Ground Beef for dummies
December 3, 2009 11:59 AM   Subscribe

IsitstillgoodFilter: Ground Beef Edition.

So normally I'm pretty brave about these things, and I understand that nothing goes bad at the stroke of midnight.... but I noticed today that my family-pack of ground beef which I bought on Monday has a 'best-before of yesterday. It has browned a little from its original bright red dye colour, and that's what squicks me out. I had initially planned on separating and freezing it into 4 bags of single pounds, but I'm afraid that I'll be pushing it if I freeze it today and then thaw for a day as needed.

Should I be worried about it? Can I mitigate my fears by just making sure I cook it extra well when I do end up using it? I don't intend to make anything too rare with it... it's for stuff like taco-night and hamburgers and pasta sauce.

Please hope me!
posted by sunshinesky to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It turns red because it oxidized, not because of dye. It turns brown in the wrapper because there's no more oxygen to react with. If it's been in the refrigerator then it's fine as the store would have been selling it today had no one bought it. Unless the sticker clearly indicates otherwise it's generally a sell-by date. See The USDA's page on using & handling ground beef.
posted by GuyZero at 12:03 PM on December 3, 2009

Don't worry about it. Ground beef naturally browns as it's exposed to air. If you expose the parts immediately under the surface, it should still be nice and pink. This is oxidation, not outright spoilage, and unless it smells funky, you'll be fine.

Freeze away.
posted by valkyryn at 12:04 PM on December 3, 2009

I eat stuff of this dated nature all the time and I'm still alive.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:06 PM on December 3, 2009

My friend gave me a good rule of thumb: Whether it's good or not, if you feel weird about it you're not going to enjoy eating it.
posted by Darth Fedor at 12:18 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Smell it. Chances are it is fine: meat is supposed to be good for a week past the sell by date. The turning brown part is not a problem - ground beef does this, see above re oxidation or whatever; I am not clear on the Science, but trust me - it turns brown without going bad. However, the smell is the issue. If it smells like ground beef, you're totally fine. If it smells nasty, toss. Beef is one of those things with a pretty clear smell when it goes off.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should note that in Canada, there's no 'sell by' date, but in fact a 'best before'. I've gone ahead and frozen it as I had planned, and will just cook it extra well. It didn't smell 'off' (if I can remember from my deli job what 'off' is), and it was still pink on the inside.

My friend gave me a good rule of thumb: Whether it's good or not, if you feel weird about it you're not going to enjoy eating it.

This is usually my rule too, but the purpose of this question was to put my mind at ease, so your point is moot. I can't really afford to replace all that beef this week, and I came to mefi for a little 'reality check'.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:44 PM on December 3, 2009

Special answer for you!
posted by rxrfrx at 1:57 PM on December 3, 2009

I agree with mygothlaundry's advice about the smell test; once beef begins to spoil it emits the unmistakable aroma of rotten meat, which is so clear that it causes what seems to be an instinctual reaction of revulsion. If it just smells kind of fatty, that's fine, but any odors that make you go "eeeiiiuuugh" are bad news. I've also noticed beef turning brown when it oxidizes, and does not seem to affect the quality. Just cook it really well when you cook it - no rare burgers. Now that I've become far too informed about our food system, I'm downright afraid of industrial beef that isn't fully cooked to USDA-recommended temperatures.

How to Identify Spoiled Meat
posted by Miko at 1:59 PM on December 3, 2009

This article from the NY Times about ground beef isn't really answer to your question...but since I read it I do wonder if any ground beef is safe to eat. Unless I've killed the cow myself, which in Boston I don't get a chance to do very much.
posted by sully75 at 2:54 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

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