What's the best way to handle raw ground beef when I buy it?Choose a package that feels cold and shows no signs of leakage. Enclose it in a plastic bag so that any juices that do leak out won't contaminate other items in your grocery cart.
Ground beef should be one of the last items to go into your cart, and should be kept separate from other foods. And when you check out, the clerk should pack raw meat, poultry, and fish in separate bags, not together with your other items.
Also, you should drive straight home from the store after shopping. If your drive is long, bring a cooler with ice and pack your perishables in it for the drive home.
How should raw ground beef be stored at home?Refrigerate or freeze ground beef as soon as possible after purchase. This preserves freshness and slows growth of bacteria. Make sure your refrigerator is at 40°F or colder, and use refrigerated ground beef within 2 days.
For storing in the freezer for longer periods, wrap ground beef securely in heavy duty plastic wrap or foil. Assuming your freezer is at 0°F, ground beef stored this way should be fine for a couple of months. Make sure you mark the packages with the date you froze them so you don't forget how long they've been in there.
What is the best way to thaw ground beef?Thaw frozen ground beef by leaving in the refrigerator overnight. Take the package you created in the step described above and place it a shallow pan, then set the pan on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator, so that any juices won't drip onto other food.
Keeping meat cold while it is defrosting is essential to prevent growth of bacteria. Once it thaws, cook it within 1 or 2 days, but don't refreeze it. Never thaw ground beef in the microwave or by leaving it out at room temperature. And while thawing under cold running water is acceptable for most frozen foods, doing so with ground beef isn't recommended.
A good general tip: Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than 1 hour.