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.