Ten Tips for Safely Handling and Preparing Raw Beef

Myth: There are too many risks associated with handling raw beef and defrosting beef for it to be at the center of the plate at meal time.

The Facts: Actually, there are many tips that consumers can implement into their beef purchasing and preparation routines which contribute to a safe, enjoyable beef-eating experience.

Tip 1- Purchase beef that is cold to the touch, with no holes or tears and choose packages without excessive liquid. Make beef your last purchase at the grocery store and place it at the bottom of your cart in a plastic bag to prevent possible cross-contamination.

Tip #2- If it will take more than 30 minutes to get home, keep an insulated cooler in the car to keep beef and other perishables cold until it reaches your fridge.  Be sure to grocery shop last on your list of errands!

Tip #3- Properly store raw beef in the fridge or freezer.  Keep raw beef cold until time of preparation. Your fridge temp should be 40˚F or less.  Try to use fresh beef within two days; otherwise freeze until needed. You can freeze beef in its original packaging up to two weeks. For longer storage, wrap in heavy-duty aluminum foil or in plastic freezer bags, removing as much air as possible.

Tip #4- If frozen, defrost beef in refrigerator (allow at least a day by placing frozen package on a plate or tray to catch any juices), microwave oven, as part of cooking, or under cold running water. Never thaw or defrost beef at room temperature.

Follow these simple steps to thaw ground beef

Follow these simple steps to thaw ground beef

Tip #5- Prepare beef on a clean work surface. Use separate knives, cutting boards and cook ware for cooked beef and raw beef to avoid potential cross- contamination. Wash your hands, knives, cutting boards and cook ware in hot soapy water after each use. Cutting boards can be sanitized with a bleach solution (2 tsp of concentrated chlorine bleach in one gallon of water).

Tip #6- Use plastic cutting boards for cutting all raw beef products because wood grains can harbor bacteria and are harder to keep clean.

Tip #7- Wash your hands before and after handling raw beef with soap and warm water (lather for at least 10 seconds or sing “happy birthday”).

Tip #8- To enjoy safe and savory ground beef, remember to use a thermometer as color won’t always indicate doneness.

Tip #9- Cook ground beef to a minimum of 160˚F, using an instant read meat thermometer. For ground beef patties, insert the thermometer into the center of the patty. Steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least an internal temperature of 145˚F, using an instant read meat thermometer and let rest for three minutes before serving.

Tip #10-Be sure to wrap or store leftovers in airtight containers promptly after serving (within two hours after cooking). Keep refrigerated and use within three days.

For more information on purchasing and cooking beef or how to defrost beef, visit Beef ItsWhatsForDinner.com or the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) food safety fact sheets.


  1. Another great tip for getting your groceries home is to pack a bit of dry ice. This way it won’t melt and create a pool in your vehicle. The only downside is access to dry ice. If you can find it, it’s pretty cheap.

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