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How To Tell if Ground Beef Is Bad 

How To Tell if Ground Beef Is Bad 

Ground beef is a popular food. It is used to make delicious foods such as lasagna, meat pies, tacos, meatballs, sausages, and burgers.

However, how do we know when it’s gone bad.

No one wants to ingest bad beef, but sometimes distinguishing the difference between fresh or spoiled ground beef can be challenging.

Bacteria in Ground Beef

Bacteria can cause the ground beef to spoil, or it can taint the food. Grinding beef into ground meat allows it to come into contact with oxygen.

This means that bacteria that accelerate the rate of spoilage can be present in beef.

Therefore, it will spoil faster than large cuts of beef such as brisket. Though spoiling bacteria will ruin the ground beef, they are not toxic to human health.

They do affect the aroma and flavor of the meat.

In contrast, bacteria that causers contamination is an unseen threat. These pathogens may lead to foodborne illnesses such as E. coli or salmonella. 

Pathogens are extremely different because they cannot visibly be detected. A meatloaf or a burger can look and smell like it is fresh. However, it could be tainted with harmful bacteria.

Spoilage also increases the likelihood that pathogens will be present in the ground beef.

Consequently, you should always toss slimy ground beef or has an off-putting odor as it will not taste great.

What Happens If Eat Spoiled Ground Beef 

As mentioned above, consuming ground beef is unsafe to consume because it could contain microbes which are likely to result in food poisoning.

As a result, you may experience diarrhea, including blood, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

How To Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad 

Unlike steaks, ground beef spoils much faster. Because the grinding process exposes the meat to oxygen, it exposes the meat to bacteria.

Oxygen is one of the major players that keeps some species of bacteria thriving.

Grinding the meat stimulates the formation of tiny pockets of air all over the meat. These pockets are a seedbed for bacteria. For this reason, it is crucial to know when your ground beef is bad.


The color of ground beef may vary for several different reasons. Factors such as oxygen, light, temperature, and microbial growth may all influence the color of beef.

Fresh raw ground beef is usually red due to its healthy levels of oxymyoglobin.

This pigment is the result of the protein myoglobin interacting with oxygen.

Nonetheless, always discard ground beef that is brown or gray in color on the exterior. This is a clear indicator that the ground beef is beginning to spoil.

Furthermore, cooked ground beef can also spoil even if it is stored properly.

Ground beef that has fuzzy hair-like grey, blue, or green patches is no longer safe to eat.


Another way to tell whether your beef is fresh or spoiled is by touching it.

Your hands really are the best kitchen tools as you can describe different sensations by touching something with your hands.

Fresh ground beef has a moderately solid texture that separates into pieces when it’s squeezed.

On the other hand, both cooked and raw ground beef that is sticky or slimy has most likely spoiled and needs to be thrown in the trash.

Though some people are squeamish about touching raw meat with their hands because it contains bacteria, however, you can easily prevent bacteria from spreading from one surface to the next by washing your hands with soap and warm water.


Smelling food is one of the simplest and quickest methods to determine whether ground beef has spoiled. In addition to this, the smell test also applies to cooked and raw foods.

Fresh raw ground beef doesn’t really have a distinguishable smell. In contrast, spoiled ground beef has a sharp, rotten, tangy smell.

Once ground beef fails to pass the smell test, it is no longer safe for consumption.

Spoiled ground beef’s putrid aroma is likely due to the presence of Lactobacillus spp. and Pseudomonas spp.

Not only do both bacteria affect the smell of ground beef, but they also affect the taste.

Furthermore, if you notice the absence of an offputting odor, but can visibly see changes in the color or texture that indicate spoilage, throw the ground beef in the trash.

Expiration Date

Like the smell test, the expiration or sell-by date is also a clear indicator of whether ground beef is fresh or not.

These dates give you a clear time frame of what date to use your ground beef by.

If your ground beef has a sell-by date, tells the distributor how long they can sell or have a product on display.

Ground beef may be refrigerated and consumed for up to 2 days past the sell-by date.

On the other hand, the expiration date, which may be labeled as the best before date, gives you an estimated date as to when the food is most likely to begin spoiling.

In general, ground beef will retain the best flavor and quality before this date elapses.

More importantly, never consume expired ground beef. If it is frozen, it can be consumed since ground beef remains good for 4 months in the freezer.

In addition to this, always examine the product label before you purchase ground beef.

Does Ground Beef’s Color Indicate Freshness?

Color is not always an indicator of ground beef’s freshness. Sometimes ground beef’s interior may appear to be a greyish brown color.

However, this is because it has not been exposed to air, but this does not mean the meat has spoiled.

Vacuum-sealed ground beef that has not been exposed to the air will have a purplish burgundy color.

However, if you open the package and allow it to sit for 15 minutes, the meat will transform into a vividly bright, cherry red color.

In contrast, if been sits in the refrigerator for five days, it may be brown in appearance because of oxidation. Though it may be alarming, a brown color is common with beef stored in the refrigerator.

Bottom Line
If you have stored your ground beef for an extended amount of time and it turns brown, has a rancid odor, or is slimy, it should not be consumed. 

How To Keep Ground Beef Fresh?

Being proactive is the only way to keep your ground beef fresh. However, you must start as soon as you walk in the door.

Store your ground beef immediately in the freezer if you do intend to cook it right away.

Ground beef will last about 1-2 days in the refrigerator. Additionally, you can also cook it and freeze it.

In addition to this, if you intend to use your ground beef for burgers, plan in advance. You can season ground beef with your favorite herbs or spices and portion it into individual patties.

Place the burger patties into a freezer-safe resealable bag with parchment paper separating each burger and freeze them.

Now you will have burgers on hand whenever you need them.

Whether you make burgers or freeze your ground beef as it is, that your ground beef in the refrigerator overnight.

You can also place the ground beef into an airtight damage-free plastic bag and submerge it in cold water.

Tips for Preventing Foodborne Illness

Handling and storing ground beef properly are vital to preventing foodborne illness. First, always shop for ground beef last.

This will decrease the time that your ground beef remains unrefrigerated. Additionally, from the grocery store, head directly to your home.

Furthermore, always select a package of ground beef that is cold to the touch and free of tears or scratches.

Pay attention to the color and expiration date. If it has an offputting smell or color, do not purchase it.

Always separate raw meat from other items in your cart to prevent cross-contamination. Freeze or refrigerate within 2 hours after you purchase it.

Place the ground beef on a shelf by itself to avoid cross-contamination.

Do not leave ground beef sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours, and always refrigerate leftovers within two hours.

Consume cooked ground beef within three to four days and reheat it to 165 degrees before consuming it. 

Hot Tip
Wash your hands with hot soapy water thoroughly after touching ground beef. And clean and sanitize all kitchen surfaces and utensils.

Final Thoughts

Ground beef is a perishable product. The odor, color, texture, and expiration date can be used to tell whether your ground beef is good or bad.

Even though bacteria that cause ground beef are generally harmless, other microbes may cause diseases such as food poisoning.

These germs are also responsible for determining when it goes bad.

All in all, know that you know how to tell if your ground beef is good or bad; you’ve decreased your risk of developing a foodborne illness.

Now you can make all the burgers, lasagnas, meatloaves, and meat pies your heart desires!

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