How Long Are Hamburgers Still Safe To Eat?

It can be confusing knowing when food becomes unsafe to eat. There is no standardized system for dating food products in the United States, leading to multiple confusing terms, such as "Sell By", "Use By", "Best By", and "Freeze By," according to Real Simple. All of these terms mean different things and can indicate different dates for when the food becomes unsafe to eat. Most of the time, food is safe to consume a certain number of days past the date written on the product, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.

However, raw or undercooked meat can contain pathogens, such as salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria, and others, causing foodborne illnesses, according to Healthline. While properly cooking raw meat, such as ground beef for hamburgers, makes the food safe to eat, it is still possible to develop a foodborne illness if you use meat that has been sitting in the refrigerator for too long. How long until hamburgers are no longer safe to eat depends on many factors.

Cooked hamburgers can be safely refrigerated for three to four days

When you bring home raw hamburgers, check the "Sell-by" or "Expiration dates." The sell-by date informs the seller how long they can keep the product out on the shelves. When taken home and refrigerated, hamburger meat can be safely cooked and consumed up to two days past this date, according to Healthline. However, if you see an expiration or "best before" date, you should generally not consume the meat past this date. The "best before" date shows when the raw meat is likely to begin going bad. The meat should be consumed before that day, with the only exception being if the meat is frozen, in which case it should be consumed within four months for maximum quality.

As far as cooked hamburgers go, you might have slightly more leeway, but they should still be consumed within a few days. If leftover cooked hamburgers are put into the refrigerator within two hours (or within one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), they can be safe to eat for three to four days, according to the USDA. Just make sure that when you reheat them, the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit or the burger is steaming. You can also simply freeze the burgers to make them last for months.