what should beef smell like

All ground beef has a slight aroma of iron. Ground beef nearing its expiration date may have a slightly more noticeable smell but is still safe to eat. However, if a product has a noticeable, pungent smell, it is most likely spoiled and should be discarded.

Your grill is set up and the guests are on their way. You take your steaks out of the refrigerator, but notice they don’t look as good as when you bought them.

Is it just paranoia, or have they really gone bad? Are you about to give your mother-in-law food poisoning?

In this guide, we explain the top five telltale signs that your steak has gone bad – so you can grill with confidence and keep your mother-in-law safe (that is what you wanted right?).

How to tell if your steak has gone off

If you’ve kept your steak in the refrigerator for a few days, it’s important to check that it hasn’t spoiled before cooking.

Even meat kept in the freezer can go off over time, so knowing how to tell if your steak is bad is crucial to avoid unhappy guests and an unhappy stomach.

From slimy surfaces to stinky meat – the following troublesome characteristics are a must-know for any grillmaster.

Why Does Ground Beef Spoil?

Unfortunately, all meat will eventually go bad. Still, it’s helpful to know exactly what’s going on when inspecting your beef and even trying to ensure that it lasts as long as possible. Meat is generally susceptible to a variety of bacteria, especially pathogenic and spoilage.

Pathogenic won’t cause any odors, color changes, or noticeable changes in your meat. However, it will certainly still cause illness. Meanwhile, spoilagebacteria will cause observable effects on your ground beef that we’ll discuss further in this article.

It’s important to keep both of these bacteria in mind when inspecting your ground beef. Both will make you sick, but only one will show signs.

This may be the first thing you notice if your beef has gone bad, even before you open the fridge. Spoiled beef will develop a scent to it similar to ammonia or sulfur. In short, it won’t smell good.

Occasionally ground beef will develop a light smell if it’s been in airtight packaging, and that’s alright. But if you take a whiff and you’re immediately making a face, that’s your bodys natural reaction to something that should not be consumed.

Healthy ground beef will be pink with strips of white fat running through it. Oxidation — AKA overexposure to oxygen — will lead to a bit of grayness, which isn’t necessarily the end of the road.

However, if your meat is turned fully gray, has patches of dark gray, or has started to develop any amount of mold, it’s time to throw away the entire package. Do not be tempted to remove the mold you can see and salvage the ground beef remaining. There very well may be more mold growing beneath the surface.

If your ground beef has a funky odor and looks unappetizing, it’s safe to say that it’s gone bad and should be tossed out. However, if you need more confirmation, you can always check the meat’s texture.

Healthy ground beef will be smooth, and you should be able to make an indent when you push your finger into it. If the meat has gone bad, the surface will feel slimy and wet.

You shouldn’t feel any wetness on ground beef, particularly raw beef.

As we mentioned, some bacteria don’t show any observable signs of spoilage. It wont smell, look, or feel different. But you can always double-check the time that the beef has been on the shelf and use that number as your final decider.

Raw beef should be consumed within 3 days of getting it into your fridge since it was recently packaged. Always double-check your ground beefs packing and expiration dates, whether you get it at a grocery store, butcher it, or have it delivered from a high-quality local farm.

1. It’s out of date

It may sound blindingly obvious, but the truth is that many people still get confused about the difference between “use-by” and “sell-by” dates – especially if they have stored their steak in the freezer for some time after purchasing.

  • The “use-by” date lets you know how much time you have to either cook, or freeze the steak before it is expected to turn. So, if the use-by date is 22nd March, you’ll need to either throw it on the grill, or chuck it in the freezer by that date to keep it from spoiling.
  • On the other hand, the “sell-by” date tells the butcher or store how long they can keep the steak on the shelf and available for sale. This allows the customer a reasonable amount of time to cook or freeze their steak after they bring it home, before it begins to go bad.

what should beef smell like

It’s important to note that if you choose to freeze your steak, you should try to do so a day or two before the use-by date. This is because you need to give it enough time to freeze and thaw thoroughly without crossing the use-by time window.

For example, if your steak has a use-by date of 22nd March, it’s good practice to put it in the freezer by the 20th March. This way, once you take the steak out to thaw, you’ll have a good 48 hours to thaw it before it could begin to turn.

If the store packaging or your butcher doesn’t give you a use-by date, as a general rule, it should be OK to keep your steak refrigerated for 3-5 days before use. If you decide to freeze it, be sure to write the date of purchase and date of freezing on the bag.

According to the FDA, steak can be frozen for between 6 and 12 months before the quality begins to deteriorate.

Slime is pretty grim in any situation, but it’s a particularly bad sign if it’s on your steak.

If your steak is bad, it will often look and feel slimy and slippery to the touch. The surface of the meat will have a sheen to it, and the slime may have a yellowish hue when it catches the light.

This slimy film is caused by a buildup of bacteria (eww), and is a sure sign that your steak has gone rancid and is destined for the trash, not your grill. If you were to leave a slimy steak out, mold would start to form on the surface within a couple of days.

Keep in mind that, if the meat is just beginning to turn, slime may not form all over your steak at once. Therefore, you should always make sure to inspect your steak for any slippery patches before cooking.

Discolored meat can be off-putting, but it doesn’t always mean that your steak has passed its best.

The color of meat is the result of two different proteins: hemoglobin and myoglobin. Myoglobin is present in muscle and gives fresh meat its red color, while hemoglobin is found in the blood.

Once an animal is slaughtered and the meat is exposed to the air, chemical reactions occur between these proteins and oxygen. During this process, the color of your steak will go through three stages, until a state of chemical equilibrium is reached.

  • The first stage occurs immediately after your steak is sliced. This stage has a purplish red color, and is the result of myoglobin beginning to react with oxygen.
  • The second stage is a cherry red hue. This will begin to show after about 30 minutes of exposure to the air.
  • The third and final stage will be reached about three days later. At this stage, the myoglobin has completely oxidized and become “metmyoglobin”. This makes the meat appear brown, and less attractive than a steak with a bright red color. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the quality or safety of the meat at this stage.

This is a general timeline, but the process can occur faster or slower depending on a number of factors – such as the age of the animal, the species, what it was fed and how well exercised the muscles were. Exposure to light or freezing can also accelerate the darkening process.

So, color changes alone do not indicate a spoiled steak. It is a normal and natural process caused by exposure to oxygen.

However, if your steak has significantly darkened and is also displaying any of the other signs described in this guide – it’s probably time to throw it away. Steak OXIDATION Experiment! SURPRISING RESULTS!!!

Another indicator that your steak has passed its prime is dryness. Does your steak feel dry to the touch or look a little shriveled and dehydrated?

If your steak is dry and juiceless, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get an upset stomach if you eat it. However, unless there’s a good amount of fat or marbling through the meat, it will definitely have a negative impact on the texture and overall flavor of your steak once cooked.

If you store your steaks in the freezer, a great way to prevent them from drying out is to pack them in a vacuum-sealed bag first. This will keep the juices contained for natural moisture and eliminate exposure to the air and any bacteria that may be present.

If you’re not freezing your steak but will be keeping it refrigerated for a couple of days, you should store it well wrapped in clingfilm or in a sealed container to preserve moisture.

All ground beef has a slight aroma of iron. Ground beef nearing its expiration date may have a slightly more noticeable smell but is still safe to eat. However, if a product has a noticeable, pungent smell, it is most likely spoiled and should be discarded.


How do you know if beef is spoiled?

Beef that has gone bad will develop a slimy or sticky texture and smell bad or “off.” If beef develops a grayish color, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has gone bad. Don’t taste meat to determine if it’s safe to eat or not.

Is beef supposed to smell like milk?

Beef that’s gone bad will have a sour smell, similar to the smell of off milk. The smell is the first indication followed by appearance: the colour will have changed and the texture may be slimy or sticky. As the saying goes in the meat trading industry: “When in doubt, throw it out!”

Should beef smell like cheese?

Having said that, some dry-aged steaks will inadvertently smell like cheese because lactic acid is generated throughout the ageing process. Therefore, the best way to determine whether a dry-aged steak has gone bad is not by smelling it.

What does expired beef taste like?

Although temperatures above 140 and under 160 degrees Fahrenheit are recommended for destroying spores, they can still survive, especially when spoiled meat has access to oxygen. As a result, spoiled meat will taste exactly as it smells — sour or tangy.

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