This content contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link on this page, we might receive a commission at no cost to you.
Cooking steak to perfection is something that takes time, but before you can start cooking, you must ensure your steak has not gone bad.
If you’re new to cooking steak or don’t cook it often, you might be wondering: How do you tell if steak is bad?
In this article, I will cover some key information on steak, including how to tell if steak is bad. So, next time you’re cooking steak, you can cook with confidence.
Let’s get into it.
How Do I Tell If Steak Is Bad?
If you’re cooking steak the day that you buy it, it’s doubtful that you’re going to be worrying about whether the steak has gone bad.
Provided the steak is within its expiration date, and you’ve sourced it from a good quality butcher or store, you should be fine to cook the steak.
That being said, when your different steaks have been in the refrigerator for a little while longer, or you’ve pre-bought the steak ahead of your weekend BBQ, this is when you need to be more diligent.
So, how do you know if the steak has gone bad?
When you’re new to cooking steak, it can be tricky to spot the signs of whether a steak has gone bad.
Signs That Your Steak Is Bad
Check The Expiration Date
One of the easiest ways to check whether your steak is bad is to check the expiration date.
This means when you’re buying the steak fresh from the butcher, or in the store, make sure that it hasn’t passed it’s best of date or that the steak won’t expire before you intend to cook it.
For instance, if you’re planning to cook steak for a weekend BBQ, you might want to wait to choose your steaks nearer to the time.
It’s important to know that while meat is a great source of protein, it can also contain harmful bacteria. This means that you should always check the expiration date before you use your steak.
In some circumstances, it’s okay to eat steak that has passed its expiration date by a day or two. That being said, it’s best to live on a side of caution by waiting no longer than a day to cook your steak.
If you do decide to eat steak that has gone past its expiration date, you should make sure that you follow the other checks detailed below to ensure that your steak is still safe to eat.
Check To See Whether Your Steak Is Slimy
An easy way to determine whether a steak has gone bad is to check whether your steak feels slimy to the touch.
When you touch it with your fingers, you’ll notice a slimy film that is sitting on top of the surface of the steak. A slimy steak is a good indication that a raw steak is only a few days away from going moldy.
Mold is a clear sign that fresh meat has absorbed bacteria, and should be thrown away. Some steaks might not feel slimy to the touch, but they instead will be an abnormal color.
Check To See Whether The Steak Is Discolored
Another indication that your steak might have gone bad is discoloration. You likely know what the appearance of a steak should look like.
However, if your steak has gone bad, then you will notice patches that look brown, yellow, or sometimes even green.
The proteins myoglobin and hemoglobin are what give meat its color. Once you slice into your steak, myoglobin begins to react with oxygen by turning it a purple-red color.
Once the piece of sliced steak has been exposed to the air for around 30 minutes, it will begin to turn a cherry color.
The next stage occurs 3 days later, when the myoglobin has oxidized, which causes the meat to turn brown. Despite the way the meat might look, it is still safe for you to eat the meat.
Bearing this in mind, to determine whether the steak is bad, you will need to keep an eye out for significant darkening and discolored patches.
Check To See If Your Steak Is Dry
If your steak has gone dry in the refrigerator, then there is a good chance that it has gone bad.
A steak that has dried out and looks somewhat shriveled is likely past its best. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re going to get sick from eating it.
However, it’s worth noting that the dryness will impact both the flavor and texture of the steak when it is cooked, unless it’s got lots of marbling throughout it.
To ensure that your steak doesn’t dry out when it is stored in the refrigerator or freezer, you should store your steak in a vacuum-packed bag.
By vacuum-packing your steaks, the steak will be sealed and will be able to retain the juice that’s required to keep the steak’s natural moisture.
In addition to this, this will help prevent the steak from being exposed to bacteria.
When a steak is exposed to bacteria, this has the potential to cause the steak to spoil prematurely, mold, as well as an unpleasant smell.
Keeping your steak well wrapped up in a sealed and vacuum-packed bag can help combat this!
Check How The Steak Smells
Last, but by no means least, an easy way to check whether a steak has gone bad is how it smells.
While the smell of raw steak isn’t exactly as nice as melted chocolate – there’s a clear distinction between a fresh raw steak and an off raw steak.
If you’re not sure whether the steak is off, give it a sniff. If a sniff of the raw steak is enough to make you grimace, then this is a clear sign that the steak is probably off.
Luckily for you, the smell is fairly easy to spot, as a steak that has gone bad typically gives off a strong smell of ammonia.
That being said, you will need to note that dry-aged steaks don’t smell particularly nice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve gone bad.
A dry-aged steak might give off a cheesy aroma due to the fact that lactic acid is released during the aging process.
As a result, when it comes to determining whether a dry-aged steak has gone bad, giving it a smell isn’t the best method to help you make the decision.
Instead, it’s better to look for other signs that your steak has gone bad. This can include discoloration or being able to see a slimy film on top of the steak.
Why Is It Important To Check Whether A Steak Has Gone Bad?
It’s essential that you check your steak has gone bad to avoid making yourself ill.
If you consume steak that has been spoiled, then you will likely get food poisoning due to bacteria that grow in the meat.
You should also make sure that you don’t leave any juices inside the package. This could lead to the growth of bacteria, which would result in your steak spoiling.
This is why it’s important to buy meat that is packaged in a vacuum sealed bag.
What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?
There are a variety of symptoms that you should look out for if you think you have food poisoning. These include but are not limited to:
- Stomach cramps
- An upset stomach
Tips When Storing Steak
Use Within Expiration Date
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you are making the most of your steak is to use it within its expiration date.
This means that you need to carefully check the steak packet at the store or the butcher’s shop to ensure that you are going to be cooking it within this time frame.
If you know that you’re not going to be needing your steak for a few days, you might want to wait to ensure the steak doesn’t go off before you have the chance to use it.
Vacuum Seal Your Steak
Getting high-quality steak from the butcher is a great way of supporting local businesses and getting great steak, too. It’s a win-win situation.
However, you might find that you’re given the steak in a plastic bag, which isn’t the best for keeping the steak fresh in the refrigerator.
To prevent your steak from spoiling at a quicker rate, make sure that you vacuum seal it before placing it into your refrigerator or freezer.
The importance of packaging your steak shouldn’t be overlooked. Ensuring that your steak is stored in airtight packaging can be the difference between wonderful, succulent steak or resorting to throwing it away due to it becoming discolored or slimy.
How Long Can Steak Be Stored In The Refrigerator?
Steak should always be kept cool in the refrigerator. This comes down to the fact that bacteria grow in the danger zone, when your meat is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, how long can steak be stored in the refrigerator before you cook it?
You will need to check the back of your steak packet to find the expiration date and ensure you use it within this time.
The expiration date will depend on when the steaks have arrived at where you’re buying them, whether that’s from a butcher or at a store.
However, typically speaking, a steak should be cooked within 5 days of being refrigerated for the best results.
How Long Can Steak Be Frozen?
Freezing is a great way to preserve your steak for longer periods of time. You can even grill frozen steaks! Freezing is the ideal option if you tend to buy your meat in bulk, or if you’ve got a big BBQ coming up that you’re preparing for.
When frozen in the right way, steak can be frozen for 4 to 12 months.
That being said, you will want to ensure that you closely examine the steak once it has had the chance to thaw out of the freezer.
How Long Can Steak Be Kept Out Of The Refrigerator?
As I have briefly mentioned, the danger zone for steak is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, how long can steak be kept out of the refrigerator and at room temperature?
Typically speaking, raw steak shouldn’t be left out of the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours. This comes down to the fact that bacteria can rapidly grow at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ensuring that your steak remains at a safe temperature is absolutely crucial to your safety. If your raw steak has been left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, you will need to throw it away.
It’s also worth mentioning that the 2-hour mark can be reduced if the steak is left out in a particularly hot room.
So, if you’re throwing a BBQ in the height of summer, the temperature of your steak could rise much more rapidly when left out of the refrigerator.
As a result, you will want to ensure that you are closely watching the clock when you bring your steak out of the refrigerator and make a note of the time.
While you shouldn’t cook a steak cold, it’s still essential that you don’t allow the steak to sit out for too long in a hot room.
Being aware and respectful of the temperature danger zone is essential for your safety. Failure to do so could result in you developing food poisoning, or becoming very ill as a result of eating spoiled steak.
So, there we have it!
Hopefully this article has given you a better understanding of how to determine whether a steak has gone bad.
If you suspect that your steak has gone bad or is showing any of the signs listed above, it’s better to live on the side of caution by not eating the steak.
This will give you the best chance of avoiding food poisoning or feeling unwell as a result of eating the steak.
Good luck cooking your steak to perfection!