How to Tell if a Steak Is Bad: An Easy Guide

Storing steak in the fridge can kill bacteria. But, saving it for too long can still render your steak unfit to eat. You can tell if a steak is bad by the way it looks, smells, and feels to touch.

Once your steak has gone wrong, it’s wise to throw it away. Eating expired steak can mean numerous trips to the bathroom and a possible medical bill. So to avoid such instances, you need to learn how to spot a bad steak and how to store your steak correctly.

Our guidelines will help you spot spoilage signs like a pro. After reading this article, you will know how to tell if a steak is bad, and what measures you can do to prevent this from happening again. After all, it’s an expensive piece of meat that you would hate to throw away.

How Would You Know When a Steak Is Bad?

how to tell if meat is bad

How can you spot a steak that has gone bad? You’re going to use your sense of smell, sight, and touch. A bad steak can’t hide if you know the signs of spoilage.

Your fridge can keep your steak fresh, but it’s not a holy grail that can extend the meat’s shelf life infinitely.

Rotten meat will exhibit different spoilage signs. And when it does, it’s time to throw that steak into the trash bin.

1. It’s past its expiration date

When buying meat, it’s crucial to pay attention to the expiration date. Never consume meat if it’s already past its expiration date. But how about the sell-by date?

The sell-by date indicated when the store should have sold the meat. So it’s still safe to consume the beef even if it’s past the ‘sell-by’ date.

What’s crucial is the expiration date. You should have stored, thawed, and cooked the steak before this date.

Make sure to cook the meat before it reaches that expiration date. That should be non-negotiable!

Remember that even if it has been in the freezer, some bacteria can survive extreme freezing temperatures. So it’s best to cook the meat even before it expires. And you’ll also be sure that it stays tender and juicy.

And if you have some leftover grilled steak that you won’t be eating right away, store it in the freezer. Freezing will extend the shelf life for 5-6 days.

2. Color change

A fresh raw piece of meat should have a red color. But if the meat starts to transform into a different color, you may have a spoiled steak.

So, you have to examine the color of the meat. And once it starts to show black or greenish hue, throw it away. Molds are already thriving.

Your steak won’t entirely turn into black or green. Instead, the black and green can be patches of colors. So a few spots still make it unfit to eat.

But not all color changes are bad. Storing frozen steak in the freezer can result in a shift in color. The steak may become brown or even gray. These aren’t molds- the brown and gray hues are a result of freezer burns.

The absence of oxygen causes the brown color. Since it has been in the freezer, it’s likely to happen.

Is it still safe to eat? Yes. But the flavor and tenderness won’t be that great.

3. It smells like cheese

That pungent smell is pleasant if it’s cheese. But a cheesy smell from your red meat? It’s an indicator that your steak has gone wrong.

Your steak should never smell like cheese even when it’s cooked. Nor should it feel stale or rotten.

That unpleasant smell means that bacteria and microorganisms are already growing in the meat. The more rotten it smells, the more bacteria it harbors.

Apart from a cheesy smell, you may also notice that your meat can smell like sulfur or ammonia.

But it’s not to be mistaken with aged steaks. Aged steaks also have the same pungent smell. This smell is due to the build-up of lactic acid in the meat. So if you can’t differentiate the scent of aged steak and bad steak, look for other telltale signs.

4. It’s slippery to touch

A bad steak has this thin film that forms on top. It has a slick and sticky feel.

When your steak has this thin film forming on the surface, throw it away. It means that bacteria is starting to thrive on it. It might not smell bad yet, but rest assured it’s already teeming with harmful microorganisms and bacteria.

5. You can’t remember when you placed them in the fridge

If you can’t remember when you stored your steak the refrigerator, chances are it’s been way too long.

Remember that you can store raw steak in the freezer for 5-6 days. How about cooked ones? How many days can it stay in the fridge? You can store cooked meat in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. If it has only been less than a week, you’d undoubtedly recall.

6. It has lost its juices

This fact goes for frozen steak. How would you know when frozen meat has lost most of its juices?

When you thaw the meat, and you noticed a lot of liquid oozed out from the flesh. The thawed meat is then dehydrated. While a dry steak won’t necessarily make you sick, it’s not appetizing to eat. And chances are, your steak has been in the freezer for too long. Hence, it became dry and has lost its natural juices.

What Happens if You Eat Spoiled Meat?


Steaks are the most prized cuts of beef, and it’s relatively expensive too. That’s why it’s such a waste if it would go bad. You then try to cook still and consume the meat regardless of the spoilage.

Can you still cook spoiled meat? Clearly no. If you want to save money by consuming bad steak, you might end up paying more.

Some can cause more than just stomach upset. It can send you to a hospital bed. Below are several risks of eating expired and unrefrigerated meat. That goes both for cooked steak and frozen ones.

  • Escherichia Coli
  • Bacillus and Clostridium
  • Salmonella
  • Fever
  • Severe stomach cramping
  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea

And when left untreated, these can lead to dehydration. Food poisoning is no joke. It can be life-threatening for children, the elderly, and those who are immuno-compromised.

But what if the meat’s cooked?

Some may argue that heat from cooking can kill the bacteria. Yes, a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit can kill Salmonella bacteria. But there are other types of bacteria that you still have to be concerned about. Some of these can survive extreme temperatures.

So even if you have correctly cooked a bad steak, it can still harbor bacteria. The rule of thumb? Once you spot a bad steak, avoid eating it.

Take no chances, no matter how expensive that cut of meat is.

How to Avoid Steak Spoilage

To avoid food poisoning and compromising your budget, you have to store your steak correctly.

Proper storage can prevent spoilage. These are no-brainer tips that you have to do every time you purchase your favorites cuts of beef.

Preventing meat spoilage doesn’t have to be a puzzle. Allow us to guide you through these easy steps.

From the grocery to the freezer

Never let raw meat stay at room temperature. The longer it stays in there, the higher the risk of spoilage.

Place your steak in the refrigerator immediately, especially if you don’t have any plans for cooking it yet. You can even store raw meat for months, provided that the temperature is below zero degrees.

Unrefrigerated meat can harbor a myriad of harmful microorganisms. Meat, poultry, and seafood alike should be kept in the freezer as soon as you get home from the store.

Keep cooked meat in the fridge

The same goes for cooked steak. If you have leftovers that you’re not going to eat anymore, put it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life by 1-2 days.

And if you plan to eat it longer than that, transfer it to the freezer. In that way, it can still be safe to consume for 5-6 days.

Just don’t expect the meat to be that tender and flavorful anymore. The longer the meat stays in the fridge, the less tasty it will be.

That goes for both cooked and frozen meat.

Your fridge maybe your best friend when it comes to preserving your steak. But if it’s in there for too long, all the natural juices will be gone, so don’t expect a tender and juicy steak. It’s just not the same as a fresh steak!

Thawing your meat properly

Avoid thawing your meat at room temperature. While it has been a common practice, it could increase the risk of spoilage. Even if the meat was frozen, there’s still a chance that harmful bacteria can thrive in that piece of meat.

There are two safe ways to thaw raw meat safely. Thaw using your microwave. Or, thaw the meat in the lower portion of the fridge. The cold and hot temperatures will lessen bacterial growth.

Vacuum seal your steak before storing

Store the meat in a sealed container and freeze. This seal will ensure that it stays fresher. Make sure to remove any air pockets from plastic containers. Once the meat gets exposure to air, it will begin to oxidize, which could shorten the shelf life of the steak.

Have an inventory

If you’ve been keeping vast portions of meat in your fridge and freezer, it would be wise to keep a list. It’s important to know when you stored the meat in the refrigerator and freezer.

This organization will make it easier for you to identify which meat has been in there for too long. And it’ll be easier to tell if your meat is bad or spoiled.

Never keep meat at room temperature

Room temperature may be bacteria’s best friend. Bacteria thrive at this temperature.

Storing unconsumed steak in the fridge will lessen the risk of bacterial growth. You can just heat it whenever you want to eat it again.

Pay attention to the expiration date

Never eat meat that has expired. Raw meats have labels of ‘sell before’ and expiration date. You can still consume steak after its ‘sell before’ date. But you can’t eat one that has already passed the expiration date. Molds and bacteria are starting to grow at this point.

Remove rotting meat immediately from the freezer or fridge

If you have already spotted a slice of bad meat, throw it right away. Keeping it in the refrigerator longer can rot the other meat in your fridge. It’s just like how a rotten tomato can spread decay to other tomatoes in a basket.

The decay can spread among the other meats in your fridge. So, better pull the rotten meat out.

Don’t break the seal of the steak unless you’re going to cook them

cook steak

When you buy raw steak, it’s vacuum-sealed. This seal ensures that there are no air pockets that can cause oxidation and spoilage. So if you won’t be cooking it right away, don’t open it. This seal can also keep your raw steak fresher and juicier too.

Final Words

A spoiled steak can ruin your budget. Especially if you’re keen on cooking that piece of steak for dinner tonight. More so if it’s the last piece of meat left and you don’t have time to rush to the store.

But trying to cook and consume a bad steak can cost you a bit more. And that includes your health and a whopping hospital bill. Not to mention, all the discomforts that it could bring.

After all, a bad steak won’t have that luxurious taste. So all in all, you’re doing yourself a favor by throwing away spoiled steak.

It’s quite easy to check the meat for signs of spoilage. Trust your sense of sight, touch, and smell to discern if your meat has gone bad. They won’t fail you! And, to avoid such food wastage, proper storage should be observed.

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