Home Articles How to Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad (4 Telltale Signs)

How to Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad (4 Telltale Signs)

There are four key ways to tell if ground beef is bad. All you need to do is use your senses!

Pay attention to the color, texture, smell, and overall appearance of the ground beef. Be sure to check for any visible signs of mold or unusual discoloration.

Ground Beef on a Parchment Paper

Ground beef is more prone to bacteria growth than many other types of meat. When in doubt, it’s safer to discard questionable meat to avoid potential foodborne illness.

This easy guide will show you how to spot all the telltale signs of spoilage.

frozen ground beef patties

How To Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad 

It’s so important to recognize signs showing meat has gone bad. This will save you time and money. It can also help you potentially avoid getting sick.

Here are four key things to pay attention to:

1. Check the Color

The color of fresh ground beef should be a bright, cherry-red color. If the meat has turned gray or brown, it’s past its prime. This is because oxygen in the air reacts with the meat, causing a color change. 

If you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it.

2. Notice the Texture

Fresh ground beef should have a slightly firm texture. If it feels slimy or sticky, or if the texture seems off, it could be a sign of bacterial growth. 

This is another sign the beef is spoiled and should be thrown away.

3. Smell It

The smell of fresh ground beef should be mild, with no off-putting odors. It has a distinctive scent. It’s slightly sweet with a hint of iron.

If it smells sour, rotten, or pungent, it’s a clear sign it has gone bad. Don’t risk getting sick. Discard it immediately.

4. Check the Expiration Date

Always check the expiration date on the package. Ground beef typically has a shelf life of 1-3 days in the refrigerator and 3-4 months in the freezer. Leftover ground beef can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

If the beef is past its expiration date, it’s best to throw it out.

Stewed Ground Beef on a Pan

What Happens When You Eat Bad Ground Beef 

Eating bad ground beef can lead to foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria. These bacteria can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and vomiting. 

The symptoms can appear within a few hours or up to a few days after eating the spoiled meat.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria commonly found in raw or undercooked beef. It can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. 

E. coli is another type of bacteria and causes similar symptoms. It can be life-threatening. This is especially true for young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Listeria is a type of bacteria found in deli meats and processed meats, including ground beef. It can cause fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal issues.  Sometimes, listeria can lead to severe illness or even death.

It’s essential to ensure ground beef is fresh and stored properly. This will help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and to avoid foodborne illnesses.

Chef Making Ground Beef Patties

How to Safely Handle Ground Beef

Ground beef is a versatile ingredient. It’s used in many delicious dishes. But it’s important to handle it properly. Here are some tips on how to safely handle ground beef:

  1. Purchase ground beef that’s cold to the touch and vacuum-sealed or tightly wrapped.
  2. Store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator for no more than 2 days.
  3. Use it within 1-3 days of purchase or freeze it in air-tight packaging for up to 4 months.
  4. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat.
  5. Use a separate cutting board and utensils for meat and ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination.
  6. Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). Use a food thermometer to ensure harmful bacteria have been destroyed.
  7. Refrigerate food leftovers promptly and consume them within 3-4 days.
  8. Never leave it out at room temperature for more than 2 hours to avoid bacteria growth.
  9. Be sure the ground beef packaging is tightly sealed. There should be no damage or punctures. These allow air and bacteria to enter.
  10. Choose ground beef from a trusted source. It’s best to go to a butcher or grocery store known for its quality meat.
  11. When you’re ready to use the frozen ground beef, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Don’t thaw it on the countertop, as this can lead to bacteria growth.
How to Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad

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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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