How to Tell If Steak is Bad: 5 Telltale Signs (And How to Freeze It Right)

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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

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? 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.

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.

The Best Way to Store Steaks

how to tell if 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.

01. 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.

02. 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.

03. 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.

04. 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.

05. 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.

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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