Do you know how to tell if ground beef is bad? In today’s in-depth article, we’ll take a look at every single sign of spoiled ground meat and hamburger meat. This will help prevent some serious food poisoning, and just general food and money wastage.
For more educational food content, go have a look at my page. There I share with you my best tips and tricks on storage, preparation, and cooking. Take a look at this article on How Long To Cook Meatloaf At 375.
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What Exactly Is Ground Beef?
Ground beef is also commonly labeled as “minced beef” or “beef mince.” But there is actually a difference between the two. Ground beef has a coarser texture than minced beef. Even though both are basically the same, they are still different in a small way.
Nevertheless, both are exactly the same when it comes to proper storage and handling techniques. And, of course, when it comes to how to tell if ground beef went bad, their signs are also the same.
Now, what is ground beef? It’s exactly what it sounds like. This is an ingredient made up of chopped pieces of raw beef that have been worked into a finer texture. You can chop it with a knife as well. But usually, you would use a meat grinder.
Ground beef is unflavored and unprocessed. It should technically just be raw meat. A combination of meat and fat is often used. The ground fat content helps give the ground meat more flavor, richness, and a creamier texture.
There are exceptions to the “only meat” rule. Often manufacturers make pre-seasoned ground beef and sell them as hamburger meat or meatball meat. This mixture is usually labeled as “mincemeat.” It does include ingredients like spices, herbs, chopped fruits, and flavoring spirits or vinegar.
How To Tell if Ground Beef Is Bad
Now, again, regardless of what ground beef product you have, the signs of bad ground beef are pretty much the same for all of them.
Just keep in mind, if even one of these signs shows, you should think twice about using the meat. Even if you want to use it immediately. Meat is an extremely dangerous ingredient to take a risk with.
I know. It’s expensive, and you don’t want to just toss an entire packet away. But it is not worth the risk. Rotten ground beef can actually kill you.
1. What Does Bad Ground Beef Look Like?
The first thing that will happen when ground beef starts spoiling is a color change. If the outside turned greyish-brown, it means that the myoglobin proteins reacted with oxygen. If the inside turned greyish-brown, it means that the proteins lack oxygen.
While discoloration isn’t a definite sign that the meat has gone bad because of harmful bacteria, it doesn’t show that the meat is fresh.
This discoloration can also be caused by the meat being exposed to oxygen, heat, and light. But, if you don’t know what caused it, then rather don’t chance it.
2. Textural Changes
Another big visual indication of how to tell if ground beef is bad is the texture. Fresh ground beef should be firm and crumble apart when you squeeze it.
If the meat is slimy, sticky, or gooey, it isn’t good anymore. While you won’t be able to see them with your naked eye, you are touching bacteria.
3. Signs Of Mold
Mold doesn’t easily grow on old ground beef. It really has to be left for a long time before visible mold shows.
But of course, if you see any mold, rather throw it out than take that risk. The mold that grows on meat will NEVER be “good” or “safe” mold as some people want to believe.
4. What Does Bad Ground Beef Smell Like?
This is possibly the worst smell you can ever experience. When you smell raw fresh ground meat, it has a meaty smell, but it’s not strong. It’s like fresh fish – it shouldn’t smell like fish.
If raw meat has gone bad, it has an extremely offensive rancid, putrid, tangy odor.
If you pick up a slight whiff of this smell, you cannot use the meat. No exceptions!
This scent is caused by two dangerous bacteria: Lactobacillus spp. and Pseudomonas spp.
5. Expiration Date
One thing too many people ignore is the printed expiration date on the packaging. It’s there for a reason. And trust me, no manufacturer WANTS their products to have a short shelf life. It means they also have to toss (lose money) expired stock that doesn’t sell out quickly.
The expiration date is usually very accurate. But only if you store the ground beef under the ideal storing conditions.
How To Correctly Store Raw Ground Beef
Always keep the raw ground beef in its original packaging if possible. It’s designed with an absorption pad that gets rid of any excess meat juices.
Then, the plastic container and wrapping help keep the meat from drying out or quick bacterial growth.
Always store ground meat inside the fridge in the coolest area. The refrigerator should never run above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And finally, if you can, use the raw meat within 3 days (depending on the expiry date).
How To Store Cooked Ground Beef
If you have cooked the ground beef, you can simply store leftovers inside an airtight container. Do not store the cooked meat on pieces of kitchen towel that will “absorb the juices.”
You want the meat to remain juicy. Otherwise, if the paper towels absorb the juices, you will only be left with super dry ground beef. It’s not appealing, and you will have to add extra ingredients (and effort) to fix it.
Cooked ground meat should be used within 2 days.
And lastly, don’t store the cooked meat close to raw produce, meat, or dairy products. This puts everything at a high risk of cross-contamination.