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Can I eat 6 day old meatballs?

Quick Answer

Meatballs that are properly stored in the refrigerator should be safe to eat for 3 to 4 days past the expiration date printed on the packaging. However, there are some factors to consider when determining if 6 day old meatballs are still good to eat:

  • Were the meatballs stored in the refrigerator the whole time at 40°F or below?
  • Were they stored in air-tight packaging or container?
  • Do they smell normal and look fresh, with no discoloration or sliminess?

As long as there are no signs of spoilage, 6 day old refrigerated meatballs should be safe to eat. However, the quality may start to decline after 3-4 days. It’s best to inspect the meatballs closely and use your judgment. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe and throw them out.

How Long Do Meatballs Last in the Fridge?

Properly stored, cooked meatballs will usually stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days after being cooked or after the sell-by date on the package. The exact shelf life depends on several factors:

  • Freshness of ingredients when cooked
  • Cooking method and temperature
  • How well sealed the container is
  • Temperature of the refrigerator

Meatballs made with very fresh ingredients that are cooked thoroughly to a safe internal temperature, then cooled and stored properly in an airtight container, will stay fresh longer. Keeping your fridge at 40°F or below will also extend the shelf life.

Some general guidelines for refrigerated meatballs:

Meatballs Refrigerator Life
Fresh homemade meatballs 3-4 days
Storebought precooked meatballs (unopened package) 3-5 days past sell-by date
Storebought precooked meatballs (opened package) 3-4 days
Meatballs from takeout or restaurant leftovers 3-4 days

Freezing Extends Shelf Life

Freezing cooked meatballs extends their shelf life significantly. Properly frozen meatballs can be kept safe almost indefinitely, although quality will start to decline after 2-3 months.

To freeze meatballs:

  • Cool cooked meatballs completely
  • Package in airtight containers or freezer bags
  • Remove as much air as possible
  • Label package with contents and date
  • Freeze at 0°F or below

Thaw frozen meatballs in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. Do not thaw at room temperature.

Signs Meatballs Have Spoiled

Although meatballs can stay fresh for 3-4 days in the fridge, or much longer in the freezer, they can still spoil if not stored properly. Signs that refrigerated or thawed meatballs have spoiled and should be discarded include:

  • Sliminess
  • Mold growth
  • Off odor that is spoiled or rancid
  • Greyish brown or greenish colors
  • Texture changes, such as very soft or mushy

If there are visible signs of spoilage, it is not safe to eat the meatballs. At the first signs of spoilage, discard the meatballs even if within the 3-4 day window.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out

If you are unsure if refrigerated meatballs are still fresh and safe to eat, it is best to be cautious and throw them out. The potential risks of foodborne illness are not worth taking a chance.

Safely Reheating Meatballs

To safely reheat refrigerated cooked meatballs:

  • Use the stove, oven, or microwave
  • Heat to an internal temperature of 165°F
  • Bring sauces or liquids to a boil when reheating in them
  • Only reheat once – do not let cool and reheat again

Proper reheating will kill any bacteria that may have developed during storage. Leftover meatballs should not be reheated in the crockpot, as this allows too much time for bacteria to grow in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F.

Microwave Instructions

To reheat in the microwave:

  • Place meatballs in a microwave-safe dish
  • Cover loosely with paper towel or vented plastic wrap
  • Microwave on High for 2-3 minutes, until hot
  • Stir and let sit 2 minutes before serving

Microwaving can result in uneven hot spots – stir thoroughly and check internal temperature with a food thermometer.

How to Store Meatballs

Proper storage is key for maximizing the shelf life and safety of cooked meatballs. Follow these tips:

  • Refrigerate promptly – Let cooked meatballs cool briefly before refrigerating in airtight containers.
  • Seal tightly – Use containers with tight-fitting lids or cover with plastic wrap to prevent leaks, spills and freezer burn.
  • Minimize air exposure – The more air exposure, the faster food dries out and spoils.
  • Eat within 3-4 days – For optimal freshness and food safety.
  • Freeze for longer storage – Freeze in airtight packaging for up to 2-3 months.

With proper refrigeration and freezing methods, cooked meatballs can stay fresh and delicious for maximum enjoyment!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I eat meatballs that have been refrigerated for a week?

It’s not recommended to eat refrigerated cooked meatballs that are more than 4 days old. Even when stored properly, the quality and safety of meatballs begins to decline after the 4 day mark. Discard refrigerated meatballs that are more than 4-5 days old.

How can I tell if cooked meatballs have gone bad?

Signs that cooked meatballs have spoiled include an off smell, slimy texture, discoloration, or visible mold. If reheated meatballs smell bad or have an off taste, throw them out. When in doubt, don’t risk getting sick by eating meatballs that seem spoiled.

Is there a health risk eating old meatballs?

Yes, there are potential health risks from eating meatballs that have spoiled. Bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, Bacillus cereus, and Staph aureus can grow in perishable foods and cause food poisoning when eaten. Always inspect meatballs carefully before consumption and discard any with signs of spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.

Should I freeze extra meatballs I won’t eat in 3-4 days?

Yes, freezing is the best way to safely store cooked meatballs for longer periods. Properly frozen meatballs can last 2-3 months before quality declines. Freeze any extras that you won’t finish within 3-4 days.

Can I refreeze thawed meatballs again?

It is not recommended to refreeze thawed meatballs after reheating them, as the quality further deteriorates. Eat fully thawed meatballs within 3-4 days, or discard them. You can safely refreeze raw meatballs only once, directly from the freezer into the refrigerator or cooler.


In general, properly stored cooked meatballs have a refrigerator shelf life of 3 to 4 days if kept at 40°F or below. Freezing extends shelf life significantly. Signs of spoilage include smell, texture, color and mold changes. Reheat thawed or refrigerated meatballs to 165°F once before consuming for food safety. With proper refrigeration and freezing methods, cooked meatballs can stay fresh, delicious and safe to eat. When in any doubt, it’s best to throw meatballs out to avoid potential foodborne illness.