Ground beef should be used within 2 days of purchase. Frozen at 0 degrees F, ground beef will last up to 3 months.
The term 'ground beef' refers to meat that can contain up to 30% fat. Ground Chuck is from the shoulder of the carcass and ranges from 15% to 27% fat. It makes the best hamburgers, with enough fat to give both excellent flavor and texture. Ground Round and Ground Sirloin may be low in fat, but they make for dry hamburgers unless cooked no more than medium rare.
When beef is ground, any bacteria that is present on the surface of the meat is distributed throughout the meat. This is one of the reasons ground beef spoils quicker than whole cuts of meat. If possible, ground beef should be cooked the same day you purchase it. It is even better if you can have the butcher grind a cut of beef to order (sirloin strip, round steak, etc.). If you are going to freeze ground beef, do so the same day you purchase it. Never freeze ground beef because you think it is starting to go bad, thinking that by freezing it you will be able to use it later. When you thaw it the bacteria will multiply rapidly.
When using very lean ground beef for hamburgers, add a spoonful of V-8 juice, tomato juice or wine to keep the meat moist as it cooks, and add some additional flavor. Another option is a little Worcestershire sauce.
GROUND BEEF SAFETY
Ground beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius). Using a digital or dial food thermometer is crucial, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, because research results indicate that some ground meat may prematurely brown before a safe internal temperature has been reached. On the other hand, research findings also show that some ground meat patties cooked to 160° F or above may remain pink inside for a number of reasons; thus the color of meat alone is not considered a reliable indicator of ground beef safety. If eating out, order your ground beef to be cooked well-done.
(Compiled from the FDA Consumer - latest revision, July 2002)
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