It is hardly surprising that cooking taco meat at home is so popular. It’s one of the favorite fast foods in the US, One well-known taco store selling over two billion tacos in a year. It’s a quick, tasty meal that the whole family loves. But it pays to cook large batches of taco meat, so, can it be frozen?
Taco meat is traditionally ground beef with a mix of spices and herbs to give it that authentic taste. Gone are the days when science led you to believe that it had to be vegetable proteins and fruit to have a good diet. But taco meat is all protein and is quite good for you. Beef is high in L-carnitine, an amino acid that helps with weight loss and insulin resistance.
In this article, we uncover how to store taco meat long-term so the family can enjoy it at any time. We answer many frequently asked questions providing factual information to improve your culinary knowledge.
Let’s get into it.
Does taco meat expire?
Yes. Taco meat is essential beef, turkey, chicken, or pork that has been ground. It has tomatoes added to moisten the meat and some onions, garlic, and typically store-bought taco seasoning.
Ground meat has a short shelf life sitting on the worktop counter, a maximum of two hours, so it’s important to get raw or cooked taco meat in the fridge as soon as possible.
According to the USDA, ground meats used in tacos have a shelf life of just 1 to 2 days when it is raw. The spice mix does not extend its life.
Cooked taco meat that has been sauteed and allowed to cool will last for up to four days in the fridge, depending on how fresh the meat was when it was cooked.
Canned tomatoes have a 5 to 7-day shelf life, so it will be the taco meat that dictates how quickly everything will expire.
When storing cooked taco meat in the fridge, place it in an airtight container. This will prevent the intense aromas from the ground meat and spices from permeating the refrigerator and tainting the other foods that are stored.
You can use a plastic container with a sealable lid or something like a Ziploc bag works well as they can be stacked easily.
Does taco meat need to be refrigerated?
Raw ground taco meat, be it beef, turkey, chicken, or pork, all have a similar shelf life when they are fresh. Placing raw meat in the fridge is essential to reduce bacteria growth. The ground raw meat should be covered with foil or cling wrap. But only keep raw taco meat in the fridge for 1 to 2 days maximum.
Cooked ground taco meat has a slightly longer shelf life of 3 to 4 days. Again the beef will benefit from being stirred in an airtight container, and this will retain the moisture in the ground meat and prevent the strong spicy aromas from permeating everything in the fridge.
Does taco meat need to be covered in the fridge?
Yes. If the meat is raw or cooked, it should be covered and placed in the fridge to extend its shelf life. Sitting out both raw and cooked meat has a shelf life of two hours before it should be discarded.
Bacteria will grow in the meat stored at room temperature, making it inedible.
Does cooking kill bacteria? Yes, it does. However, it doesn’t kill the toxins left behind by the bacteria that are harmful if ingested.
Can you put warm taco meat in the fridge?
It is not advisable.
If you read online that you can’t put warm taco meat in the fridge because of condensation coalescing into water droplets that will drip and make your taco meat watery. Or It will lose its spicy aromatic profile. You are being misled.
Your fridge temperature will be 40℉ -18℃ or a little lower. Placing warm taco meat in the fridge will elevate its temperature while it radiates heat.
Your fridge may not be as efficient as you might have thought at removing heat. Most fridges take hours to come to 40℉ after being switched on after cleaning.
So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that food sitting at a temperature of 40-140℉ is in the food danger zone. It’s not just your taco meat. It is the contents of the entire fridge.
Above 40℉-18℃ bacterial growth on perishable foods will accelerate exponentially. It should be discarded if the food remains at an elevated temperature above 40℉-18℃ for just two hours.
Seems harsh? According to the USDA, after two hours in the food danger zone, perishable foods contain enough bacteria to cause food poisoning.
Furthermore, the taco meat should be covered in the fridge so there will be no condensation!
How long can warm-cooked taco meat sit out?
Two hours. Remember the food danger zone? According to the USDA, perishable goods sitting out for two hours should be discarded, and the bacteria growth on the food has multiplied rapidly, making the food unfit for consumption.
Eating food sitting out for two hours or more could cause food poisoning.
Does unopened taco meat go bad?
You are probably aware that you can buy canned taco meat; by all accounts, it’s pretty tasty and convenient.
Canned products have a long shelf life, and the expiration date can be ignored to a greater extent. Canned taco meat will last long past the expiration date and possibly as long as two years past the date, if not longer.
It is critical that the can of taco meat is in good condition. No dents, no leaks, no rust. No swelling.
If you open a can of taco meat that is well past its expiration date, you need to look out for a spurt of fluids when the can is punctured. Or if there is a bubbly top greeting you, the taco meat has expired and should be tossed in the garbage.
How long does taco meat last in the fridge?
Raw taco meat with the ingredients mixed is the same as just ground taco meat, 1 to 2 days maximum. This assumes the meat is fresh.
Cooked taco meat stored correctly has a shelf life in the fridge of 3 to 4 days before it spoils.
Does frozen taco meat go bad?
According to USDA scientists, food stirred at 0℉ and below should have an indefinite shelf life. But parameters in the freezer do change, and the temperature can move up and down, causing the food to become exposed to sublimation, also known as freezer burn.
The good news is taco meat freezes well if it’s raw or cooked. The preparation for freezing is simple, and it’s best to place the raw taco meat directly into the freezer in the packaging from the store.
Essentially your taco meat is a pack of ground beef, turkey, chicken, or pork and is somewhat a waste of time. If your life is local to a grocery store, you would be better off cooking fresh meat rather than frozen.
You can only benefit in the process by freezing the taco meat that is mixed and cooked. It will save you time preparing meals.
The raw ground meat will last for approximately 4 months in the freezer.
Freezing cooked taco meat
- Ensure the cooked taco meat is at room temperature or cooler.
- Decide on portion sizes and select the right size freezer bag.
- Scoop the ground taco meat into a ziplock freezer bag, leaving space at the top of the bag.
- Lay the bag flat, squeeze as much air as possible, and seal. This will prevent freezer burn.
- Mark the freezer bag with the contents, the freezing date, and the expiry date.
- Place the bag in the freezer.
The shelf life of cooked taco meat in the freezer is about the same as that of raw ground taco meat, 4 months.
How to thaw taco meat
Due to the moisture contained in the taco meat from tomatoes, the meat will have frozen in a solid block. It’s best to place the frozen taco meat in the fridge overnight or at least for 12 hours to thaw naturally.
If you are in a rush, you can place the freezer bag in a water bowl. This will speed up the thawing process.
How to know if taco meat is bad?
The first thing that will hit you is the smell, the smell will vary depending on the type of meat you have used, but you will recognize it is not edible.
If the meat is slimy, it has gone bad. If you see specs of mold, then don’t eat it. Mold spreads its spores deep and is harmful if consumed.
Tacos are a meal that the whole family can enjoy, and they can be prepared in large batches for convenience. The meat freezes well, and it can be frozen raw or cooked.