How To Know If Steak Is Bad: Easy Ways To Spot Bad Steak

How To Know If Steak Is Bad: Easy Ways To Spot Bad Steak

Properly storing steak and monitoring its expiration date is important for ensuring safe consumption.

Knowing how to spot spoiled meat can help prevent food poisoning or other health risks associated with consuming contaminated products.

I. How to know if steak is bad: 5-point check

Here’s a comprehensive 5-point steak check guide for anyone who’s ever wondered how to know if steak is bad: 

1. Check the use-by date

Generally, packaged raw meat has a “use-by” date and a “sell-by” date. The “use-by” date indicates when the steak should be used.

Whereas the “sell-by” date is when the steak should be sold/removed from the shelves by the store.

Thus, check the expiration or “use-by” date on your steak before you buy it and when you have it in your refrigerator at home.

Moreover, after purchasing the meat from the store, it is best to cook and consume it or freeze the steak within 1-2 days of buying it.

To ensure your steak stays safe to eat, it is important to freeze it before its use-by date.

You should give yourself at least two days before the original use-by date to thaw the steak out for the best results.

Aim to get your steak in the freezer by May 18th if the use-by date is on May 20th. This will give you enough time to thaw the meat safely, even if some thicker cuts may take longer.

2. Check the appearance and the texture

Signs that your steak may have gone bad include a slimy surface film that is clear or yellowish in color, making the steak appear shinier than usual and having a slippery or sticky feel when you run your fingers over it.

This film usually appears a couple of days before mold starts to form. Additionally, if your steak has discolored portions of brown, yellow, or green instead of the expected purplish-red color, it might be starting to spoil.

If these signs are present, it’s best to avoid eating the steak as it may contain harmful bacteria and have an off-putting taste similar to tuna.

Fresh steak should have a red or purple color and should be firm to the touch.

3. Check the odor

Fresh steak should have a slightly metallic smell. Spoiled steak tastes rancid and bitter. So, if your raw steak smells strong and sour, it is likely no longer safe to eat.

It is important to note that certain dry-aged steaks can produce a cheese-like smell due to lactic acid released during the aging process.

In this case, the odor is not the best way to tell if the steak has spoiled. Therefore, it’s best to look for other signs of spoilage, such as a slimy surface film or discolored parts, when evaluating whether your steak is still safe to consume.

4. Check its dryness

To check if your raw steak has gone bad, examine it for signs of dryness. If your steak is shriveled and dehydrated, it likely means it is past its prime. You should not let raw steak at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

Leaving beyond that time period can negatively impact texture and flavor once cooked, even if it may not make you sick.

To preserve freshness, store steaks in vacuum-sealed bags in the freezer or wrap them well with cling film or in sealed containers when refrigerated.

5. Check whether the steak is sitting too long in the fridge

Steak should be stored in the fridge for no longer than 3-5 days. If it has been stored for longer, it may no longer be safe to eat.

When thawing or putting the steak in the fridge, it’s best practice to write a date on the package so that you don’t forget about how long it’s been there.

For cooked steak, the USDA recommends not storing it in the fridge past 3-4 days. After this point, your risk of contracting a foodborne illness increases due to bacterial growth.

The USDA recommends cooking frozen steak within 9-12 months for optimal safety.

It is also important to note that when meat is frozen, its quality may start to decrease after about 6 months of being stored in the freezer. The steak will still be safe to eat, but the texture and flavor may not be at its best.

II. Is brown steak bad?

It is normal for a steak to darken in color during storage due to oxidation. The browning of the meat usually occurs after 3 days, when the myoglobin fully reacts with oxygen and becomes metmyoglobin.

While its color may be slightly less attractive than a steak with a bright red hue, the quality and safety of the meat will remain unaffected. Thus, the steak’s slight brownish color does not mean it has gone bad.

III. Signs frozen steak has gone bad

When it comes to frozen steak, it’s important to look out for signs of freezer burn. This happens when the meat has been stored in the freezer for too long, decreasing flavor and texture.

Discoloration, dry patches, and small ice crystals on the surface of the steak characterize freezer burn. If these signs are present, the steak may still be safe to eat, but its quality will have diminished.

Also, if you notice a strong odor when thawing a frozen steak, it is best to avoid eating it, as this could indicate that bacteria has started to form on the meat.

IV. Tips to keep steak fresh

Here are some tips to help keep steak fresh for longer:

  • Store steak in the coldest part of the refrigerator, away from other items and anything that may cause cross-contamination.
  • Use wrapping paper or an airtight container to store the steak.
  • Choose steaks with bright red color and no signs of discoloration.
  • Use the “first in, first out” method when storing steak.
  • When freezing, wrap it tightly so it does not come into contact with any air.
  • If you’re unsure how long it has been in the refrigerator, write a date on the package before storing it!
  • Avoid buying a whole cut of steak if you won’t be able to use it right away since larger cuts of steak tend to go bad more quickly.
  • When reheating, avoid using high temperatures, as this can cause the meat to become tough.
  • Try marinating your steak overnight before cooking it. This can help reduce oxidation and preserve the color.

Explore More: Can Aluminum Foil Go In The Oven


There are several methods of checking if your steak has gone bad. Knowing them can help you ensure the steak is still safe to eat. Following the tips mentioned above can also help preserve the quality and flavor of your steak for longer. 


1) Can steak stay out of the fridge for more than 2 hours?

A: No, leaving steak out of the refrigerator for longer than two hours is not recommended. Doing so increases your risk of contracting a foodborne illness due to bacteria growth.

2) How can I tell if my steak has gone bad?

A: If you notice a strong odor when thawing frozen steak, it is best to avoid eating it, as this could indicate that bacteria has started to form on the meat. Additionally, if there are dry patches or small ice crystals on the steak’s surface, this could indicate freezer burn and means the quality of the meat has been affected.

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