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Are these meatballs sketchy?
November 5, 2012 6:43 PM   Subscribe

It is a bad idea to eat this? I made meatballs with ground pork and beef that I bought on Halloween, that's been in the fridge since then, and has yesterday's date as a "best before" date. An hour ago I was confident that it was fine, but now I've realized that that is not exactly what I'd call fresh. and I know that best before dates are not the same as expiry dates, but still, could the meat have gone bad?
posted by to recite so charmingly to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
When I buy ground beef I use it or freeze it within 24 hours. Probably not what you want to hear. Or did you cook it and the meatballs have been there since Halloween? Either way I am hoping you are asking BEFORE dinner.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:45 PM on November 5, 2012


Unless the meat smelled rotten before you started cooking it, and assuming you've cooked these meatballs well, I wouldn't worry about it at all. I wouldn't eat this meat medium-rare, but well done is fine.
posted by ssg at 6:46 PM on November 5, 2012


Open a meatball, sniff the inside. If that's good, then eat away unless you're immune-compromised somehow. I wouldn't eat them cold, though, without reheating first.

The "Best before" dates are based on the supermarket standard of how appealing the beef will be; nobody likes to cook the graying meat, but it's a natural oxidation process that doesn't harm the eater, only puts off the buyer.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:54 PM on November 5, 2012


Ground meat goes bad much faster than non-ground. And pork is not something I'd take a chance with.
posted by Houstonian at 6:55 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


USDA guidelines say to use ground beef within two days of purchase.
posted by 23 at 6:58 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cook well, then eat.
posted by bebrave! at 6:59 PM on November 5, 2012


Did you cook the meatballs on Halloween or did you mix the meatballs? If you fully cooked them yeah, go for it. If you mixed them but didn't cook them, probably not. (I would eat them in either case, but I have a iron constitution.)
posted by 26.2 at 7:00 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not all food contaminants create the classic bad-meat smell. Don't eat this, it's not worth the potential trouble.
posted by zadcat at 7:01 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


there's no way i would eat this. getting sick from bad meat is so awful that you would need a hell of an upside to make the odds worth it.
posted by facetious at 7:03 PM on November 5, 2012


5 day old, cooked, refrigerated meatballs? Eat.
5 day old, uncooked, refrigerated meatballs? Don't eat.
posted by zippy at 7:03 PM on November 5, 2012


That is, cooked on Halloween, not "oh, I just cooked them now."
posted by zippy at 7:07 PM on November 5, 2012


I have thrown out the meatballs. I am actually kind of surprised at myself that I bothered making the meatballs tonight without asking myself what the hell I was doing. Wasted time, lesson learned. Thanks everybody.
posted by to recite so charmingly at 7:09 PM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


If it passed a sniff test and seemed visually okay, I'd just cut it into bite sized pieces, nuke the hell out of it (essentially cooking it again) and expect no problems eating it. It's ground beef, not steak, cooking it again really isn't going to ruin it, especially if you're putting sauce on.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:10 PM on November 5, 2012


I would not eat this, cooked or otherwise. Ground meat, because of it's greater surface area (*all* of the meat has had a chance to be exposes to something) and the very fact that it is processed and has touched a lot of stuff, will have more bacteria than regular cuts of meat. Sure, you cooked it well yadda yadda yadda, but letting it sit for 5 days in your fridge is really giving any sort of bacteria a chance to develop and explode.

Don't eat it.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:11 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it passed a sniff test and seemed visually okay, I'd just cut it into bite sized pieces, nuke the hell out of it (essentially cooking it again) and expect no problems eating it.

Nuking the hell out of it will not get rid of the toxins produced by the bacteria that make you sick in the first place.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:12 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, sorry, wasn't clear to me that the meat was still raw. I'd probably not risk meatballs where I couldn't be sure about internal temperatures.

However I'd happily fry it up to a dark brown crumble as misc ground beef (e.g. for sauce or pizza or ...) and have no worries.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:12 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Smart choice. Wasted meatballs are way less expensive than medical bills. (I spent 8 days in the hospital once with food poisoning and I don't recommend it.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:55 PM on November 5, 2012


I have had food poisoning before after eating processed meat (ground meat is a processed meat). I can't recommend it.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:11 PM on November 5, 2012


Wait a minute: you bought the meat last Wednesday, refrigerated it below 40 F until today (5 days later), then made meatballs out of it that you were planning to cook today until food paranoia set in? And most MeFites are encouraging you to throw it out?

I fail to see why everyone is so paranoid about the awful things that could have gone wrong. I routinely buy ground meat that I plan to use 4 or 5 days after buying it. I put it in the meat drawer of my fridge, which keeps it plenty cold (around 35-38 F), and I prepare and cook it quickly once I take it out. If 5 days at just above freezing is enough to render ground meat (beef or pork) unfit for human consumption, then I should have died the death several times over, just in the last couple of years.

If your fridge isn't cold enough, or the ground meat sat between 40 and 140 F for more than a couple of hours, then sure, toss it. But if it looks and smells OK, and it was kept below 40 F from purchase to use, then I would cook and eat it with no regrets.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:14 PM on November 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


Nuking the hell out of it will not get rid of the toxins produced by the bacteria that make you sick in the first place.

Depends on the toxin. Botulin breaks down with heat, for example.
posted by empath at 8:15 PM on November 5, 2012


> If 5 days at just above freezing is enough to render ground meat (beef or pork) unfit for human consumption, then I should have died the death several times over

You've been lucky. Maybe you always will be. But most people, including me and the USDA*, don't think it's worth the risk.

*"To keep bacterial levels low, store ground beef at 40 °F (4.4 °C) or below and use within 2 days, or freeze."
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:35 PM on November 5, 2012


As long as you cooked it well, you were probably ok.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/Ground_Beef_and_Food_Safety/index.asp#4

What is the significance of the "Sell-By" date on the package?
"Sell-By" dates are a guide for retailers. Although many products bear "Sell-By" dates, product dating is not a Federal requirement. While these dates are helpful to the retailer, they are reliable only if the food has been kept at a safe temperature during storage and handling. USDA suggests that consumers cook or freeze ground beef within 2 days after purchase for maximum quality.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/Ground_Beef_and_Food_Safety/index.asp#17


Can I refrigerate or freeze leftover cooked hamburgers? How should they be reheated?
If ground beef is refrigerated promptly after cooking (within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F), it can be safely refrigerated for about 3 or 4 days. If frozen, it should keep its quality for about 4 months.

When reheating fully cooked patties or casseroles containing ground beef, be sure the internal temperature reaches 165 °F (73.9 °C).
posted by roboton666 at 8:42 PM on November 5, 2012


I would totally have eaten that, unless it smelled distinctly off. But I have a robust immune system. Maybe you aren't so lucky and you shouldn't take chances.
posted by bricoleur at 8:48 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anecdotal data:

My mom (who worked in and managed a school cafeteria for YEARS) learned from her many food safety classes that you can cook the bad bacteria out of ground beef if you cook it hot enough and it's well done. You CAN NOT cook the bad bacteria out of raw chicken. Now....granted this is based on chemistry and research and not what people do in their home kitchens, but it's possible. She always taught me to be super cautious with chicken.

My dad (who was a meat cutter for about 50 years) taught me that generally beef is good for about 3 days past the "Sell Buy" date as long as it was packaged properly and kept at the proper temperature. If you're buying from a trusted store, you can buy the stuff at the Sell Buy date (when they mark it down) and use it within the next day and be OK. Granted, you have to store it properly and keep it clean, but it's useable. Chicken is what you really have to be careful of (and not buy close to the Sell Buy date)...but it generally tells you when it's going bad because it feels "slimy" or starts having a stronger "smell" that is odd. If there's every any doubt on chicken, toss it out.

Dad also taught me to never buy ground beef that you couldn't see, which means buying the tube of ground beef was never allowed in our house. He told me that the store brand ground beef in a tube was ground and packaged somewhere else and then shipped to the store so he couldn't guarantee if it was held at the proper temp while being shipped.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:04 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whenever I brought up improper food handling practices my mom used to always say to me "I do that all the time and I haven't killed you" then there would a long pause followed by a "yet".
posted by srboisvert at 9:46 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't eat it, but I doubt you would have died. But it's a good habit to buy meat the day - or the day before, at the earliest - you plan on cooking it.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:54 PM on November 5, 2012


I know you already threw it out (well done!) but I just wanted to weigh in that after 3 solid days I figure it's done and if I can't eat it by then I usually throw it out. I've gone up to 4 in rare circumstances, but cooked the Hell out of it. You're talking about 6 and I have to say NO WAY!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:44 PM on November 5, 2012


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