Are you thinking of making some tacos for dinner, but hesitating because the meat has been in your fridge for a little longer than you intended? If so, it’s important to check whether it is still safe to eat, because moldy taco meat could cause stomach upsets and worse if anyone eats it.
How long does taco meat last in the fridge? Cooked taco meat can be kept in the fridge for three to four days, particularly if it is stored in the coldest part of the fridge. After this point, the meat should be thrown away, because bacteria may have spread through it and rendered it unsafe to consume. Raw taco meat should be used up within a couple of days.
Can You Store Taco Meat in the Fridge?
Yes, you can store taco meat in the fridge, and indeed it must be kept chilled if it is to be safe to eat. You should either place it in your fridge or freezer as soon as you get home from the store. Don’t leave it on the counter or in a hot car.
The rate at which bacteria can breed dramatically increases when food is kept at over 40 degrees F, so it’s important to keep taco meat below this temperature. In a warm or hot room, it will become unsafe to eat after just two hours, or even an hour if the room is above 90 degrees F.
If your taco meat is still raw, you should use it up within two days, even if it is always kept refrigerated. Taco meat is usually ground beef, and the USDA recommendation states that you should use this within one to two days of purchase.
Once the meat has been cooked, you can store it for up to four more days, although you should not push this further, especially if the meat has already been around for a couple of days. If you don’t manage to use it up within this time period, throw it away.
Can You Freeze Taco Meat?
It’s fine to freeze both raw and cooked taco meat. Freezing will ensure that the meat lasts significantly longer, possibly even indefinitely, but it is still recommended that you use it up within three or four months.
When freezing meat, do so as soon as possible. If you are freezing cooked meat, allow it to cool, and then tip it into an airtight container, seal it, and put it straight in your freezer. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated first.
If you are freezing raw meat, leave it in its original packaging and put it directly in the freezer. You can transfer raw meat to a sealed bag or container if you have opened it.
To defrost either raw or cooked taco meat, use your fridge. Take the meat out the night before you want it and place it in the fridge. It will slowly defrost without ever reaching the “danger zone” for bacteria and should be ready to eat the following night.
Do not defrost taco meat at room temperature. The outside of the meat will get dangerously warm before the inside has thawed, so this isn’t considered safe. If you need to defrost taco meat more quickly, put it in the microwave or use cold water.
Can You Cool Taco Meat in the Fridge?
You need to cool cooked taco meat down before you can refrigerate or freeze it, and you should not use your fridge to do this. Doing so could compromise any other food in your fridge because it will raise the overall temperature of the fridge to dangerous levels.
Instead, put the taco meat in a shallow container on your counter and spread it out so that it can cool. Heat will rise from the meat and disperse, gradually cooling it to room temperature. As soon as it is cool enough, put a lid on it and place it in your fridge or freezer.
Can You Cook Meat That Has Spoiled?
No, do not cook meat that has spoiled. Although cooking does kill some bacteria, it will not make moldy meat safe to eat again. Toxins may remain in the food, and it is still likely to give you food poisoning.
Cooking meat does help to kill the bacteria, but it will not get rid of any toxins left by the bacteria, and you can still get food poisoning from moldy meat that has been cooked well. Throw away bad meat, rather than trying to cook it.
Does Moldy Taco Meat Smell Bad?
In general, moldy meat will output an unpleasant aroma, yes. It smells bad to us specifically because the meat could make us sick, so the body has developed an internal “do not eat” signal in response to the smell created by bacteria.
If you get meat out of your fridge and find that it has an unpleasant smell, it is no longer safe to eat, even if it still seems to be in date. Other signs that meat has gone bad will include flecks of mold on its surface, a slimy texture, and discoloration. Raw taco meat should be light pink, while cooked taco meat should be golden brown.
Spoiled meat will often taste bad too, although you shouldn’t eat it to test whether it is safe. In general, a bad smell and discoloration should be enough to warn you that the meat is dangerous and not fit for consumption.
Never taste raw meat to check whether it is okay to eat. Raw meat is unsafe even when fresh, and moldy raw meat could make you very sick. Food poisoning can cause hospitalization in serious cases, so don’t take the risk. When in doubt, get rid of meat that may have gone bad, and stick to conservative food safety guidelines.
Raw taco meat will only last for a couple of days in the fridge before it needs to be discarded, whereas cooked taco meat should last for longer. If you are not going to use the meat up quickly, consider putting it straight in your freezer to reduce the risk of food waste.