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Left Raw Ground Beef Out Overnight – Is It Safe and What to Do Now?

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It happens – you take some meat out of the fridge to cook later on, just to forget that it was left on the counter overnight, and now, rightfully so, you are concerned that it is not safe to eat anymore, and you would need to throw it out.

You obviously do not want the meat to go to waste, but at the same time, you would not want to eat meat that has gone off. One such meat that this can happen to is ground beef.

If you have left raw ground beef out overnight, would it still be safe to eat?

The short and simple answer is that no, you should not eat raw ground beef that has been left out overnight, as there is a good chance that there would have been increased bacteria growth, which could lead to food poisoning.

Read on to find out more about what to do with raw ground beef that has been left out overnight, and some related questions.

What Should You Do With Raw Ground Beef That Has Been Left Out Overnight?

The best thing to do with raw ground beef that has been left out overnight would be to throw it out. Raw meat products need to be kept in the refrigerator to prevent the meat from going off before it spoils.

The raw ground beef will have a best-by or expiry date printed on the packaging, and this is the date by which the ground beef needs to be used before it spoils and loses its quality. This date, however, only refers to raw ground beef that is kept at a constant temperature in the fridge.

It does not apply to meat that has been left out overnight, as that is not an appropriate storage condition, and the meat will spoil much faster.

It really is much safer to throw out any raw ground beef that was left out overnight. It might smell okay and look fine, but there is a chance, quite a high chance, that the raw ground beef has begun to spoil, and that there is an increase in bacteria growth.

Raw ground beef that has been left out overnight should be thrown out, and this is true for pretty much any raw meat that is left out overnight.

How Long Can I Leave Raw Ground Beef Out For?

Raw meat should not be left out of the refrigerator, and it should be kept in the fridge at all times.

However, sometimes it can be easy to forget to pack away the pack of raw ground beef you have just brought home from the grocery store, and you might be nervous about using it after it was left on the counter for some time.

All meat products need to be stored in the refrigerator below 40° Fahrenheit, but if left at room temperature, they should be fine to eat within an hour.

raw ground beef on butchers paper

This means that raw meat, such as raw ground beef, should not be left out at room temperature for longer than an hour. If it has been under an hour, then it is likely that the raw ground beef will be fine to cook or place back into the fridge.

Room temperature falls between 40° and 140° Fahrenheit, and this is the danger zone for food, where there is an increased chance of food spoiling and possibly causing foodborne illnesses if consumed.

In fact, beef is a natural breeding ground for bacteria, and when it’s ground up, bacteria like E.Colli and Salmonella have more surface area to grow and multiply.

Raw Ground Beef Left Out Overnight But Smells Fine

It can feel incredibly wasteful to throw out a whole pack of raw ground beef just because it was left out overnight, especially when it smells fine and looks the same too.

The truth is that in a rare case, the raw ground beef might be fine to eat and you might not feel ill at all, but there is a much higher chance that the raw ground beef has begun to go bad when it was left out overnight, and it just isn’t worth the risk.

So, even if the raw ground beef looks and smells fine, you should rather throw it out and not try to eat it. Hopefully, this will remind you next time, and you won’t leave raw ground beef, or any meat for that matter, out on the counter overnight again.

How Long Can Raw Ground Beef Be Kept in the Fridge?

Raw ground beef is best stored in the fridge, and it can last for a few days in the fridge before it needs to be used. The best way to determine when to use raw ground beef is to check the expiry or best-by date and use it within this time.

However, fresh raw ground beef that is packaged and stored properly in the fridge, can be kept for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

If you are not going to be able to use it within this time frame, then it is best to package the raw ground beef in protective packaging and freeze it instead.

Stored properly, raw ground beef can be kept in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.

How to Store Ground Beef So It Will Last

Poor storage can lead to spoilage and an unappetizing smell in your fridge. Here are some tips and tricks on how to store ground beef so it will last longer and remain safe to eat.

  1. Buy fresh and never forget to check the expiry date: If you’re buying packaged ground beef, ensure you check the packaging date and add another day to it, then store below 40°F or 4°C for up to 72 hours.
  2. Wrap the beef properly: You should wrap the beef in airtight packaging such as plastic wrap or freezer pouches. Be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing the packaging.
  3. Store it at the right temperature: Ground beef should be stored at or below 40°F or 4°C. This helps to slow down the bacterial growth that can spoil the meat. You can keep it for 1-2 days in your fridge and up to 3-4 months in your freezer in its original packaging. After 2 weeks, transfer it to an airtight container. I warmly recommend this one from Amazon!
  4. Label your beef packages: You should write down the date you bought the meat, the date you froze it, and the expiry date using a permanent marker.
  5. Thawing the frozen ground beef: The best way to do this is to remove the frozen pack from the freezer and thaw it in the fridge. It’s also essential to ensure that you only thaw in the fridge for a maximum of one to two days before cooking.

How to Tell if Raw Ground Beef Has Gone Bad

It really helps to know the signs to look for that raw ground beef has gone bad, just to be sure that you are only ever cooking and eating raw ground beef that is safe for consumption!

bacteria on ground beef

Here are the signs to look for that raw ground beef has begun to spoil:

Expiration Date

Ground beef comes with an expiration date, which indicates the date until which the meat is safe to consume.

If you have stored your ground beef in the refrigerator, it is advisable to use it within two days of the purchase date. However, if it is frozen, the meat can last up to six months beyond its expiration date. 

Smell

One of the first signs that raw ground beef has begun to spoil is if the beef has a bad or sour odor to it. This will be quite noticeable, especially when you first open the pack.

The smell can range from sour to really bad, and any hint of an odd odor should be taken as a sign that the raw ground beef has begun to spoil, or that it has already gone bad.

Appearance

As raw ground beef starts to go bad, it turns a gray, dull color, rather than bright red. If it has been left for quite some time, then all of the ground beef can take on a brown, gray color.

This can sometimes happen to the surface of raw ground beef, and the beef below the surface is still bright red, but in this case, it is important to look for other signs of spoiling too.

Texture

Raw ground beef that is spoiling or spoiled can take on a slimy or sticky texture, and it will have lost its firm, fresh texture that it is supposed to have.

If you notice a slimy, sticky texture on the surface of the ground beef, it is best to throw it out.

Does Raw Ground Beef Spoil Quickly?

Raw ground beef is known to spoil quicker than other cuts of beef, and there is a good reason for this. When beef is ground down, or even finely chopped, to form ground beef, more surface area of the beef is exposed.

More surface area exposed to air means that there is more space and more surface area for pathogens and bacteria to grow and thrive, which in turn means that the raw ground beef will spoil sooner.

With proper storage, and with using the ground beef within a recommended time frame, you should be able to use it safely before it spoils.

Can I Keep Ground Beef Burgers Out Next to the Grill?

Before you get nervous about ever leaving raw ground beef out, remember the rule that it can be left out at room temperature for under an hour, but never more.

ground beef burger

So it is absolutely fine to leave handmade raw ground beef burgers out next to the grill while the grill preheats for 15 minutes, and the raw ground beef will still be fine to eat. Just make sure to not keep them out for longer than they need to be.

Left Raw Ground Beef Out Overnight

It might seem incredibly wasteful, but it is best to get rid of any raw ground beef that was left out overnight, as there is a high chance that the meat has begun to spoil, and this can make you quite sick, even if the beef is cooked.

Raw ground beef should not be left out at room temperature for longer than an hour, and it is best stored in the refrigerator and used within the best-by or expiry date.

Related Questions

How Long Can Raw Beef Sit in the Car?

Beef, or any meat, should never be left out for longer than 2 hours, but it is best to ensure that any meat is not left out for longer than an hour, just to be sure that it is safe to eat.

Can You Cook Bacteria Out of Meat?

It is recommended to cook meat and poultry to a high and safe internal temperature to kill off harmful germs, but once meat has begun to spoil, the bacteria cannot be cooked out of it.

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