How do you know when steak is bad

by | Feb 2, 2023 | Barbecue, Smoker | 0 comments

Steak is one of the expensive gourmet-style meats that we would not want going bad within a few days of us buying it. The savory, delicious meat is the most luxurious dinner one could dream of but has a shelf life not very different from other meat. Eating spoiled or rotten steak can have as bad after-effects as eating it raw. 

Hence, you will need to know what to look for when you suspect that your steak is past its expiration date, and there are many ways to tell if your steak has gone rancid.

The smell, texture, and feel of the meat would be different and feel rotten and it would also most likely change in color. 

If you cannot see a lot of change and do not know how to tell if it’s ok to keep your steak, this article might be able to help you decide. Read on to know more!

How to Tell If Steak Is Bad?

Fortunately, bad raw steak is easily differentiable and can easily be told apart from fresh raw steak by its appearance and texture. There will also be a specific spoiled steak smell that will give you a sign of meat going bad before you even touch it. The only exception for it is dry aged steak which has a naturally bad or spoiled odor. 

Even if you keep your steak refrigerated, there is an expiration date after which your fresh steak will eventually start becoming past the stage that it’s safe to eat. The longest one should keep their steak in the fridge is around 3-5 days as rotting may also happen if steak is not stored properly. 

Following are the signs that your steak has gone bad. 

  1. Steak Is Past Its Expiration Date

Steak has a use-by-date and that is the first way to tell if your steak is spoiled. This can be slightly difficult, as there is a difference between the manufacturing date and the final date it is okay to consume the steak. Usually, all food is a good a few days past its expiration date but steak won’t last past a week. 

The longest duration that a steak is still good to eat is 3-5 days after its expiration date, so it’s a good idea to consume it quickly. Eating raw steak is bad for the stomach and can cause medical complications like food poisoning. 

  1. The Smell Is Cheesy Or Off-Putting

One time when my steak got bad, it smelled awful! 

So, inspect your steak to check if it has gone bad or spoiled by smelling it. If the meat has a scent that might smell like rotten cheese, ammonia, or sulfur, it might mean it has gone bad. 

Most of the time, you will certainly be able to tell the smell within the first few whiffs but in the case of dry-aged steak, you should look for other signs. Since the steak goes through a dry-aging process, it emits lactic acid and forms an unpleasant stench by itself. 

  1. Texture Is Dry Without Juices

If you put the steak in the freezer for long, chances are that it will dry out with time, which is a sign of meat going bad. Unless there is a lot of marbling to give your meat moisture that melts while cooking, the dry steak will be hard to recover the juiciness of this steak.

In case you are not sure about whether the meat is dry, you can get the steak thawed to check for any juices or fats. If it’s completely dry, as well as showing other signs of spoilage, it is most likely not safe to eat. 

  1. Appearing Slimy In Texture 

While dryness is a sign of meat going bad, if your steak is wetter (or slimier) than usual, it is still a sign that it’s not safe for cooking. A slimy texture is a clear sign of steak going bad. If you touch the surface, it will most likely feel sticky, greasy, and appear somewhat shiny. 

This slime is also what will eventually turn into mold, which signifies a bad steak. A good way to tell is to get the steak thawed again as the cut-up steak may appear more like a tuna steak.

  1. Change In Color

This will be one of the extreme signs of rotting, but spoiled or rotten steak usually changes in color and becomes brown. Due to oxidation in the fridge, the steak undergoes three periods of color change. 

Beef is generally a darker-colored meat, but there is still a way to tell if steak is expired by its appearance. 

In the beginning, your cut steak will have a potent maroon-purple color that will slowly turn redder and warmer due to oxidation as it’s kept in the fridge. Within three days, the color will be reddish-brown, but the steak is still good to eat and is still in its edible stage. 

However, if it’s been 3 to 5 days, and the color is slowly changing to a dark brown with signs of grey, it is a sign of spoiled meat and it is not okay for consumption. These patches of grey are most often mold growing on the surface of the steak when it is not safe to eat. 

How To Store Steak In The Freezer?

The most common method of storing steak is ordering it in a bulk and cutting the pieces up for later use.

This economical method is a good way to store your steak and keep it fresh each time you want to cook it. Since the expiration window is 3 to 5 days, people usually make a schedule on how to cook or freeze their steak for the coming week.  

Never put your steak into the fridge immediately after the purchase, but go through the following process of storing it. 

  • Step 1: Get a Ziploc or an air-tight vacuum-sealed bag to freeze the steak in. The lesser air around the steak, the longer it will stay fresh. 
  • Step 2: Take out the meat from its original packaging and transfer them into the plastic bag as the actual packaging people sell the steak in is terrible for meat in the fridge. 
  • Step 3: Take into account two main dates – the best-before date of the steak and the date you are putting the meat into the freezer. 
  • Step 4: In case the best-before date is the following day, then you only have around a 2-day window to get the steak thawed and consumed. Otherwise, 3-5 days after you buy the steak is a good time to eat the meat. 

Make sure you don’t freeze your steak as it is and go through the complete process to keep it fresh. 

How to Tell If Frozen Steak Has Gone Bad?

Despite keeping the meat in the fridge, it can still go bad as it would have if you kept the steak on the shelf. Though it can be difficult, there are still enough ways to know if it’s gone bad while in the refrigerator. 

The most common problem that frozen steak can face is freezer burn. This is when frozen foods are kept in cold, dry air and lose all moisture – and you can tell at first glance if the surface of the steak is dry. 

First, check the package of the piece of steak for any tears or holes, and if there are, chances are that the meat might have gathered ice crystals. It might also appear brownish-gray in color but inspect other signs of spoilage to see if it’s still safe to eat!

Steak that has faced freezer burn will not be very good for grilling, but can still taste good when put into tew and broths. This is why storing the meat in air-tight packaging is the best way to keep your steak fresher for a long time. 

What Happens If You Eat Bad Steak?

A great gathering can be thrown over a well-done meal of steak and a spoiled steak can lead to many different stomach complications. If you are lucky, the worst you can have is a bad stomach ache, but the most common after-effect of eating a raw steak is severe food poisoning. 

Always eat well-cooked steak as raw meat can cause a lot of harmful bacteria growth in the stomach which can eventually lead to the development of serious pathogens. Following are some typical symptoms of food poisoning according to the CDC

  • Cramps
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Loose motions
  • Fever 
  • Upset stomach

Related Questions

  1. Does Steak Go Bad In The Freezer? 

Steak in your fridge can still go bad if not stored properly or kept in the freezer for a very long time. 

  1. Is Steak Bad If It Turns Brown?

If your steak has turned brown in the freezer, it has most likely gotten spoiled due to being exposed to oxidation inside the fridge. 

  1. How Long Do Steaks Last In The Fridge?

All steaks, chops, and roasts can usually last up to 3 to 5 days in the fridge while lighter meat like seafood and poultry only last 3 to 4 days. 

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, you can tell that your steak has passed its expiration date if its already been 3 to 5 days past its expiration date, the color of your steak is browning, and it has started smelling funny with a developed slimy texture. 

It’s a waste to not taste such delicious meat and just let it rot, so make sure to freeze your steak before you decide to cook. After all, it’s always better to look for signs of spoilage than suffer from tummy issues later. I hope that this article has helped you learn how to recognize bad steak and store it properly!




Colin has been grilling, smoking, and barbecuing in his yard for as long as he remembers.  His favorite dish is pork belly smoked on his favorite offset smoker. Read more about Colin here.


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