Ground Beef Turning Brown – Can You Still Eat It?

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The hue of fresh ground beef is often pinkish or reddish. So when we come face to face with ground beef that has shades of brown in it, it’s natural to wonder whether it’s still safe to consume. Browning ground beef can’t be good, can it?

Read on to find out.

Is Ground Beef Turning Brown Safe to Eat?

Ground Beef Turning Brown – Can You Still Eat It?

Ground beef that is getting brown is going through the oxidation process. When exposed to air for an extended period of time, the pigments in flesh degrade and turn from vivid red to brown. This color change is typical and does not always signal that the beef is rotten; nonetheless, it is advisable to inspect the flesh for any strange growths, off-odors, or textures to ensure that it is still safe to eat.

Why Is My Ground Beef Turning Brown?

Ground Beef Turning Brown – Can You Still Eat It?

The color of your ground beef, and meat in general, is determined by the activity of myoglobin, a highly coloured, iron-containing protein.

Myoglobin is crucial for delivering oxygen to the muscles as well as giving the meat its typical red color. It functions similarly to hemoglobin in human blood cells. The interaction of myoglobin in the meat with the presence or absence of oxygen dictates the color of your meat.

It usually has little to do with the rotting process, yet when meat has been kept for too long, this color change may occur with other indicators of meat decomposition such as a slimy texture, bad stench, and unusual growths.

Myoglobin may appear in three distinct hues depending on how your ground beef was packed and how much air it was exposed to.

1. Purple-Red

When there is no oxygen available, myoglobin in flesh becomes a dark purple-red hue. Deoxymyoglobin is the name given to myoglobin in this form. This tint is common in freshly cut meat and meat that has been vacuum-packed.

2. Bright Red

When exposed to oxygen, usually within a few minutes after slicing or chopping the flesh or exposing it to air, the iron in the myoglobin bonds with it and turns it into a vibrant shade of cherry red, a process known as blooming.

In this form, myoglobin is known as oxymyoglobin. This hue is often associated with fresh meat and is what most people seek for when purchasing meat.

3. Tan or Brown

When there is little air in the packaging, such as when meat is piled on top of each other, the meat might become brown.

Also, as the iron in myoglobin loses its capacity to bond with oxygen molecules (as it does later in the meat’s lifecycle), the meat’s color will become tan or brown.

Metmyoglobin is the name given to myoglobin in this form. At this point, the meat has most certainly oxidized, which indicates that it has been exposed to oxygen for an extended period of time and may no longer be as fresh.

Ground beef that is getting brown was most likely packed with minimal oxygen or oxidized and exposed to air for an extended period of time. It does not necessarily imply that it is terrible, but it may indicate that the ground beef has been in storage for an extended period of time and hence is not as fresh.

Is Ground Beef that is Turning Brown Safe to Eat?

While the color of the meat is significant in assessing freshness, browning ground beef does not always indicate that it is poor.

Ground beef that has gone bad has a terrible, unpleasant odor and a covered, slimy texture. It may also have peculiar growths on the ground beef that are symptomatic of germs and diseases, as well as color changes from brown to gray to green to other bizarre hues.

If your ground beef is getting brown but has no other strange look, smells good, and feels good, it is safe to consume.

Your ground beef is most likely going through the natural oxidation process.However, it is best to utilize it immediately away and not leave it in storage for too long since oxidation indicates that the process of deteriorating is not far away.

How Long Does Ground Beef Last?

Ground beef may be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days, whereas complete pieces of beef, such as steak, can be kept for a few days longer.

Ground beef often has a lower shelf life than entire chunks of meat. Because there is greater surface area for germs and pathogens to flourish in ground beef, the process of food deterioration occurs quicker.

If you store your ground beef in the freezer, it will last longer. The USDA states that ground beef may be stored in the freezer forever, however it is best used within 4 months for the optimum quality.

Make sure to carefully wrap your ground beef and keep it apart from other items in the fridge and freezer to avoid cross-contamination.

Wrapping it in plastic wrap, foil, or keeping it in airtight containers and freezer bags can prevent freezer burn and let it to preserve its flavor and texture for a longer amount of time.

How Do I Know That My Ground Beef Has Gone Bad?

There will be evident symptoms if your package of ground beef is already bad and hazardous to consume. So, how do you know when it’s time to toss that ground beef package?

1. Appearance

Ground beef that has gone bad may have odd growths on the surface, such as mold, and may develop a different color, such as gray or dull brown. If your ground beef does not contain mold and has just gone brown, it may not be ruined.

Brown ground beef does not always signify deterioration, but it does signal that the ground beef is not as fresh as it should be and may be nearing the end of its shelf life. Proceed with care at this time and look for additional symptoms of deterioration.

2. Odor

Ground beef that is inappropriate for ingestion will have a horrible odor, similar to that of ammonia or sulfur, often known as rotten eggs. Fresh ground beef has no odor other than flesh.

If it has acquired a strong, peculiar odor, it has gone rotten and should not be consumed.

3. Consistency and Texture

Fresh ground beef will have a firm texture and will readily break apart when squeezed. Ground beef that has gone bad is sticky and slippery, with a slimy texture.

It may seem to be covered with something greasy and sticky. If your ground beef has this texture, it’s time to throw it away.

4. Storage and Handling

Ground beef may only be kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. After then, it may no longer be safe to consume since germs and bacteria may have grown in the flesh, even though there are no apparent indicators.

If you know your ground beef has been lying in your fridge for more than two days, you should avoid eating it.

Also, if your ground beef package has been kept at room temperature for more than two hours, it may be unsafe to ingest.

This is because it was left out in the food hazard zone beyond the safe time. Bacteria flourishes and multiplies fast in these hazardous conditions, frequently tenfold.

It’s better to throw it away than risk becoming ill.

5. Expiration Dates

Some foods may be eaten a few days beyond their expiry date without causing damage, but I would not recommend doing so with animal items.

The danger of acquiring a potentially deadly food-borne infection is just too great. If your package of ground beef has beyond its expiry date, it is advisable to discard it.

If you are unclear if your ground beef is fresh, it is advisable to dump it rather than ingest it. Tossing meat may seem wasteful, particularly if there are no visual evidence that your ground beef is beyond its prime.

It is, however, the most wise thing to do, particularly since bacteria and pathogens are not easily apparent, and the poisons they release that are unseen to humans cannot be eliminated by cooking.

Your health is considerably more valuable than a box of ground beef.

What Happens When I Eat Ground Beef That Is Bad?

If you consume spoiled ground beef, you are likely to get a food-borne disease, often known as food poisoning.

Some symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Upset Stomach

Many instances resolve within a few hours to a few days, while others may last for weeks or months, necessitating hospitalization and, in severe circumstances, becoming life-threatening.

Depending on the sort of toxin consumed, it might potentially have long-term consequences such as arthritis and renal problems. It just isn’t worth the risk.

Why Did My Ground Beef Turn Brown When I Cooked It?

Ground beef that has become brown during cooking may be attributable to two factors: myoglobin breakdown and the Maillard reaction.

1. Breakdown of Myoglobin

When meat is heated, myoglobin responds to the temperature change as well. When internal temperatures rise beyond 140 degrees Fahrenheit, myoglobin denatures and breaks down, rendering the flesh brownish and tan in hue. The chemical that causes this transformation is known as hemichrome.

Myoglobin stays unaffected below 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why rare beef is pinkish to reddish in hue. As the temperature rises, the concentration of hemichrome rises, and at temperatures of 170 F or above, myoglobin starts to convert to metmyoglobin, which, as noted before, browns the meat.

This is why your ground beef develops a deeper shade of brown while it cooks. Because there is greater surface area for heat penetration in ground beef, this occurs quicker.

2. Maillard Reaction

Simply put, the Maillard process occurs when proteins, carbohydrates (sugars), and heat mix. Food becomes brown as a result of this interaction.

It is often sought because, in addition to providing an enticing visual, it also induces the creation of particular taste compounds that heighten the flavor of the meal.

frying meat, toasting marshmallows, frying French fries, and grilling vegetables all cause the Maillard reaction.

Your browning ground beef is also undergoing the Maillard reaction, as well as the breakdown of myoglobin, when you cook it over heat.

How Does Ground Beef Retain Its Fresh, Reddish Color?

Certain ingredients are sometimes added to meat to help it keep its fresh color. Because most customers base their purchasing decisions on the color of the meat, the color of the meat is important.

When myoglobin is exposed to oxygen, it transforms into oxymyoglobin, which gives meat its vivid red color. This, however, is not a permanent situation. It will gradually become brown due to oxidation when it is exposed to oxygen.

When minute quantities of carbon monoxide are introduced to meat or packaging, myoglobin attaches to it more quickly than oxygen, converting it to carboxymyoglobin.

Carboxymyoglobin is more resistant to oxidation than oxymyoglobin, hence it helps retain meat reddish or pinkish for longer.

It is really rather contentious, since who wants carbon monoxide in their food? Some organisations have also claimed that it may conceal the freshness of meat and mislead customers, however officials have denied this.

Spoiled meat will be visible no matter what color it is, and the minor quantities of carbon monoxide added are not harmful to ingest. More information regarding the dispute may be found here.

This is why, regardless of the color of the meat, we should always check the other crucial factors to ensure we are eating safe meat.

Frequently Asked Questions to Ground Beef Turning Brown

Is It Bad if My Ground Beef Turned Brown in the Fridge?

flesh that has gone brown in the refrigerator is not always rotten; color changes occur naturally when the flesh is exposed to air. It is safe to consume as long as it does not have a bad odor, slimy or sticky texture, was kept properly, and is not over its expiration date.

Ground Beef Turned Brown After Thawing, Is it Still Good?

Ground beef that has gone brown after being frozen and thawed is most likely owing to a shortage or presence of oxygen, which altered the structure of myoglobin, the protein responsible for meat color, into a brown tint. It should not be a reason for worry if there are no other indicators of food decomposition.

Conclusion to Ground Beef Turning Brown – What is It? Safe to Eat?

Ground beef browns due to oxidation, or extended exposure to oxygen. It is safe to eat as long as there are no other symptoms of rotting and your ground beef was handled and stored appropriately and is not over its expiry date.

Although your ground beef becoming brown is a sign that it is farther along in its lifetime and not as fresh, it is not necessarily an indication that it has gone bad. It is best to utilize it immediately away rather than storing it for a longer period of time since, although it is not there yet, it is well on its way to rotting.


How can you tell if ground beef has gone bad?

Use your senses to identify whether your ground beef is rotten. Make contact with the ground meat. It’s not natural if it’s slimy. Smell and visually inspect your ground beef; if it’s brown or has an odd odor, this might indicate that it’s rotten.

Is it OK to cook grey ground beef?

You can guarantee that if just the inside is gray, oxygen hasn’t contacted it to color it red. This signifies that gray-colored ground beef is safe to consume. Meat that appears gray or brown all over (on the inside as well as the outside) has certainly started to rot and is unsafe to consume.

Can you keep raw ground beef in the fridge for 7 days?

Ground beef may be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, and leftovers should be used within 4 days. Ground beef may be kept in the freezer for up to 4 months. When cooking ground beef, the minimum internal temperature should be 160°F (71°C) as measured using a food thermometer.

Why is my hamburger meat grey in the fridge?

However, if the outside of the meat or the bulk of the package contents have become gray or brown, it is an indication that the meat is spoiling and should be discarded immediately.

When should you throw out ground beef?

Examine the Smell

Because fresh ground beef should not have any aroma, odor is always an indication that something is wrong. If you use frozen ground beef, there may be an initial odor after removing it from its packing, but if the odour is foul-smelling, discard it.

How long can raw ground beef stay in fridge?

When you’re ready to use your frozen ground beef, be sure you defrost it in the refrigerator to keep it cool. Raw meat may be refrigerated for one to two days and frozen for up to four months.

Is ground beef good 3 days after sell by date?

Depending on how it was handled, you should be able to utilize ground beef one to three days beyond the sell-by date. On the sell-by date, quality starts to deteriorate, so utilize the meat as soon as possible or store it in your freezer.

What color should raw beef look like?

Consumers anticipate fresh ground beef to be bright red, but it might be dark, mottled red and brown, or even purple at times. Color variances may be perplexing and may result in the rejection of suitable ground beef.

What happens if you leave ground beef in the fridge for a week?

The Consequences of Eating Bad Beef

Spoiled ground beef is harmful to consume because it may contain pathogenic germs that cause foodborne diseases. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, stomach pains, and bloody diarrhea (9, 10, 11).

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