There's no need to toss that package of raw ground beef if you can't use it immediately. Properly packaged beef retains its freshness for about two days, if you keep it in a refrigerator. Storage time varies depend on the age of the beef before you brought it home and how it was stored previously, so it's always best to use it or freeze it as soon as possible.
Storage time depends on how old the beef is when you put it in your refrigerator. Most manufacturers have a “use by” or “sell by” date stamped on the package, and may have a packing date as well. If the ground beef is kept under constant refrigeration, you can safely keep it in the refrigerator until the “use by” date. If the package has a “sell by” date, the ground beef is usually good for one to two days after this date. If your beef has no date, or is thawed from freezer storage, it's best to store it for no more than two days in the refrigerator.
Packaging will affect the storage times for the ground beef. Raw ground beef wrapped in an airtight covering of plastic wrap or kept in a tightly closed storage container will usually remain good for the maximum storage time, as determined by the dates on the package. Air and moisture that breaches a poorly wrapped package may cause it to spoil more quickly.
Maintaining a constant temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit slows the development of bacteria and microorganisms that cause the beef to spoil. If frozen raw beef is defrosted in the refrigerator at a temperature below 40 F, you can store it for the two-day period determined by the date stamps. If you thaw the beef using a water bath or microwave, you must cook it immediately and you should not store it in the refrigerator.
Although refrigerated raw beef has a limited storage life, it will stay good for up to four months if you freeze it. If the raw beef has been refrigerated for the entire time, you can simply place it into the freezer without cooking it. If you used a quick-thaw method, cook the ground beef, cool it, then freeze it. Write the date on the package so you can use it within those four months.
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Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.