How to Tell if Steak is Bad

It’s possible for a steak to spoil even if it’s in a freezer. If you’ve stored it for too long or incorrectly, it can go bad. Nothing is worse than having a salivating mouth that is dying to sink its teeth into a juicy steak, then finding out that the meat has gone bad after you’ve tasted it.

Apart from the terrible taste, a bad steak can give you food poisoning. The last thing you want is to be anxiously waiting for a delicious steak, only to end up in the hospital. Bacteria is present on food that has gone bad, and it can make you very sick.

How do you know if a steak has gone bad? There are certain signs you should look out for that reveal a steak is bad. In addition to explaining those signs, we provide valuable tips to ensure that your meat doesn’t go bad and retains its succulent moisture.

The 5 Signs your steak is spoiled

1. Check the Expiration Date

This is one of the most obvious ways to avoid a bad steak. When you’re at the supermarket or the butcher, always check the expiration date to ensure that it hasn’t passed or that the meat will not expire by the time you plan to cook it.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between a sell-by date and a use-by date. The sell-by date stipulates to the seller the period that he or she has to sell to a customer, enabling them enough time to use the meat. The use-by date is the exact date by which the consumer should use the meat.

In some cases, it may be okay for the consumer to eat the meat a day or two after the expiry date, but it’s best to err on the side of caution by waiting no longer than the day before.

There is also the possibility that the expiration date could be a while from your purchase date, and you do not have plans to cook it anytime soon. It’s possible that your expiration date could lapse, since most people don’t tend to check every item in the freezer regularly.

A good way to avoid that is by having a list of items in your freezer and their expiration date. You can even stick the list on the fridge. Another item you can add to that list is the date when you initially put it into the freezer so that you don’t keep it in there for too long.

2. Does It Feel Slimy?

One of the easiest ways to detect a bad steak is by slime. A steak that has gone bad feels slimy. When you touch it, you’ll notice a slimy film on the surface. The slime feels slippery and sticky, which are signs of a rancid steak that is days away from molding.

Mold is an indication that fresh meat has absorbed bacteria and is no longer safe to eat. Some steaks might not feel slimy, but they will have a strange color.

3. It’s Discolored

You may notice that your meat has changed color and looks brown, yellow, or even green. It’s also possible that you’ll notice a few patches of discoloration.

Two proteins give meat its color: myoglobin and hemoglobin. Myoglobin gives meat its red color, and hemoglobin is in blood. After you slice your steak, myoglobin begins to react with oxygen by turning a purplish red color.

Once you have exposed your sliced meat to air for about half an hour, it will turn a cherry red hue. The next stage happens three days later when the myoglobin has oxidized and colored the meat brown. At this stage, it’s safe to eat the meat. Just because meat has changed color doesn’t mean that it’s rotten.

You should look out for significant darkening and patches on your steak to determine if it’s bad.

4. Is It Dry?

If a steak is dry, the chances are good that it’s bad. A dry, shriveled, and dehydrated steak reveals that its best days are behind it. Just because a steak is dry doesn’t mean that you’re going to get sick from it.

The dryness will affect the texture and the flavor of the steak when you cook it, unless it’s got a lot of marbling. You can avoid a dry steak by ensuring you’ve put it in a vacuum-sealed package before it goes into the freezer (Check out our how to freeze steak guide). By doing so, you’ll retain the juice that’s needed to keep the steak’s natural moisture and avoid getting bacteria on the steak.

Once you’ve exposed the steak to bacteria, it will cause premature spoilage, mold, and an unpleasant smell.

5. How Does It Smell?

One of the easiest ways to detect a bad steak is by its smell. Although the smell of raw steak isn’t exactly like a bouquet of flowers, it shouldn’t be completely off-putting, either. You’ll notice a significant difference between the smell of a fresh steak and one that is spoiled.

If a whiff of the steak makes you grimace, then the meat is probably off. A bad steak will have a strong odor of ammonia. Keep in mind that dry-aged steaks also don’t have a pleasant aroma, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad.

Due to lactic acid released during the aging process, a dry-aged steak may smell like cheese. With dry-aged steak, the smell isn’t always the best way to determine if it’s bad. You’ll have to look for other signs such as discoloration or slime.

Things to Keep in Mind

The easiest way to avoid having a rancid steak is by vacuum-sealing it. You can also thaw out flash-frozen meat to ensure that it keeps all of its nutrients. Having air-tight packaging on your meat is the difference between enjoying a succulent steak or throwing it away because it’s slimy or discolored.

Apart from storage, you should also ensure that the meat doesn’t pass its use-by date. Use a list to document the date you place the meat inside the freezer and its use-by date to avoid this unfortunate discovery.

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About the author

Adam can tell you the difference between a flank steak and skirt steak and any other cut of meat. He loves sharing his knowledge of steaks with everyone, ensuring you get the perfect steak every time.