How to Tell if Steak is Bad or Spoiled?

There are many signs based on which you can tell that a steak is spoiled. Some of the most common are: the expiration date of the steak has passed, the steak has been in the refrigerator for too long, the steak has a slimy texture, is discolored, is dry, or smells bad. In addition to explaining those signs in detail below, we provide valuable tips to ensure that your meat doesn’t go bad in the future.

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1. The Expiration Date of The Steak Has Passed

Checking a steak’s expiration date 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 describes to the seller the period they have to sell a steak to a customer, giving them enough time to use the meat. The use-by date is the date the consumer should use the meat. If a steak has a use-by date of December 11th, it must be eaten or frozen by that date. For best results, freeze the steak right after you buy it (the fresher it is, the better).

If you can’t cook the steak, just freeze it and keep it in the freezer. Remember to label the steak bag with the freezing date before placing it in the freezer, so you don’t keep it there for too long.

2. The Steak Has Been in The Fridge Too Long

Don’t keep the steak in the fridge too long; otherwise, it will spoil. According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the safe time to store raw steak in the fridge is 3 to 5 days. Again, according to the USDA (source), the safe time to store cooked steak in the fridge is 3 to 4 days. After that time, the steak may become slimy and smelly, and the chances of food poisoning increase with every additional day.

3. The Steak Has a Slimy Texture

A steak that has gone bad very often feels slimy. You’ll notice a slimy film on the surface when you touch it. The slime feels slippery and sticky, which are signs of a rancid steak that is days away from molding. Mold indicates that fresh meat has absorbed bacteria and is no longer safe to eat.

4. The Steak is Discolored

A change in color doesn’t always mean that the steak is bad. The reason why the steak changed color is important. You should look for significant darkening and patches on your steak to determine if it’s bad. Pay attention if the steak is heavily brown, yellow, or green. Check if there are other signs of a bad steak, such as slimy texture and bad smell.

Tightly packed, fresh raw steak has a purplish or burgundy color that changes initially to cherry red when the meat is exposed to air for at least a dozen minutes. Then, a steak kept in the refrigerator for a few days will gradually darken until it becomes brown. At this point, many people will say that the steak is not good, but this is not exactly true. Just because the steak has changed color to brown doesn’t mean it’s spoiled. In addition, check if your steak has the other signs described in this article.

5. The Steak Smells Bad

A straightforward way to detect a bad steak is its smell. You’ll notice a significant difference between the smell of a fresh steak and a spoiled one. Although the smell of raw steak isn’t attractive, it shouldn’t be completely off-putting. 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 or eggs. 

Remember that dry-aged steaks also don’t have a pleasant aroma, but that doesn’t mean 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 the best way to determine if it’s bad. You’ll have to look for other signs, such as discoloration or slime.

Bad Steak FAQs

How To Tell If The Frozen Steak Is Bad?

You can tell a frozen steak is bad if you notice signs such as freezer burn, change in texture, smells bad after thawing, improperly frozen (leaky packaging and lots of ice inside), or you simply can’t remember when you froze your steak.

What Does Bad Steak Smell Like?

A spoiled steak has a strong unpleasant odor. The smell, according to many, is most often reminiscent of ammonia, rotten eggs, or cheese odor. In the case of dry-aged steaks, it is advisable to consider other signs than just the smell.

What Does a Bad Steak Look Like?

A spoiled steak usually has color changes, partially or in the form of spots. Pay attention to the darkening of the steak or a change in color to yellow or green. Bad steak also looks and feels slimy and sticky to the touch. In addition to these signs, we recommend you consider the steak’s smell.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Steak?

Bacteria is present in food that has gone bad and can make you very sick. Apart from the terrible taste, a bad steak can poison you. Learn more about this topic by reading the article on symptoms of food poisoning.

Can Steak Go Bad in The Freezer?

A steak can spoil even if it’s in a freezer. It can go bad if you’ve stored it too long or incorrectly. The most common problem that occurs is freezer burn. It’s a phenomenon that affects the quality of the meat by drawing moisture out of the steak. In theory, such a steak is safe to eat, but its taste is so bad that no one does it. If this has happened to you, next time, learn how to freeze steak properly to avoid such questions in the future.

Last Thoughts on How to Tell if Steak is Spoiled

Whether a steak is good or spoiled depends on many factors. The expiration date of the steak, how long it has been in the refrigerator or freezer, its color and texture, and smell. These are the most important aspects you need to consider. Remember, if you have any doubts about the freshness of the steak, it is better not to risk food poisoning and just throw the suspicious steak in the trash.

How you store the steak is also extremely important. If you are unsure if you will cook the purchased steak in the next few days, freeze it. A frozen steak can be stored in the refrigerator for several months (3 to 4) without significantly affecting the taste. The most effective process for thawing such a steak takes about 24 hours and involves leaving it in the refrigerator. We cover all these topics in our other guides, which we encourage you to read.

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam is the founder of Steak Revolution. He loves sharing his knowledge of steaks with everyone, ensuring you get the perfect steak every time.