How Long Can You Freeze Ground Beef?

  • By: Brendan

I recently scored well at the grocery store and brought home a truckload (pun intended) worth of ground beef. The dilemma however is that I already have roughly 10 lbs of ground beef stashed in my freezer—a purchase I made a few weeks earlier.

So, I’m wondering how long can I freeze ground beef, and if frozen ground beef goes bad.

How Long Can You Freeze Ground Beef

From a quick read online, frozen ground beef is best used within four months, but is safe indefinitely if frozen. However, the longer the meat stays in the freezer, the more its freshness and quality will decline.

How Long Can You Freeze Ground Beef?

In terms of safety, ground beef will stay good in the freezer for a while, even after a year or more. But storing ground beef for this long will definitely take a toll on its freshness and quality.

Over a period of time, the texture, flavor, and taste of the ground beef will deteriorate, and loss of flavor and dryness will be clearly evident. So, even though your ground beef is safe to eat, doesn’t mean that it will taste good.

Best Way to Freeze Ground Beef

If you’ve picked a “buy one get one” ground beef offer at the grocery store, it’s easy to take the “as is” supermarket packaging (typically shrink-wrapped) and load in your freezer, but not so fast!

This plastic wrap is permeable, due to which air can easily seep through and ruin the quality of the ground beef.

The good news is that there are several easy and effective ways to store ground beef, starting with wrapping the store-bought package in aluminum foil, plastic wrap/bag, or freezer paper or placing it in a freezer-safe bag before freezing.

Ground Beef Frozen in plastic bag

Before doing so, however, I flatten the ground beef for two reasons—to make the ground beef defrost faster due to the increased surface area, and remove any air pockets that may lead to freezer burn, which can affect the taste of the meat.

I also take this a step further by portioning out the ground beef into separate bags and then flattening them out before putting them into the freezer.

Since most recipes call for ground beef in pounds, I use a kitchen scale to divide out the raw ground beef. And lastly, don’t forget to label each bag with the date and the amount of ground beef inside.

When it’s time to thaw the ground beef, follow the first-in, first-out rule, so take out the package that was placed in the freezer first.

Can Frozen Ground Beef Go Bad?

As mentioned earlier, ground beef will never go bad per se when stored properly in the freezer, but it’s highly recommended that you use the meat within four months after freezing.

Frozen ground beef stored in the freezer at 0°F or lower will always be safe to eat because this temperature prevents the growth of bacteria and mold.

How Can You Tell if Frozen Ground Beef is Bad?

There are several tell-tale signs that indicate that your ground beef is bad.

1. Check the color

One of the easiest ways of telling if ground beef is bad is by simply looking at it and checking its color.

The color of round beef can change due to many factors including light, temperature, microbial growth, and exposure to oxygen.

Fresh ground beef should be red in color on the outside, and greyish brown on the inside. If your ground beef has turned brown or grey on the outside, then it’s beginning to rot so throw it out immediately.

2. Inspect the texture

Conducting a touch test is another way to tell if frozen ground beef is bad. Good ground beef should have a relatively firm consistency, whereas bad ground beef will have a sticky or slimy texture due to the presence of spoilage bacteria.

3. Perform a smell test

Yet another easy and quick way of telling if your ground beef is bad is by smelling it. If your meat is rancid, it will emit a tangy, putrid odor, after which it isn’t safe to eat.

How to Defrost Ground Beef?

Just like freezing ground beef, it’s highly important to know how to defrost ground beef properly.

The best way to defrost ground beef is in the fridge, that is if you have 24 hours before cooking. Defrosting ground beef in the fridge allows the meat to evenly thaw out, plus the fridge keeps the beef under 40°F, which is the safe zone to prevent bacteria growth.

When defrosting ground beef in the fridge, place the meat in a bowl or Ziploc bag, and place it on the bottom shelf.

If you want to thaw out ground beef quickly, get your package of ground beef, remove as much air as possible, place it in a large bowl and cover it with water.

While I don’t recommend this method, you can defrost ground beef in the microwave in just a few minutes.

Most microwaves have a defrost setting, so switch to it and microwave the meat. Make sure you flip the meat after every 20 – 30 seconds until the beef is defrosted.

Never defrost ground beef by leaving it out on the counter, because it will be in the danger zone for bacteria growth— 40°F-140°F.

Frozen ground beef that’s defrosted in the fridge is good for up to two days, but beef that’s defrosted in water or in your microwave should be cooked right away.

Can You Eat Ground Beef That’s Been Frozen for Two Years?

Yes, you can eat ground beef that’s been frozen for two years, but I would check it thoroughly first.

After two years, the taste of the ground beef will probably not be the same as fresh ground beef, so it probably won’t be worth cooking.

If you eat bad ground beef, you are at risk of foodborne illnesses, which display symptoms such as fever, vomiting, and/or stomach cramps.

Why Does Meat Turn Grey in the Freezer?

The exterior of ground beef is red, but the interior can turn grey in color due to the lack of access to oxygen.

However, this meat is perfectly safe to eat but is still worth checking to see if the meat has gone bad. If your beef is white or blue, it could indicate the onset of mold.

Is it Okay if Frozen Ground Beef is Brown?

Frozen ground beef that’s brown doesn’t indicate spoilage but is usually caused by the lack of exposure to oxygen.

However, if the frozen ground beef has turned brown or grey on the outside, it is beginning to rot, and you should dispose of it right away.

Final Thoughts

Frozen ground beef stays good in the freezer for a long time, but it’s always a good idea to check the meat before cooking.

It does tend to lose its quality and freshness after a long period of time, so it’s best to cook frozen ground beef within four months after purchase.

When storing ground beef, be sure to use air-tight bags over and above the store packaging, and never defrost ground beef over the counter.

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