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How Long Can Ground Beef Stay in the Fridge?

Ground beef on a designed background
Ground beef on a designed background

Getty Images / Brian Hagiwara

From Baked Beans with Ground Beef to American Goulash, ground beef is a versatile, budget-friendly protein to always keep on hand. However, ground beef has a short life in the fridge, so it's best to have a clear plan to use it up so it doesn't go to waste. Read on to learn how long ground beef can stay in the fridge. Plus, get tips for how to store ground beef the right way.

How Long Can Ground Beef Stay in the Fridge?

A package of ground beef can stay in the fridge for up to two days from the date of purchase, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By day two, it's best to either cook the ground beef or freeze it. Freezing ground beef is a great long-term solution, as it can last in the freezer for months. Learn how to freeze ground beef and thaw it safely.

While the USDA recommends using refrigerated ground beef within two days, there may be some leeway depending on the "Use-By" date on the package. As the USDA explains, the Use-By date "is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality." So, for example, if you buy a package of ground beef four days before its Use-By date, it may be OK to use past the two days. If you're uncertain about the usability of the ground beef, learn how to tell if ground beef is bad by checking the color, smell and texture.

Why Does Ground Beef Have a Short Life in the Fridge?

Like any other food, ground beef is susceptible to bacteria growth. As the USDA explains, "bacteria multiply rapidly in the 'Danger Zone'—temperatures between 40 and 140℉," so it's important to use the ground beef as soon as possible to prevent harmful bacteria like E. coli from growing. E. coli is killed by thorough cooking, so be sure your ground beef reaches a cooked temperature of 160℉. Proper storage is also crucial to preserve freshness and slow bacteria growth, so read on for helpful tips.

How to Store Ground Beef

When storing ground beef in the fridge, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure the temperature in the refrigerator is appropriate. Fridges should be kept at a temperature of 40℉ or below, according to the USDA. To check the temp in your fridge, use an appliance thermometer. Depending on the model, your fridge may have a built-in one. The fridge temperature is important for keeping food fresh and slowing bacterial growth.

In addition to the temperature, where a package of ground beef is stored matters, too. Store ground beef on the bottom shelf of the fridge (the same advice applies for other raw meat, poultry and seafood). Ground beef often has juices, which contain bacteria, and if it comes into contact with other raw or cooked foods, it could lead to cross-contamination. Ground beef can be stored in its original packaging. Keeping ground beef on the bottom shelf minimizes this risk and makes cleanup easier, if the juices spill.

When stored properly, ground beef can last in the fridge for up to two days. For a long-term solution, learn how long ground beef can be frozen for.