clerk bag raw meat, poultry, and fish separately from other items.

Don’t buy or use hamburger meat (ground beef) that is gray in color, feels slimy, or smells bad.  Any of these conditions is a sign the hamburger has gone bad.

Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store with your perishables. You may want to take a cooler with ice for your hamburger meat and other perishables, especially if your trip home is more than 30 minutes.

Storing Hamburger Meat (Ground Beef)
Refrigerate or freeze ground beef as soon as possible after purchase. 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 1 or 2 days.

For longer freezer storage, wrap the hamburger (ground beef) in heavy duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or place in freezer safe plastic bags. Ground beef is safe indefinitely if kept frozen, but will lose quality over time so it is best if used within 4 months.

Thawing Frozen Hamburger Meat (Ground Beef)
The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. One pound packages of ground beef will take about 24 hours to thaw. Once thawed, cook or refreeze it within 1 or 2 days.

To defrost ground beef more quickly, you can use the microwave oven or cold water. To defrost in cold water, put the meat in a watertight plastic bag and submerge. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. Cook meat thawed in cold water or in the microwave immediately. Don’t re-freeze it.

Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

Storing Leftover Cooked Hamburger
Cooked hamburger meat that is refrigerated within 2 hours after cooking can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. It should keep its quality for about 4 months if frozen.

Reheating Cooked Hamburger (Ground Beef)
When reheating fully cooked hamburger patties or casseroles containing ground beef, be sure the internal temperature reaches 165 °F or it is hot and steaming.

Sources:   USDA FSIS, Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today, New Tenth Edition, Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

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