How to Tell If Steak Is Bad – Tips for Food Safety

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So, you bought a steak and tossed it into your fridge at the beginning of the week. The weekend is here and you are planning on a nice fancy dinner. Lo and behold, the steak seems slightly off. 

Tempted to cook it anyway and hope for the best?

Understanding how to tell if steak is bad can prevent you lots of pain, puking, and even a trip to the doctors. Tossing steak in the fridge for 10 days is definitely a risky move, but this article will tell you how to identify the signs that your steak needs to be thrown out.

If you want to know if the stuff in your fridge is moldy steak or perfectly safe to eat, keep reading. Besides showing you how to know if steak is bad, this article also looks at the best way to store steak and lengthen its shelf life.

5 Signs That Tell You Should Throw Out Your Steak

How to Tell If Steak Is Bad - Tips for Food Safety 1
5 Signs That Tell You Should Throw Out Your Steak

These 5 signs will tell you when steak is bad. If your steak (or any kind of meat) displays any of these symptoms, it’s time to toss it out and not experiment to see if it is still edible.

01. It Feels Slimy:

Slime on food is never a good omen, but it’s extra nasty when it is found on meat.

If your steak has gone bad, it will sometimes look and feel slimy and slippery to the touch. The surface of the steak will glisten and have a layer of slime over it, and the layer might have a yellowish sheen when held in bright light.

This slimy layer is caused by a buildup of bacteria and thus confirms that your steak has gone rancid and should be put in the trash, not on your grill. When the slimy steak is left out, you will see mold growing on the surface in just a few days.

However, if your meat is just starting to go bad, the whole thing may not feel slimy. Because of this, it is best to examine the steak thoroughly for other signs as well.

02. It’s Past the Use-By Date:

Before tossing the steak in your fridge or freezer, check the use-by date. The meat needs to be thawed, cooked, and consumed before this date. If you’re freezing your steak, take it out to thaw at least two days before the use-by date.

Not sure how long your steak’s been sitting in your fridge? Get into the habit of writing the date it needs to be used before tossing it into your freezer.

Most steaks can be wrapped in plastic and left in the fridge for 3-5 days, any time exceeding this means your steak might make you sick. And if you can’t remember when you put it in the fridge/freezer, it’s been in there for too long.

03. It Feels Dry:

On the other side of the sliminess, dryness is another sign that your steak is no longer at its best. Does your steak feel dry or look rather shriveled and dehydrated?

If your steak is dry and juiceless, it doesn’t always mean that you will get an upset stomach if you cook it. But this will result in a tough and chewy steak without much flavor.

If you plan on keeping your steaks in the freezer, a good way to stop them from drying out is to store them in a vacuum-sealed bag first. These can be Ziploc or freezer bags. They will reduce the exposure to air (and bacteria), and stop the moisture in the steak from drying out.

Even if you want to store it in the fridge for a day or two, wrapping it cling film will stop it from going dry and leathery. But if your steak feels tough and leathery, it’s best not to cook it at all.

04. It’s Become Discolored:

This is one of the major indicators that your meat is past the point of saving and must be thrown out. Of course, green steak is rancid but what about a steak that looks just a little off?

However, if some parts of the steak turn a darker brown than the rest, then it’s time to toss it. Green steak or a very dark brown definitely needs throwing out. And if you think your steak looks yellow or gray, then it’s most probably a biohazard at that point.

05. It Smells Funny:

If steak smells sour, it’s basically telling you to throw it in the trash. While the smell of fresh meat isn’t great; it is distinct and has a slight metallic hint, it doesn’t smell extremely unpleasant either. The smell is also pretty faint, and not overpowering.

On the other hand, if your steak is old or expired, it will have a definitive odor that smells sour or a little like rotten eggs or ammonia. And unlike fresh meat, the smell is strong enough to make you feel nauseous.

However, certain dry-aged steaks will naturally have a mild cheese-like smell because of the lactic acid that is produced during the aging process. If you aren’t sure whether your steak has the aged smell or the rotten one, use your other senses to confirm whether or not it has gone bad.

Is brown steak bad?

Fresh meat generally has a bright red color because of the hemoglobin and myoglobin present in it. When the steak is first sliced, the meat will take on a reddish-purplish hue which is due to the myoglobin reacting to the oxygen. After this, the meat turns a dark red, around 30 minutes after exposure to air.

Finally, 3 days later, the myoglobin is fully oxidized and the meat turns brown. However, at this stage, the meat is still safe to consume. So, if the steak turned brown in the freezer, you can still eat it.

How to Cook Steak Safely

To ensure that your steak is cooked safely, it’s important to check for doneness. Here are a few methods:

Using a meat thermometer

Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the steak to check the internal temperature. For medium-rare steak, the temperature should be 135°F, while medium steak should be cooked to 145°F.

Using the touch test

Press the center of the steak with your finger to check for doneness. For medium-rare steak, the center should feel slightly soft and springy, while medium steak should feel firmer.

How to Tell If Meat Is Bad After Cooking?

One of the most common questions we get asked is “how can you tell if meat is bad after cooking it?” While there are some obvious signs that meat has gone bad (like mold or an off odor), sometimes it can be tricky to tell.

Here are a few tips to help you out:

1. Check the Color

The first indicator that your meat is bad after cooking is how it looks; freshly cooked meat should be brownish in color because of the breakdown of myoglobin (at 170+ F) while cooking, according to an MCU study

It may turn red or pinkish-red color after being cooled down, which is perfectly safe to eat. However, if it’s starting to turn brown or has any green tinges to it, it’s probably not good anymore.

The color of your cooked steak is not always a sign of quality, rather it’s a sign 

2. Inspect the Texture

Bad meat will often look stringy or mushy, rather than firm and juicy. However, it’ll feel slimy or slippery once you run your fingers over the meat’s surface. It means bacteria have started to multiply on your steak. 

You may also see the green or black area, which is a sign of fungal development. 

3. Give It a Smell 

The simplest and quickest method to tell if meat has spoiled is probably this test. It applies to both cooked and raw ground beef/pork/lamb. 

If you’re eating your leftover steak after a day or two in the fridge, it’s a good idea to give it a sniff before you take a bite.

Cooked meat that has gone bad will usually have a very off, unpleasant odor. It will smell sour/acidic, somewhat like soured milk or rotten egg when the meat is bad. It’s a sign of bacterial development. 

You’ll know it immediately unless there is something wrong with your nose! Trust your instinct. It is no longer safe to consume after it has gone rotten.

4. Taste It

If all these tests don’t give you any satisfactory conclusion, you can always give it a try. In case you’re not a vegan or trying meat for the very first time (which is very unlikely!), you know what your usual meat tastes like. 

Rotten meat will taste extremely sour or bitter. You may think that you cooked wrong, but that may not be the case most of the time. Spit it out immediately to avoid food poisoning. 

If you’ve accidentally gulped down such meat, stick your fingers down your throat and throw up the whole steak. Believe me, it’s much better than the after-effects of eating bad meat.  

And if you’re ever in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw the meat out. Better safe than sorry!

What Happens If You Eat Bad Steak?

If you eat bad steak, you may experience food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning from eating bad steak include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, according to Mayo Clinic

If you experience these symptoms, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and you should be fine within 24 hours.

If you only have diarrhea or gas, you likely have a minor case of food poisoning. However, if you have a fever or blood in your stool, it’s an advanced case of food poisoning and you should see a doctor immediately. 

Caution: Some people think that if they thoroughly cook infected raw meat or heat up the badly cooked meat in the oven, bacteria will die, and it’ll be safe to eat. 

However, it probably won’t be a good idea. even after fully cooking your meal and eliminating any germs, you might still get unwell. This is brought on by the poisons that certain bacteria exude. The symptoms of food poisoning may also be caused by these poisons.

How Long Does Cooked Steak Last in Fridge?

Knowing how long your food will last is important. 

Cooked steak can last in the fridge (at 40°F or less) for up to four days, according to USDA. Refrigeration will slow down the bacterial growth that starts at room temperature but won’t stop completely. 

So, it is best to eat it within two days to ensure that it is fresh. 

If you do not plan on eating it within that time frame, you can always freeze it. It’ll last in the freezer for 2–6 months. Just make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.

When it comes to steak, fresh is always best. However, if you find yourself with leftover cooked steak, don’t let it go to waste. Enjoy it within four days or freeze it for later.

The Best Way to Store Steaks

how to tell if steak is bad
steak is bad

Before we get started on how you should store your steak to prevent it from going bad too quickly, let’s get this out of the way. How long can steak stay in the fridge? When wrapped tightly, you can keep your steak in the fridge for 2-5 days.

When it comes to the freezer, you can store it till the use-by-day. However, you can also store it in there for a few extra days-but checks to make sure there are no other signs of spoilage. Cooked meat will last for 3-4 days before freezing or throwing it out.

The best way to store steaks is in the freezer. They need to be wrapped in clingfilm so limit exposure to air. Then, pack them in Ziploc or freezer bags, pushing out the air before sealing the bags and placing them in the freezer.

The less exposure to air, the fresher the meat will stay. You can also ask your butcher to wrap or seal your steak which will slow down bacterial growth and extend its shelf life.

Let your steaks thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking. You can also defrost your steaks on the counter or special defrosting trays.

Still Got Questions?

Here you will find answers to questions about identifying the freshness of your steaks.

How Long is Steak Good for?

When kept in the freezer, the steak will have a use-by date that lasts anywhere from 6 to 12 months. On the other hand, it will stay fresh in the fridge for 2-5 days.

How Can I Tell If Steak is Bad after Cooking?

Mold, discoloration, and strange smells are all signs that your steak has gone bad after it has been grilled or seared.

What Does Bad Steak Taste Like?

While it isn’t recommended to check for spoiled steak by tasting, meat that has gone bad will have a rancid taste.  If your steak tastes extremely sour or bitter, it’s definitely gone bad.

Are Brown Steaks Bad to Eat?

If your steaks are a regular brown in color, they are still safe to eat. Dark brown or green-yellow steaks have gone bad and need to be discarded.

How Long Can I Store Cooked Steak in the Fridge?

Once steak is prepared, it can be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days, before it goes bad.

Can you still eat steak if it’s brown on the outside?

If the steak has turned brown on the outside due to exposure to air, it may still be safe to eat. However, if the brown color is accompanied by a foul odor or slimy texture, the steak should be discarded.

How long does steak last in the refrigerator?

Raw steak can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. Cooked steak can be stored for up to four days.

Can you tell if steak is bad by looking at the expiration date?

The expiration date on the package can provide an estimate of when the steak should be consumed by. However, it’s important to rely on visual, olfactory, and tactile cues to determine if the steak has gone bad.

Can you get sick from eating bad steak?

Yes, consuming spoiled steak can lead to food poisoning, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

How do you properly dispose of spoiled steak?

To properly dispose of spoiled steak, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and discard it in a sealed trash bag. This can help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

To Summarize

Once you know how to tell if steak is bad, you won’t ever have to risk eating rotten meat and getting sick. This guide will prevent you from losing track of your steak’s use-by dates, and teach you the correct way to store steaks to maximize their freshness. And once you figure out the gigantic tomahawk steak you’ve been saving is good to go, fire up your charcoal grill and enjoy one of the best meals the world has to offer!

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