How Long Can Ground Beef Sit Out? A Guide To Food Safety

September 11, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

Raw and cooked ground beef should be kept out for no more than two hours at room temperature. If it’s really hot (above 90°F), you should only leave the ground beef out for an hour.

As a professional chef, I have been thoroughly trained in food safety, so I can answer all your questions about how long ground beef can sit out. 

In this post, I will tackle how long both cooked and raw ground beef can be left out. I’ll arm you with all my top safety tips. Ready for some realtalk? No one wants to get sick from eating food or accidentally make someone else sick with their cooking. I’ll show you the best practices for minimizing foodborne illness.

How long can ground beef sit out

How Long Can Raw Ground Beef Be Left on the Counter?

According to the USDA, you can leave ground beef out for 2 hours at temperatures below 90°F.

If the temperature is above 90°F then you can only leave raw ground beef out for 1 hour.

The reason for this is due to something known as “the danger zone.” The danger zone (song) is an absolute banger of a song that makes me want to join Top Gun.

The danger zone (cooking) is a temperature range between 40 and 140 °F. Within this range, bacteria can multiply at a faster rate. So, if your ground meat is left out for a short period of time at these temperatures, bacteria can multiply. This dramatically increases your chances of getting sick from the food.

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How Long Can Cooked Ground Beef Sit Out?

The same rules apply to cooked ground beef as with raw ground beef. Only keep the cooked ground beef on the counter at room temps for up to 2 hours. If it is a very warm day, above 90°F, then don’t leave it out for any longer than 1 hour.

Never eat cooked ground beef that has been kept out for longer than this. 

Person Cooking with Ground Beef

Is Ground Beef Still Good If Left Out Overnight?

No, ground beef that’s left out overnight should go straight to the rubbish bin or your compost pile.

If you have accidentally left raw ground beef or cooked ground beef out all night long, you may be tempted to salvage it. Resist this urge. Pitch the beef.

Can You Cook Ground Beef That Has Been Left Out?

No, you should not cook ground beef that’s been left out for too long. 

Sure, cooking ground beef that has been left out can kill the bacteria in the meat. However, heat doesn’t kill the toxins produced by the pathogens. These toxins are heat resistant.

If you eat ground beef that has been left out and then cooked, you can still get a foodborne illness. Don’t get beef sick. Dump beef that’s been left out for too long. You can’t cook away the toxins.

How Long Can Ground Beef Sit Out Sealed?

The same times apply to ground beef that’s sealed. It can sit out for up to 2 hours at temps under 90°F and only 1 hour at temps above 90°F.

How to Store Raw Ground Beef Safely?

It is important to follow proper food safety guidelines.

Make any foods that need to be refrigerated your last purchase when you’re shopping at the grocery store. This ensures that the meat isn’t sitting out at room temperature while you are shopping.

If you are shopping in a store that is far away from home or the weather is really hot, then take an insulated bag or cooler with you. Once you have purchased the ground beef, make sure to place it in the bag or cooler immediately before driving home. Toss some ice packs in there to keep things cool.

Once you get home, refrigerate the ground beef immediately. This is a habit that you should follow with all perishable food.

If you will be using the ground beef in the next couple of days, then you can leave it in its original packaging. Refrigerated ground beef should be cooked within 2 days. If you’re not cooking it within 2 days, remove the meat from its package. Stick the ground beef in a Ziplock bag, press as much air out as possible, and put it in the freezer. Eat it within 3 months for the best flavor.

It is a good idea to write down the date of storage on the container. This way, you will know when you will need to use the beef.

Organic Raw Grass Fed Ground Beef

How to Store Cooked Ground Beef Safely?

To store it safely, place the ground beef in an airtight container and stick it in the fridge.

On a cool day, don’t let the cooked meat sit out for more than two hours at a time. If it is a warm day, then place the meat in the fridge after an hour. 

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How to Defrost Frozen Ground Beef?

It is just as important to defrost frozen ground beef properly. The best way to thaw ground beef is to take it out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator until it is completely defrosted (usually 24 hours, depending on the amount of ground beef). 

You can defrost the meat more quickly in a cold water bath. Make sure that the meat is wrapped tightly, that the water is cold, and that you add ice cubes to the water every 30 minutes. The goal is to have the water temp stay below 40°F. The method will defrost the beef at the rate of 1 pound per 30 minutes, approximately.

You can use your microwave to defrost ground beef, too. Cook it immediately after defrosting. Don’t refreeze or refrigerate it.

Wrapping It Up

Now you know just how long ground beef can be left out and still be safe to eat. Again, it can sit out for 2 hours at temperatures below 90°F and 1 hour if it’s 90°F or warmer. Use this knowledge wisely to store raw ground beef so that you can reduce the risk of food poisoning across the board!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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