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Know how to handle and store ground beef to maximize food safety.

Handling and storing ground beef safely

Cooking with delicious, nutritious ground beef is easy — but knowing how to use it safely is key. Check out these great tips to help you select, handle and store your ground beef.

When shopping, always:

  • Check that the "Use or Freeze By" date has not passed to ensure it's safe to eat.
  • Make sure the package you choose feels cold to the touch, and is free of rips or tears.
  • Make sure frozen ground beef is frozen solid before purchasing.
  • Bring a cooler or insulated bag to transport ground beef during hot weather if it will take more than 30 minutes to get home.

When you get home, always:

  • Refrigerate or freeze ground beef as soon as possible.
  • Store ground beef in the coldest section of your refrigerator if you are not freezing it for later use.
  • Use the meat before the expiration date, and within 3 days of refrigeration. If you can't remember when ground beef was stored, throw it out.
  • If storing in the freezer for longer than two weeks, wrap the ground beef package in heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper or plastic freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Unopened chub packaging can be stored for up to 6 months without additional wrap.
  • Note the date of storage and weight of ground beef before storing.
  • Keep ground beef frozen until you're ready to use it, and be sure to wash your hands before and after handling it.
  • Follow the "first in, first out" rule and use the beef with the earliest expiration date first.

When defrosting, always:

  • Place the package on a tray or in a container to catch any drippings.
  • Place ground beef in the refrigerator the day before it's needed, allowing 24 hours thawing time for a one-pound package, and 12 hours for patties.
  • Use the microwave to thaw ground beef quickly or submerge the sealed, airtight package in cool water. Do not thaw at room temperature on the countertop.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat from touching other foods, ingredients and perishable items.
  • Wash countertops, cutting boards and utensils with hot, soapy water after raw meat preparation.
  • Once beef is thawed, cook immediately.
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