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How To Tell if a Hamburger Is Bad

How To Tell if a Hamburger Is Bad

Once in a while, a craving for a tender, juicy, and delicious BBQ hamburger hits, and there’s nothing you can do but fire up your portable pellet grill and cook some burgers.

Besides making sure an infrared thermometer registers 160°F when aimed at the meat.

Another elephant we must address is that packet of hamburger beef has been sitting in the fridge all week. So how do you know if your hamburger meat is bad?

What Happens if I Eat Bad Hamburger

Some people believe that you can consume hamburgers even though it has been deemed spoiled.

They assert that cooking the meat to 160°F kills the bacteria. However, be wary of beef, especially hamburger meat you suspect to be rotten.

Consuming rotten hamburger meat or bad ground beef can lead to food poisoning.

Unfortunately, if the hamburger meat is already infected with Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), or Campylobacter, cooking it will not eliminate the toxins, which means your stomach will end up doing summersaults because you ate spoiled meat.

Not only will your stomach be upset, but you could also experience a fever, vomiting, dehydration, diarrhea, nausea, and bloody stool.

Most symptoms of food poisoning tend to be mild. Nevertheless, foodborne illness can still escalate to a life-threatening condition.

How To Store Beef

The way you store ground beef is essential to defrosting ground beef.

The same rule applies to reheating burgers and the shelf life of hamburger meat.

To prevent food poisoning, you should follow the four guidelines released by the USDA: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Clean refers to washing your hands, utensils, and surfaces often. For example, if you use your hands to form the hamburger meat into burger patties.

You must wash your hands as well as any utensils or surfaces the raw meat touched with hot soapy water before touching another food, utensil, or surface.

Separating means keeping raw hamburger meat away from other foods when storing or cooking it.

Case in point, you should place your hamburger meat onto a plate or in a container to catch any juices that could spill on other ready-to-eat foods or in the refrigerator and cause cross-contamination.

Place the hamburger meat in the bottom of the fridge by itself to prevent cross-contamination.

This will also prevent other foods from absorbing the ground beef’s scent or prevent the ground beef from absorbing other

food’s odor.

Once you have determined the hamburger meat is fit for consumption, ensure you cook it for the recommended amount of time to the recommended temperature (160°F).

Next, any leftover hamburgers should be refrigerated within the recommended time frame and held at the correct temperature in the fridge.

Speaking of correct temperatures, whether you refrigerate or freeze hamburger meat, the unit must be at the proper temperature.

Your refrigerator should maintain a temperature at or below 40°F, while your freezer should be at or below 0°F.

Remember, how you store the hamburger meat determines how long it will last.

How Long Does Hamburger Last

When stored in the refrigerator, hamburger has a shelf life of 1-2 days.

Leftover hamburgers can last in the fridge for up to 4 days. On the other hand, hamburger meat can be frozen for up to 4 months.

Make sure you do not leave your hamburger at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

If you live in a hot area, do not leave hamburger meat at room temperature if the room is above 90°F.

Whether it is raw or cooked, leaving hamburger at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours can cause bacteria to multiply rapidly.

How To Tell if Hamburger Is Bad

Whether it is shrimp, lobster, or hamburger, knowing if food is spoiled will prevent you from committing a grave injustice against your taste buds.

It will also prevent you from becoming sick.

Sell-by Date

If you inspect the container of hamburger meat, you should notice a sell-by date. You may also see a use-by date or an expiration date.

The sell-by date tells you when you should discard the hamburger meat. If the sell-by date has passed, assume the hamburger meat is rotten.


Fresh quality ground beef is known for its characteristic vivid red color.

The beef may have some brown sections depending on which part of the carcass the meat was fabricated from. However, this is nothing to worry about.

In contrast, spoiled hamburger meat has a dull gray color. If your ground beef has lost its beautiful color, discard it.

Smell Test

Although some people are uncomfortable with inhaling the aroma of hamburger meat, nothing beats the good old smell test.

The smell test will instantly let you know if your hamburger is rotten.

Fresh hamburger has a mild scent that will generally leave you unaffected.

However, it is most definitely spoiled when the meat has a foul, sickening odor. Bacteria is responsible for the putrid smell, so it is best to toss it.


People are also uncomfortable with touching raw hamburger meat. However, a little beef is nothing to worry about.

Fresh hamburger has a firmer, sturdier texture. You should easily break the beef into smaller pieces using your fingers.

On the other hand, rotten hamburger meat will have a sticky texture that makes it feel like a slippery mess rather than a pound of hamburger meat.

If your beef is slimy, throw it away immediately.

Furthermore, make sure you wash your hands with hot soapy water after handling raw hamburger meat.

Wash all utensils and surfaces the raw ground beef touched with hot soapy water.

These tips will keep you and your family safe from foodborne illnesses and allow you to enjoy a delicious meal together.

Final Thoughts

Craving a juicy, delicious grilled burger is nothing to be ashamed of.

However, do not be so blinded by your craving that you forget to inspect, smell and touch the beef before cooking it.

This is the only way to know if your hamburger meat is bad.

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