Beef mince, or ground beef, is a dinnertime staple in many houses. It’s versatile, affordable and doesn’t require a solid recipe to come out the other side of dinner, making it an excellent investment in weeknight cooking.

Stocking up on several packets at a time is common practice for many families, keeping some in the fridge for upcoming meals and then storing the rest in the freezer. While supermarket mince generally has a “best before” date marked on the packaging, butcher’s mince does not, which makes it harder to determine whether it’s safe to consume.

So if you don’t get around to cooking it as planned, how do you know if what’s in the fridge is still good to go? Likewise, if you’ve cooked too much mince one night and have leftovers for days, just how long is too long?

Read on to find out how long mince lasts in the fridge and how you can tell if your meat has gone bad.

How long can mince stay in the fridge?

The shelf-life differs between cooked and raw mince, but the reality is that cooked does not last much longer than fresh. According to the USDA, cooked ground beef should be refrigerated and consumed within 3 days, while raw ground beef will only last 1-2 days in the fridge.

Head butcher Clint from Peter Augustus, a craft butcher located in Brisbane, says beef mince is made in-house fresh daily.

“Beef mince can last for 1-2 days in-store before a customer takes it home. After that, we recommend eating it within 1-2 days of bringing it home.”

If you’re not sure if you’re going to cook it straight away, place it in the freezer immediately, where it can last for 3-4 months.

“We can also vacuum-pack meat for you, which lasts considerably longer in the fridge than regular packaging” says Clint.

Why has my mince changed colour?

You don’t need to worry if the outside of the meat is a different colour to the inside. The bright red colour you see on the surface of ground beef comes from oxygen interacting with the pigments of the meat. The interior of the mince can sometimes turn a greyish brown colour if there is a lack of oxygen penetrating the surface. This colour change isn’t a sign that the meat has gone bad. However, if the mince is starting to turn grey or brown on the outside, it’s a sign that the meat is beginning to rot – and best not to take any chances.

How to tell if mince has spoiled

In addition to the colour change on the exterior from greyish-brown, you can easily check whether or not meat is fresh by:

      • Smelling it – Fresh meat will generally give off a mild iron-like aroma, but if it’s off it will definitely smell bad. As the saying goes, if you’re in doubt, throw it out.
      • Touching it – The texture of fresh mince should feel cool, smooth and slightly damp to touch. If it’s off, it can feel slimy or sticky.

Whatever you do, never eat meat that is spoiled. The slightest taste could result in a food borne illness, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to properly store mince

Record the date

It’s important to keep track of how long food has been stored in your fridge and freezer. An easy way to do this is by writing down the date when you bring something home so that you know how long you have to use it. Not only will this help prevent any food borne illnesses, it’s also handy so you can actually remember what’s in the freezer!

Storing raw mince

Raw mince should be properly wrapped or stored in a container so that it does not leak and contaminate other foods in the fridge. If you’re freezing it, raw mince should be packaged air-tight or portioned out into zip lock bags and stacked flat. 

Storing cooked mince

Cooked mince can be stored in air-tight containers where it can last for up to 3 days in the fridge or 3-4 months in the freezer – but it should be fully cooled down and drained of fat before you put it in either.

Vacuum-packing, or vacuum-sealing, can extend the life of mince meat in the fridge for an additional 7-9 days. You can ask your butcher to vacuum-pack it into portions (if they offer this service) or, if you normally buy in bulk, consider investing in a vacuum-sealing machine.

Preparing mince

When you take beef mince out of the freezer, thaw it in the fridge for safest results and cook it and eat within a few days. 

Always cook ground beef to at least 160°F / 70°C. This is the safest temperature to avoid bacteria and food borne illnesses.

Here are 5 more things you should know before buying mince.

In need of some mince-peration? Check out these recipes for homemade beef patties, rissoles with a twist or a savoury beef mince so versatile it’ll make dinnertime a breeze.