10 Tips for Storing and Handling Ground Beef
Do any of us really have set rules for handling the ground meat
we buy? We should since ground beef and other ground meats are
more perishable than other meats that we bring home. Here are
a few tips to help you safely handle ground meats to keep harmful
bacteria at bay.
1. Buy ground beef in packages that are tightly wrapped.
Packaging for ground meats should be tightly wrapped and should
be cold to the touch. If possible place your ground meat on
ice for the trip home, and refrigerate your ground meats as soon as
you get home.
2. Store ground meats below 40 degrees F.
Ground meats should always be kept below 40 degrees since
bacteria multiply quickly between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.
3. Cook or freeze ground beef within 1 to 2 days.
If you know you're not going to use the meat within 2 days,
freeze it immediately upon arrival at home.
4. Frozen ground meat can be kept for up to 4 months if
If the meat is cooked first then frozen, it may be kept for up to
The meat is actually good indefinitely but the flavor of the meat
declines dramatically after 3 to 4 months of being frozen.
Make sure any frozen meat you won't be using within a few weeks is
wrapped well in a freezer bag or freezer wrap to protect the quality
and taste of the beef.
5. Wash your hands with warm soapy water when handling raw
You should wash your hands both before and after handling of raw
ground meats. If you have touched raw meat, wash your hands
before touching any utensils or anything else in order to avoid
possible bacterial contamination.
6. Use a plastic cutting board for raw meats.
If you need to handle the ground beef on a cutting board, use a
plastic one. Plastic is easier to clean and disinfect than
wooden cutting boards.
7. Wash all utensils and surfaces that have come in contact with
your raw ground beef with warm soapy water.
Do not use utensils on your raw ground beef then use them on your
cooked meat without first washing the utensils. Your raw meat
could become contaminated with bacteria from the raw meat.
8. Thaw frozen ground meat in the refrigerator.
If you try to thaw your meat at room temperature, you risk
letting harmful bacteria grow in the meat.
ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
An internal temperature of 160 degrees will insure that you have
killed any bacteria that may have been present in your ground meat.
All ground meat looks different when it's cooked, so it's not enough
to rely on color to tell you when the meat is done. A meat
thermometer is your best choice for that job.
separate platters for raw meat and cooked meat.
Don't place cooked meat on the same platters or serving dishes
that you had raw meat on. This is especially important when
grilling hamburgers. Always make sure you have a clean serving
dish for your cooked ground beef.
By following the above tips, you can greatly reduce your chances
of contracting a foodborne illness from your ground meat. Just
remember to keep it cold, cook it in a reasonable time frame from
date of purchase, and cook it to a 160 degree internal temperature.
Keep everything clean, and don't use the same utensils and dishes
for raw and cooked meats. For more detailed information on
storing and handling ground beef, you can visit the
USDA websites. They are full of information to help keep
you food safe from your grocery store to your table.