Skip to Content

How To Tell If Ground Beef Has Gone Bad

Ground beef can be a wonderful thing to eat due to its versatility when it comes to dishes. However, how can you tell if it has gone bad?

How To Tell If Ground Beef Has Gone Bad

Eating ground beef that has gone bad can make you sick, and nobody wants that. To avoid such a situation, you will want to know how to tell when ground beef isn’t worth eating. 

Ground beef is very perishable due to being exposed to oxygen during the process of creating it. This means that it will go bad quicker than some other forms of beef.

For this reason, let’s take a look at how to tell if ground beef has gone bad (see also “Has My Ground Turkey Gone Bad?“). 

Why Should You Avoid Eating Ground That Has Gone Bad?

Eating ground beef that has gone bad is never a good idea. This is because bacteria can grow very rapidly (and easily) within ground beef, and this can lead to food poisoning for the person who consumes it.

For example, you may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps or even a fever just by eating ground beef that has gone bad.

Also, if you are very old or very young, the symptoms of food poisoning can be a lot more dangerous.

So, understanding whether ground beef is safe to eat or not is paramount for the safety of you and your family. 

What Ways Can You Tell That Ground Beef Has Gone Bad?

Here are some simple ways to tell if ground beef has gone bad:

Expiration Date

You should always check the expiration date of the ground beef before you cook with it. Both sell-by and best before dates are there to indicate the quality of the food, and whether they are safe to eat.

Ground beef is often still okay to eat at the most two days after its sell-by date if it has been refrigerated. However, any longer and you should throw it out.

If the ground beef has been frozen, then you can ignore the expiration date entirely. However, you will still need to eat it within 4 months. 


The second thing you should do is check its appearance, even if the ground beef is within its expiration date. Raw ground beef is generally a pinkish red color. The inside should be brown.

The reason the ground beef is red is due to the reaction to oxygen during the process of creating the ground meat. This is why the inside of the meat is brownish gray, as this hasn’t been exposed to oxygen.

If the outside of the ground beef is also brownish gray, then it should be discarded. This indicates that the ground beef is starting to go bad. 

You will also want to look for mold growth. If you see any, throw it away and do not eat it. This means bacteria is present within the meat. 


Raw ground beef that is still fine to eat doesn’t smell of anything, or at least it is barely noticeable if it does. If you do smell something rancid or terrible, then the ground beef has gone bad.

This means it is not safe to eat and should be thrown away immediately. The reason the smell changes is because it means that bacteria is present. This bacteria will give you food poisoning. 

This is the same for both cooked and raw ground beef. Also, even if there are no signs of the meat being spoiled, it is still unsafe to eat. 


When you touch healthy raw ground beeth, it should feel firm and be able to be broken apart when you squeeze it.

If the texture of the raw ground beef feels slimy or quite sticky, then it means it has begun to spoil. This is also the same for cooked ground beef too. 

If you find that the texture isn’t right, then you should discard it. 

How To Tell If Ground Beef Has Gone Bad

Is There A Proper Way To Store Ground Beef?

When you buy ground beef, make sure it is from the last store you go into. This is because you want to limit the amount of time the meat is out of the cold.

For this reason you will want to choose a packet of ground beef that is very cold, and that has no scratches or holes on the plastic. The reason for this is to limit the amount of oxygen and bacteria that can get to the raw ground beef. 

Once you get home, place the ground beef either into the refrigerator if you plan to eat it within the next couple of days, or put it into the freezer.

If you do choose to put it into the fridge, then place it away from other food and onto the bottom shelf. 

How Do You Thaw Raw Frozen Ground Beef?

When you thaw frozen raw ground beef, you will want to keep it as cold as possible and avoid it being at room temperature. To do this, place it on a plate or a tray and put it into the fridge.

This gives it a cool environment to thaw properly. Never thaw it at room temperature. Like most meat, you will not want it to be at room temperature for more than two hours.

If it is, you risk bacteria forming on the meat which may give you food poisoning, even if it is cooked. 

Once you have thawed the ground beef, you must eat it that day. Never let it sit in the refrigerator for days.

Also, if you plan to put cooked leftovers in the fridge, make sure that they have not sat at room temperature for more than two hours.

Also, make sure to consume leftover cooked raw ground beef within three to four days. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to raw ground beef, you will want to make sure that it is safe to eat. Like all meat, it can spoil very quickly.

However, ground beef has a very high risk of spoiling due to the process of how it is made. For this reason, you will want to ensure that it is safe to eat to avoid you or your family from suffering with food poisoning. 

So long as you take proper care when buying it from the store, making sure to store it properly, and being aware of its expiration date and what it is like when it is not safe to consume, you can avoid becoming sick due to eating raw ground beef that has gone bad.

You will also want to store leftovers in an airtight container too!

Justin Roberts