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Ground Beef Turning Brown – Why?

Ground Beef Turning Brown – Why?

Ground Beef Turning Brown - Why?

Have you ever noticed the discounted ground beef that is turning brown in a store? It is safe to sell and eat, but you may wonder why it is turning brown in the first place?

There are a few reasons ground beef will turn brown inside the packaging. The biggest reason is the oxygen level when stored in the fridge. It takes four to five days for the oxygen to discolor the meat, but it can still cook well and is edible. 

If the ground beef stays brown for too long, it will turn rancid. Look for tacky feelings or foul odors. We can guide you about what is good and bad and how to choose ground beef in the meat markets.

So, please read on for tips on stopping ground beef from turning brown.

Why is My Ground Beef Brown?


As you go through the pretty red meat in the display case at the meat market, you may notice that some ground beef has a brownish tint to the color. You may even see this happening on the shelf in your refrigerator.

Ground beef has proteins called myoglobin. Inside a fridge or display cooler, the oxygen level drops, and the reaction to the protein causes the meat to turn brown. The inside of the meat may also turn brown, which is due to metmyoglobin caused by the light in the fridge.

Why is My Ground Beef Brown?

It is essential not to discard the meat if it is brown. Check it first to see if there are characteristics of the meat going bad. It will have a dead animal or a strong fish smell. The ground beef will turn into a slimy, sticky substance. Once you see the meat turning brown, it is time to cook or freeze it.

The flavor of the ground beef will change if you leave the meat in the fridge too long after the meat turns brown. This is why some stores will mark down the prices on brown ground beef. They want to sell it quickly before it goes bad and they lose their sales.

It Is Safe to Cook and Eat Brown Ground Beef?

It Is Safe to Cook and Eat Brown Ground Beef?

Once the fat oxidizes, the beef will lose its flavor and become tasteless. This is why it is a good idea to freeze or cook the meat as soon as it is brown.

So, it is not so much that the meat goes bad and is harmful to eat. It is the fact that the flavor of ground beef is gone and defeats the purpose of a tasty meal.

As you can see, it is in the best interest, and it is safe to cook and eat brown ground beef.

Once the ground beef turns brown, it is still in the safe zone. However, the next color will turn grey or green. This is when extreme caution is needed, and then discarding the meat.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Essential Facts About Ground Beef

Ground beef is processed and passed through a grinder. This leaves the meat open to contamination. Steaks and other cuts of meat can have a little pink in the middle when eaten. However, there should be no pink whatsoever when ground beef is cooked.

Since the meat is processed and ground up through machines, cooking the meat thoroughly will kill all the bacteria that cause food poisoning. Any traces of pink after the ground meat is cooked can lead to severe illnesses. The USDA calls for the internal temperature to be no less than 160 °F for ground meats.

Most people will brown the meat entirely and drain the fat when cooking things like lasagna, casseroles, or other recipes that call for ground beef. However, when hamburgers are cooked, some are a little pink inside. Extreme caution is required because it leaves open the opportunity for food-borne illnesses.

When cooking ground beef, we recommend cooking it until all of the pink is gone before mixing it with other ingredients in the meal. This could also cross-contaminate the ingredients in the recipe.

We aim to keep you safe with as much information as possible and still enjoy the cooking sessions you share with your family.

Packaging Ground Beef

Packaging Ground Beef

If freezing is the only option to keep your meat safe, there are ways to freeze it you should know about. Sometimes you may find all the meat in the store-bought package is too much and freezing the rest is the only option. Sealing them in freezer bags will keep the ground beef safe.

Some people have the luxury of having a food sealer that takes the air out of the package. These are great to own. If you do not have a food sealer, ensure all the air is taken out by leaving a small opening in the zip lock and pressing all the air from the meat to the open area. Close the small opening quickly.

Sealing the bag and ensuring there are no holes or openings is important. This can lead to a freezer burn on the ground beef and make it go bad. If sealed properly, it will stay good for several months.


What is the difference between browning ground beef and brown ground beef?

Browning the meat is the cooking process where all red and pink are cooked to the browning color. Brown ground beef is raw, which means the oxygen level is low when stored in the fridge.

What causes ground beef to be red outside and brown inside?

What causes ground beef to be red outside and brown inside?

The lack of oxygen in the middle of ground beef is low. Once the meat is broken up and the air hits it, it will turn red again. Ground beef is still good as long as it is not grey or green.