Question: I thawed some ground beef in the fridge today, planning to use it for tonight’s dinner. But now my plans have changed. Do I still have to cook the meat right away?
Answer: You’ve got some breathing room. Ground beef that’s been defrosted in the fridge can be safely kept for an additional one to two days in the refrigerator before cooking, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And since you thawed the ground beef in the fridge, you can also safely refreeze it within that same timeframe, says the USDA.
None of this would apply, on the other hand, if you had thawed the ground beef in the microwave or in cold water.
You should immediately cook meat thawed under either of those methods, advises the USDA, since it could easily warm up to the 40°F temperature at which harmful bacteria begins to multiply rapidly.