Did My Steak Go Bad? Tell-Tale Signs It’s Not Safe to Eat

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spoiled steak

Photo by nesnad licensed under CC BY 3.0

Storing steak in the refrigerator or freezer can slow down the spoiling process if you’re not going to eat it right away. However, neither place will keep your meat fresh forever. Steaks can and do go bad, even in the freezer, if they’re not stored correctly or if they’re stored for too long. The last thing you want is for your favorite food to make you sick. 

How to tell if steak is bad:

The Use-By Date Has Passed

This seems pretty obvious, but a lot of people don’t know that there’s a difference between a sell-by and use-by date. Plus, what if you put your steak in the freezer? Those dates no longer apply.

The sell-by date is what the grocery store or local butcher must go by. If a steak has a sell-by date of May 13th, the store must sell it by that time to give the purchaser ample time to use it. The steak should still be okay to eat for a few days after that date. Now, if the use-by date on that steak is May 16th, you’ll need to cook or freeze it by that date. After that date, there’s a good chance it may spoil.

If you want to freeze your steak before its use-by date, be sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time for it to thaw and still be safe to eat. With a use-by date of May 16th, you should get your steak in the freezer by May 14th. This will give you a two-day window to get the steak thawed (most only take about 24 hours, but some thick cuts may need closer to 48 hours) before it could spoil according to its original use-by date.

You’ve Had it in Your Fridge for…You Can’t Remember How Long

Writing a date on the steak when you thaw it or put it in the fridge is best practice so that you don’t forget about it and store it for too long. Get into the habit of writing your own use-by date if the store or butcher didn’t put one on there for you. Most steaks can be left in the fridge safely for 3 to 5 days. If you can’t remember how long it’s been there, it’s probably been in the fridge for too long!?

It’s Slimy in Appearance or to the Touch

If you have bad meat or spoilage, a slimy surface film that you can see or feel on a piece of steak is a tell-tale sign. It’ll be clear or yellowish in color but will make the steak appear shinier than usual. It will also have a slippery or sticky feel when you run your fingers over it. Bad steak will usually get this slimy film on it a couple of days before it begins to mold. Mold, of course, is a definite sign that your once fresh steak is now loaded with harmful bacteria, and its quality is no longer safe to eat.

If you don’t yet see film on your steak, but it has a strange color, like more brown, yellow, or green than the bright, purplish red meat color it should have, you might also have spoiled beef. You might see just a few patches of discoloration rather than the whole steak slab, but spots of odd color are still a sign that you should avoid eating it. A rancid cut of steak will start to resemble more of a tuna steak, which is not quite the meal you’re going for.

It Has an Off-Putting Smell

Raw steak doesn’t necessarily smell the greatest, but you’ll usually be able to tell a distinct difference between a good, fresh steak and a spoiled steak just by using your nose. A spoiled steak will have a potent odor that no longer smells like raw steak but instead has an ammonia-clad aroma. You’ll definitely know the odor when you smell it, and it’s a sure-fire sign that you should not plan to eat it!

It’s important to note that your nose may not also be the best thing to use. Dry aged steak sometimes have a similar odor naturally because the dry aging process releases lactic acid that is stinky in itself. If you’re wondering if your nose is playing tricks on you, you should use a couple of our other “how to tell if a steak is bad” tips to be sure.

It’s Dry and Juice-Less

Another tip for how to tell if a steak is bad is to check its overall appearance. Does it look or feel dry to the touch? Did you take your frozen meat out of the freezer to thaw, and all their juices ran out into the bag? Although a dry, juiceless texture doesn’t necessarily mean your steaks are bad, it could definitely interfere with the flavor and texture of the cooked product. Unless your steak has a lot of marbling to give it tenderizing fat and moisture content, you’ll probably end up with a hockey puck-like steak.

To avoid this, make sure you’re protecting your frozen steaks by placing them in a vacuum-sealed package before they go in the freezer. You’ll lock in the juices needed to retain their natural moisture and can even avoid having them exposed to bacteria that can cause premature spoilage, mold, and yucky smells and tastes. Overall, you’ll get a higher quality steak meal just by taking this simple step.

Conclusion: How to Check for Spoiled Steak

The above pointers will help you learn how to tell if a steak is bad. Want to know how to avoid dealing with spoiled meat? Purchase from Chicago Steak Company! Our steaks come vacuum-sealed and flash-frozen to preserve every ounce of freshness for as long as possible, keeping the juices in and the bacteria away from your meat. 

Keep them frozen until you’re ready to eat them, thaw the steaks on a plate in the fridge by keeping them in their airtight packaging, and cook away. You’ll benefit from fresh steaks delivered right to your door that have the potential to outlast any steak from the grocery store or butcher when you use the proper storing, freezing, and thawing methods.