How To Tell If Cooked Ground Beef Is Bad? 5 Telltale Signs

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The presence of leftovers may bring both good and bad fortune. On the one hand, it may free you from the need to spend additional hours toiling away in the kitchen, and on the other, it can enable you to have a number of meals readily ready.

On the other side, it might be difficult to consume all of the food before it spoils, which is particularly the case if you have a large amount of leftovers.

So how can you determine whether or not you can still make use of that ground beef that has already been cooked?

How To Tell if Cooked Ground Beef Is Bad?

If cooked ground beef has gone gray, green, or any other strange color, if it has acquired mold or suspicious growths, if it has produced a strong pungent odor, or if it has formed a slimy or sticky texture, then it has been deemed unsafe for consumption. It is also preferable to dispose of it if it has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours or if it has been stored in the refrigerator for more than three to four days.

How Do I Know If Cooked Ground Beef Has Gone Bad?

Generally speaking, food has the greatest flavor when it has just been prepared, and the more time that goes between the time it is cooked and when you eat it, the more the flavor degrades, and the more germs have time to work and cause it to go bad.

Ground beef that has been cooked spoils in the same way as raw ground beef does. Cooking a meal does not protect it against the germs that cause it to deteriorate, but it can assist extend the amount of time it may be stored safely by one or two days.

How exactly do you determine whether or not the ground beef that has been cooked is still safe to eat? Below, you’ll find a summary of everything that’s important for you to know.

1. Check what it looks like

When ground beef is cooked, it will develop a brown color on its own. This shade of brown might seem different depending on how long you cooked it for in the beginning.

Its hue should, as a general rule, be comparable to how it looked when it had just been freshly cooked. It might be a light brown color, a deeper brown color, or even have tinges of pink in it. Its color can vary. A combination of brown and pink hues should be OK as long as the food was cooked to an appropriate internal temperature when it was first prepared.

It is a very obvious indicator that you should get rid of the cooked ground beef if it has become a shade of gray, green, or any other peculiar hue, or if you discovered that there are fuzzy growths or any form of mold on the surface of the ground beef.

However, seeing white spots on ground beef after it has been cooked might be a challenge. When our ground beef is kept in the refrigerator, fat might sometimes become visible as white spots on the meat. This is because the amount of fat in our ground beef varies.

If you find that your ground beef has these spots, it does not necessarily mean that it has gone bad, but you should proceed with caution and check for other signs of spoilage. Beef fat solidifies at lower temperatures, so if you find that your ground beef has these spots, it does not necessarily mean that it has gone bad.

2. Smell the beef

When it comes to determining whether or not food is still safe to consume, our sense of smell may be a very helpful indicator. In general, our bodies are drawn to things that have a pleasing aroma for two reasons: first, we associate pleasant-smelling objects with food that has a good taste, and second, pleasant odors reassure us that there is nothing wrong with the food and that it is completely safe to consume.

However, this is how our sense of smell has evolved, and despite the fact that it is not a foolproof method, it has proven to be useful. Food that smells good isn’t always good, and food that smells bad isn’t always unsafe (think delicious stinky cheese!). I understand the flaw and danger of the statement because of course that isn’t always the case—food that smells good isn’t always good, and food that smells bad isn’t always unsafe.

Now we’ll move on to our finished ground beef. Check the aroma of the ground beef to determine whether it has retained the same scent as when it was originally cooked.

It need to have a fragrance of meat in addition to the spices or other components that you employed in it. Toss it out if it smells new or different, or if it’s acquired an unpleasant odor over time; in any case, my recommendation is that you do so.

A strong stench that smells like something has died or that smells like rotting eggs is never a good indicator of freshness. This includes odors that smell like spoiled eggs. If you smell anything that is similar to ammonia or smells metallic, you should simply toss it away as well.

Any odor that isn’t beef or that isn’t an ingredient that you used is a warning that bacteria has begun to work on your ground beef and that it has to be thrown out.

3. Feel your ground beef

I am aware that checking the freshness of your food by touching it is not generally recommended as a best practice, but in this scenario, it is really vital to do so. Your cooked ground beef shouldn’t have a sticky or slimy texture, and it shouldn’t have an odd film coating or covering it either. If it does, it’s likely been overcooked.

Instead, the consistency ought to be firm or flaky, which means that it should not clump together at all.

It is best to err on the side of caution and dispose of any ground beef that does not have the desired consistency.

4. Check that it has not been left out for more than 2 hours

The guidelines of food safety emphasize that no sort of food, raw or cooked, should be permitted to stay at room temperature for more than two hours, nor should it be allowed to remain at any temperature that is within the food danger zone. This risk zone for food extends from temperatures of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Within this temperature range, dangerous bacteria become particularly active, which quickly accelerates the process by which food deteriorates or goes bad. It has been said that they are capable of fast reproduction, with the potential to double in number in as little as twenty minutes.

Because of this, experts on food safety such as the USDA and the CDC advise that we should never expose food to temperatures like this for more than two hours, or for just one hour if we live in a particularly warm location.

Because many viruses cannot survive in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or beyond 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to move food into cold storage as soon as possible before the allotted time has passed.

If you know that you left your ground beef out at these temperatures for more than two hours, or even worse, overnight, then I would urge you against ingesting it since it has already been exposed to hazardous germs. If you know that you did this, then you should avoid consuming it.

Even if you haven’t seen any changes in the flesh just yet, this does not provide any assurance that nothing is happening beyond what our eyes can perceive. To be on the safe side, I suggest we should simply dump it.

To stay out of trouble like this, make sure that prepared food is always stored in the appropriate manner.

5. Make sure you consume your cooked ground beef within 3-4 days

When properly stored in the refrigerator, the USDA estimates that ground beef that has been cooked will be safe to consume for three to four days. Within this allotted window of time, you should be OK to travel as long as there are no other indications that it has already been activated.

After this point, things are going to start becoming a little bit more complicated.

Although there are others who claim that it may have a longer shelf life, particularly if it has been kept correctly, in my opinion, we should listen to what the authorities in charge of food safety have to say on the matter.

Even if we do not see anything growing on the ground beef, even if it does not smell rancid and even if it does not appear to be old, there is no way for us to know what is occurring beyond what we can see.

Even after being cooked and stored in the refrigerator, germs and bacteria may still be found in ground beef. This only slows down the process, but it cannot stop what is inevitably going to happen.

If you find ground beef that has been hiding in the refrigerator for the last week, it is better not to take any chances with its safety and simply get rid of it altogether.

If you actually want to keep your cooked ground beef for a longer period of time, you should put it in the freezer rather than the refrigerator since the freezer will provide you more time. Even though it will be theoretically safe to eat cooked ground beef or any other meal for that matter virtually forever after it has been frozen, the quality of the food may decline due to the fact that it was stored in a freezer. It will not be dangerous, but that does not guarantee that it will be enjoyable.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that ground beef will often keep its highest quality for up to four months in the freezer, provided that it is maintained correctly.

I Ate Spoiled Ground Beef. What Should I Do?

Consuming tainted or old ground beef might put one at risk for contracting a food-borne disease. Consuming rotten, infected, or undercooked food might put a person at risk for contracting a foodborne disease.

This disease, which is also known as Food Poisoning, begins to show its symptoms anywhere from a few hours to a few days after consuming the suspect food. It might go away on its own in a few hours, but it can also linger for days or weeks.

Symptoms of food poisoning often include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Body aches and pains
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • General feeling of weakness

Depending on the severity of the ailment, symptoms may go straight away or they may continue for a long time and necessitate hospitalization. This is something that varies greatly from person to person and circumstance to situation. The Cleveland Clinic estimates that it takes between 24 and 48 hours for symptoms of foodborne diseases to begin to improve on average.

You should be able to recuperate without any problems if you stay at home, get enough of rest, and drink plenty of water.

In the unfortunate event that you find yourself suffering from food poisoning, the following are some important things to keep in mind:

1. Hydrate with fluids

Be careful to keep yourself hydrated by drinking a lot of water. You need to consume fluids that may assist replenish lost electrolytes and salts, in addition to water. This is because chronic vomiting or diarrhea can cause you to lose both.

You may speed up your recovery time by drinking beverages that can help you replace the salt and sugar that you lost, such as sports drinks, ginger ale, broth, and sodas like Sprite and 7Up that do not include caffeine.

2. Rest

Be sure you get adequate rest, and provide your body with the opportunity to heal. When we are ill with anything, the most of the time, it isn’t the medications or whatever we are taking that is making us well. This is something that the majority of people do not recognize.

In the end, it is our bodies, working in conjunction with these medicinal substances, that are responsible for curing us and warding off the infectious agents that cause our illnesses. Getting a proper amount of rest and sleep gives our body extra resources to use in its battle against the virus.

3. BRAT Diet

If you are able to eat, choose meals that are gentle on your digestive system and simple for your stomach to process. A excellent place to start is by adhering to the BRAT diet, which consists of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

These kinds of foods will not put further strain on a digestive system that is already working hard and fighting illness.

Avoid eating meals that are more likely to upset your digestive system, such as foods that are oily, spicy, or fried. These kind of foods may cause a lot of discomfort.

4. Seek medical attention

In the event that your symptoms are really severe and you are unable to keep anything down, not even water, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. It is imperative that you get medical attention so that you may be adequately hydrated via the use of an intravenous line or other medications. Dehydration is a highly dangerous condition that can even be fatal. Do not try to wait it out or force yourself to go through it since the situation might very rapidly become quite catastrophic.

How to Prevent Food Poisoning

People who have had food poisoning will tell you that it is not a stroll in the park, despite the fact that the majority of instances of food poisoning clear up within 24 to 48 hours. Even while most individuals do make a full recovery fast, it is still preferable to avoid having this problem in the first place.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines the process of assuring the safety of food as consisting of four primary components.

  1. Throughout the whole of the process of making food and consuming it, you should routinely wash your hands, in addition to keeping all surfaces and utensils clean.
  2. To prevent the spread of disease, it is important to keep raw meat and cooked meat completely separate from one another, as well as to use different containers, cutting boards, and knives. Keep raw foods apart from cooked meals and foods that will not be prepared before consumption since raw foods have the potential to contaminate other types of food.
  3. Always bring food to the minimal internal temperature that is considered safe. Never partly prepare food and then store it, since partially cooked meat might still carry germs and viruses that can make you sick. Using a thermometer for food will make this procedure more simpler and easier.
  4. Put your prepared food in the refrigerator as soon as possible, and try not to leave it out in the “danger zone” for more than two hours; in a warm climate, you should only leave it out for one hour. The refrigerator or the freezer is the only acceptable storage location for food at all times.

By adhering to these precautionary measures, you may eliminate the risk of exposing yourself or others to the microorganisms that cause food-borne diseases.


1. Clean

  • Always be sure to wash your hands before, during, and after handling food, as well as just before eating.
  • After handling uncooked meat, fish, or eggs, you should wash your hands.
  • After each usage, make sure that all surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards are completely cleaned and sanitized.

2. Separate

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish, and eggs from other foods that will not be cooked before being consumed.
  • Always keep raw food chopping boards and utensils separate from cooked food ones.
  • It’s best not to wash raw meat and eggs since doing so might spread germs.

3. Cook

  • Always be sure to cook meals completely to the appropriate internal temperatures:
  • Ground Beef: 160 °F
  • 165 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken and other types of poultry
  • Beef: 145 °F
  • Pork: 145 °F
  • Leftovers: 165 °F
  • Make use of a thermometer for food.

4. Chill

  • After the meal has had sufficient time to cool, place it in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
  • Food should not be allowed to remain in the food hazard zone for more than two hours at a time.
  • Place any leftovers in sealed containers for storage.
  • Throw away any ground beef that has been cooked and stored for longer than three to four days.

Frequently Asked Questions to How To Tell if Cooked Ground Beef is Bad?

How Long is Cooked Ground Beef Good For?

When properly kept in the refrigerator, ground beef that has been cooked will remain edible for three to four days.

How to Know if Ground Beef is Bad After Thawing?

When meat is frozen, the bacteria that cause food to go bad are unable to function, but as soon as the meat is thawed, it is once again susceptible to deterioration. It is a sign that the ground beef is no longer fit for consumption if it has acquired an odd growth or changed color, if it has a foul odor, and if it is slimy or sticky to the touch. Verify further that your ground beef did not spend more than a couple of hours exposed to the elements. If it has, there is a far greater likelihood that it is contaminated and should not be consumed anymore.

Can you tell if ground beef is bad after cooking?

In spite of this, you should not keep ground beef that has become brown or gray on the exterior, since this is a sign that it is starting to deteriorate and should be thrown away. Mold may ruin cooked ground beef, so you should discard out any leftovers if you find any fuzzy blue, grey, or green patches on them. Mold can be identified by its fuzzy appearance.

Can I eat cooked ground beef after 5 days?

The USDA advises utilizing beef that has been cooked within three to four days and storing it in a refrigerator (at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below). The development of bacteria may be slowed but not stopped by refrigeration. The USDA advises eating any cooked leftovers within three to four days after preparation.

Does spoiled ground beef smell when cooked?

The presence of a rotten smell is sufficient evidence on its own to conclude that germs have begun to proliferate in the beef, increasing the risk that you may get ill. The same principle applies for determining whether or not ground beef that has been cooked should be consumed. Even after being cooked, it should not have a fragrance that is reminiscent of sourness.

Can you get food poisoning from cooked ground beef?

When the meal is going to be provided to those who are more likely to get sick from foodborne pathogens, such as children, the elderly, or other individuals, it is extremely crucial to prepare the food thoroughly. Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and E. coli are all examples of bacteria that may be detected in ground beef and are known to cause sickness.

What does bad cooked ground beef smell like?

Peisker said that “each flesh has distinct scents,” but in general, decaying meat has an odor that may be described as somewhat sweet. When it has gone bad, ground beef will have a particularly unpleasant odor, much like other foods. In the same way that fresh fish shouldn’t have any discernible odor, fresh beef shouldn’t either.

Conclusion to How to Tell if Cooked Ground Beef is Bad

If the ground beef has changed color or acquired unusual growths on the surface, if it smells rancid, and if it has become slimy or sticky to the touch, then it has gone bad and should not be consumed.

Its safety has been jeopardized if it has been kept in the refrigerator for more than three to four days, or if it has been exposed to the food risk zone for more than two hours.