Raw Ground Beef: Edibility, Shelf Life In The Fridge & Freezer And Spoilage

Raw ground beef is making the rounds in the food world. While it sounds gross to some, another set of people say ground beef tastes better when it’s uncooked.

 In the United States, raw beef dishes are considered unsafe, and you should avoid them. But these dishes are “a thing” in some regions in Africa, Southeast Asia, and mainland Europe.

People who eat them believe that all raw beef needs is good seasoning, and it is as good as any beef meal. That’s on one hand. On the other hand, raw ground beef is very versatile. It is added to veggie wraps, stuffed into peppers, used to make sauces hearty, etc.

Let’s take a look at raw ground beef – its edibility, shelf life, storage methods, and what you can do with it.

What is raw ground beef?

Ground or minced beef is beef that has been chopped with a meat grinder, mincing machine, or manually with a knife. This paste-like or string-like beef is boneless or beef off-cuts that have been processed at high speeds.

Ground beef is used to make hamburgers, meatloaf, Bolognese sauce, and meatballs. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the food safety regulatory body under the USDA says ground beef must be made with fresh or frozen meat and must contain no more than 30% fat.

All ground beef sold in stores must pass through this inspection before they get to the public. So, if you prefer meat with low-fat content, you can eat minced beef.

Can you eat raw ground beef?

In the United States, eating raw ground beef is considered unsafe.

The USDA strongly advised against eating raw or undercooked beef because they usually contain harmful bacteria. All raw forms of beef must undergo thorough cooking to destroy all bacteria present.

E. coli is a group of bacteria that is naturally present in the intestines of cattle and humans. Although these bacteria are harmless, there could be cases of E. coli poisoning if you consume contaminated meat.

Symptoms manifest as abdominal pain and watery diarrhea but recovery is quick within 7 to days if medical attention is sought early enough.

However, in other regions like mainland Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and among the Inuit, the people appreciate and eat raw ground beef.

One of the most common dishes is steak tartare or tartar steak. This is a French meal made with raw ground beef and seasoned with pepper, onions, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and some spices.

How long does raw ground beef last if left out?

Raw ground beef should not be left out for more than two hours at room temperature. Do not leave it out for more than one hour if the temperature is higher than 90°F (32.2°F). Beef left out longer than this duration is most likely contaminated.

Food safety regulatory bodies warn against keeping raw beef out for too long because no amount of cooking can kill the toxins produced by the pathogens. These toxins have high resistance to heat and can still cause poisoning.

How long does raw ground beef last in the fridge?

Raw beef should not be kept for more than 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. Thereafter, there is a high risk of contamination.

However, if you find high-quality ground beef, you can keep it longer than two days because these varieties usually have a longer shelf life.

Also, leave unopened beef in its original packaging and keep it at the back of the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.

How long does raw ground beef last in the freezer?

Raw ground beef can last three to four months in the freezer. The freezer is the best place to keep beef products long-term without compromising their quality.

However, you shouldn’t keep raw beef frozen for too long. Doing so will comprise its texture and flavor but it will remain edible.

The best way to store ground beef in the freezer is in the original packaging it came in. Double-proof by wrapping it in a heavy-duty freezer paper or bag. Ensure that you keep out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.

However, if you have taken the beef out of the packaging, you can also keep the meat in an airtight plastic wrap or heavy-duty freezer bag. Do not keep beef in a plastic container because the extra space that is filled with air can cause freezer burns.

When you are ready to use frozen ground beef, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator or place the bag of frozen beef in a bowl of water and leave it on the counter for a few hours.

How do you know raw ground beef has gone bad?

What is the color like?

The appearance of the meat will tell a lot about its condition. Fresh ground beef should be a vibrant red on the outside. The red color of meat is a result of the reaction between air and oxymyoglobin, the pigment present in meat.

But when it turns gray or has tinted white or blue mold patches or fuzzy growth, it has gone off and you should trash it.

Have you smelled it?

Fresh raw beef should have a fresh smell. The activity of bacteria on the meat will cause it to have an unpleasant smell. Take a whiff of the beef. If you get a foul or sour smell, discard it.

What does it feel like?

Fresh ground beef should be firm but soft enough to squeeze. Also, when you squeeze raw beef, it should break apart. If it feels slimy and sticky and does not break apart, the beef must have gone bad.

The presence of bacterial growth makes raw beef too firm and alters its consistency and texture. Do not try to salvage it by washing or boiling it. Trash the meat to avoid salmonella or E. coli poisoning.

What to do with ground beef

  • Add it to mac and cheese or any casserole
  • Make quesadillas
  • Add ground beef to shepherd’s pie filling
  • Make a hearty rice or noodles bowl with ground beef
  • Make tacos
  • Fill lettuce wraps with ground beef
  • Experiment with sloppy Joe
  • Stuff red bell peppers with ground beef
  • A spicy bowl of chili for cold nights
  • Try making beef stroganoff
  • Roll up some meatballs with ground beef
  • Beef burrito bowls


What is the best way to cook ground beef?

You can grill, bake, or pan-fry ground beef. How you cook ground beef depends on your recipe and personal preference. Cooking the beef properly until it is well cooked and safe to eat is most important.   

What are the different fat percentages in raw ground beef?

According to fat percentages, raw ground beef can be extra lean, lean, medium, or regular.

Extra lean ground beef is 90% lean beef with a maximum of 10% fat. Lean ground beef is 83% lean with a maximum of 13% fat. Medium is 77% lean with 23% fat and regular ground beef is 70% beef with 30% maximum fat content.

Are there any other meats you can eat raw?

Some Japanese and European recipes use raw chicken, goat, and horse meat as part of their recipe.

Humans are omnivores. Our digestive system has juices that can break down raw or cooked meat. However, eating raw meat is not advisable because of harmful pathogens.


If you find yourself in regions of the world where eating raw beef is a thing, do not be so surprised anymore.

Eating raw beef or any kind of meat is considered unhealthy and unsafe by the USDA. It would be better if you stayed off raw meat to avoid any risk of contamination.

Also, do not keep your raw beef out for too long. If you refrigerated or kept your raw beef frozen, ensure to check it for signs of spoilage before you cook with it.

There’s more on beef spoilage and preservation. Find out the causes of beef jerky mold and how you can prevent it.

Thanks for reading.