Tacos, you either love them or hate them, but after so many debacles with the biggest taco chain, taco lovers have moved to make homemade tacos to ensure the ingredients are as they should be. But making enough tacos meat for one taco is not a viable proposition, and you always have taco meat leftover. What do you do with it?
The main ingredient for tacos is good to lean ground beef, this is cooked, and with a few herbs and spices, you have the perfect filler for a taco. But can you put it in the fridge?
This article will answer the most frequently asked questions about taco meat and how you can take advantage of storage tips.
Let’s get into it.
Should I let ground beef cool before refrigerating?
If you live alone or are the lone taco lover in your family, you will know that making taco meat almost always creates leftovers. How can you decide if you will cook enough ground beef for just one taco? What happens if you want to eat two or even three?
So, you cook the whole pack of ground beef and are inevitably left with a pile of ground beef that needs to be somehow saved.
Can you leave it in the fridge for a week to pick up where you left off? Do you need to cool down the ground beef and spices before placing them in the fridge?
You will need to cool down the cooked ground beef before you place it in the fridge, place the ground beef on a countertop, and spread the meat over the base of the pan, increasing the surface area of the meat and releasing more of the stored heat. After thirty minutes, it should be cool enough for the fridge.
When storing ground beef in the fridge, place it in an airtight container. This will prevent residual heat in the meat from warming the fridge’s interior, which could cause bacteria growth on other stored foods.
If you have radiating heat, wrap the container in a kitchen towel for insulation.
How long can you have taco meat in the fridge?
You should not keep any meat in the refrigerator for more than four days. On the fourth day, it is still edible, but on the fifth day, it’s only suitable for the garbage bin.
This may seem like a short time for cooked meat in an airtight container, but the recommendations come from the dizzying heights of the USDA. These scientists know a thing or two about storing raw and cooked meats in the fridge.
Rest assured, it is not an arbitrary ruling. It is based on science centered around the growth of harmful bacteria that causes bacteria.
Every day, the bacteria proliferate until it reaches the point where the raw or cooked meats are deluged in bacteria, making the taco meat dangerous to eat for days.
Can you eat taco meat after five days?
The answer is no if the taco meat has been stored in the fridge. You can’t eat taco meat after five days. It will be loaded with bacteria and may cause food poisoning.
It is easy to understand that after cooking delicious taco meat, you want to keep it and eat it when you want. A delicious taco for a snack or meal is a treat at any time, but eating ground beef that has bacteria growth is somewhat lunacy and perilous.
To be clear, ground beef with taco spices lasts four days in the fridge in an airtight container, it may look fine and smell fine, but diarrhea for a week and sickness are not going to be the outcome you want.
What is the danger zone for ground beef?
Yes, there is a danger zone, and it doesn’t matter if the ground beef is cooked or raw. Bacteria multiply incredibly fast in temperature from 40℉ to 140℉, that’s (4.4 and 60℃).
The options for extending the shelf life of raw ground beef are to cook immediately to a minimum temperature of 160℉ or to freeze it.
Can I eat week-old tacos?
If we put the taco meat aside for a moment and focus on the taco shell, the FDA says if the packaging has been opened, it should be thrown out after seven days, So it depends if the package has been opened when it comes to taco shells.
If your taco shell has lost its crunch, it may be time to discard it.
How long is Taco Bell meat good for?
Taco Bell uses 82% lean beef in their tacos, the same as if you prepare your own taco meat. The taco meat will last for a couple of days in the fridge, and the taco shell will absorb moisture from the meat and lose its crunch if it does not become soggy.
Restaurants and fast food chains do not get special concessions from the FDA and USDA. They are tightly regulated to comply with food safety standards.
Can you freeze taco meat?
Yes. Taco meat is essentially ground beef with some spices and herbs added, and you can freeze cooked ground beef with the species added.
It is best to make a big batch to save hassle and time in the future. Ground beef with a taco mix added will last for six months in the freezer and not lose any quality texturally or flavor profile.
Once you have cooked your batch of ground beef and added the flavor mix, leave it to cool, you will need to be able to handle the meat without burning your hands.
You can spread the ground beef on a baking tray to speed up the cooling process. This creates a larger surface area which cools faster.
When the ground beef is cool, place portions that you would typically cook for you or your family into Ziploc bags and mark the bags with the date.
When the taco meat is packed in Ziploc bags, place them in an airtight container in the freezer.
You now have a ready taco meat supply that will last six months and freeze indefinitely at 0℉.
How do you thaw taco meat from the freezer?
You have a few options. The best option is to plan and store the Ziploc bags on a plate in the lowest part of your fridge, and they should thaw overnight.
It is not a problem if you have forgotten to remove the taco meat from the freezer. Place the meat on a microwave-proof plate and microwave on defrost. Rinse under tepid water so the taco meat is released quickly from the Ziploc bag.
You can let the Ziploc bags defrost in a water bowl, but it should be cold. Adding warm water will start the heating process and the introduction of bacteria.
How do you cook taco meat from the freezer?
Once the ground beef has thawed, you can heat it in the pan until the heat has reached 160℉, which is the perfect cooked temperature for ground beef.
You can continue your defrosting in the microwave and reheat it. Bring the temperature to 160℉.
Can you eat cold taco meat?
Yes, it is a tasty way to eat meat, the flavor profile changes slightly, but it is tasty. The taco shells may become soggy and hard to eat, but as long as the tacos are within the time limits, such as less than five days in the fridge and less than two hours on the countertop, why not eat tacos cold?
How can you know if taco meat is bad?
Ground beef has a peculiar odor that’s hard to describe but smells old. If there is a high-fat content, it will smell worse and go rancid. Even with delicious spices added to the taco meat, it will smell funky, and your nose will not lie to you.
Texturally the taco meat may become slimy. This is well-advanced bacteria growth, and the color changes from a cooked color to duller brown and maybe even green if the fat content is high.
What should I do if I think I ate bad meat?
You may not have any symptoms for a couple of days. If you suspect the meat is bad, drink lots of water and keep hydrated.
If you develop food poisoning, you are going to know about it. Here are some of the symptoms that are similar to the different bacteria in taco meat:
Campylobacter. People with Campylobacter infection usually have diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. The symptoms start to affect you after five days of eating the bad taco meat. You will feel sick for a week, and if you can’t keep hydrated, you could end up in the emergency room.
Taco meat is good in the fridge for four days. After four days, it is ready for the garbage and should be thrown away. Eating this taco meat could make you very sick.
Keeping taco meat on the side for two hours or more renders the taco meat bad, and it should be thrown in the garbage immediately.
The times for keeping taco meat are according to the USDA.
Freezing taco meat is a great way to preserve this delicious food for six months without losing any quality.