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How to Tell if Steak Is Bad – 3 Tips

How to Tell if Steak Is Bad – 3 Tips

Last Updated on 20th June 2023 by

If you were getting ready to cook some steak from the fridge and then pull it out to see it looking a little suspicious, what do you do? Is it safe to eat even though it looks odd or should you toss it and save yourself from potential food poisoning?

These are the hard question you have to consider, but I have some answers to help you out. You don’t have to be taking a stab in the dark when it comes to your health and how to tell if a steak is bad.

It’s a good idea to check your steak ahead of time and see if it is okay to eat before you try to cook it up.

It would be a shame to get everything set up for cooking steak, having all of those expectations that come as you prepare to eat steak, and then cook the steak only to realise that it isn’t good.

At what point do you find out that your steak is unhealthy and has spoiled? Do you take a bite first? Do you need to sniff it while it’s on the plate with your peas and mashed potatoes? There has to be a way to tell if steak has gone bad before going through a lot of trouble?

Smelling for Trouble

How to tell if raw steak is bad? My number one tip is to check the scent. This works if you are trying to figure out how to tell if steak is bad after cooking as well. Just smell it closely and determine if there is something off about the smell. If it doesn’t quite smell like steak, then you have a problem.

Your steak should smell totally normal, and if it has gone bad, the smell will usually be a surefire indicator. It’s not the only tool you have at your disposal to tell if a steak has gone bad, but it is definitely one of the most effective.

Spoiled or rotten steak will smell unpleasant. It will have a rank scent that you won’t want to keep sniffing. Compare that to freshly cooked or raw steak and you can definitely notice a difference. If steak is still good to eat, then it should smell good. If there is anything unpleasant about the smell, its best to just toss it, just to be on the safe side.

You don’t want your steak dinner night to end up with you hunched over the toilet or feeling pain in your stomach.

Don’t take any chances with potentially spoiled food, especially meat. The cause of spoiling could be bacteria or pests, and you do not want that inside of you trying to work its way out. Your stomach and your entire body will reject spoiled food, and it will try to expel it one way or another.

Take a Look: What does your steak look like?

There are visual indicators as well that tell you whether food has gone bad.

When it comes to steak, there are a few visual signs to pay attention to. Why put your nose right next to a questionable steak to give it a whiff when you can keep your distance and see the problem without having to smell it?

How to tell if steak is bad just by looking at it?

You can look for a slimy substance around the bottom or sides. This is usually an indicator that the steak wasn’t kept at the right temperature. It should always be kept chilled or frozen until you are ready to use it. If the steak gets out of the sweet temperature spot it is supposed to be at (28-32 degrees Fahrenheit), it can spoil quickly.

You shouldn’t even leave steak sitting out for more than a few minutes as you prepare to cook it. If you are about to grill steaks, keep them in a cooler or keep frozen steaks stacked on each other to keep them cold until it is time to cook them.

That slimy substance, though, is your best visual indicator that the steak has gone bad, but it isn’t the only one. You can also tell the steak has gone bad if it is very discoloured. A slight colour change is expected if steak has been in your fridge for a few days. It will change from its normal reddish hue to a purple and then to a brown. That doesn’t mean it has gone bad, though. That just means it is older and is closer to its use-by date.

If you see your steak looking discoloured, though, and it is showing any additional signs of change or spoilage that I have already mentioned, then you should toss it.

The discolouration on its own doesn’t mean much. You may have some flavour loss, but the steak is still likely good to eat.

Check the Date

How to tell if frozen steak is bad?

You don’t have to cook it up or let it thaw before you inspect it. You can just look at the use-by date.

Now, steak can stay in good shape in the freezer for a long time, but it will still go bad eventually.

Freezing it just slows down the deterioration and spoiling processes. It doesn’t stop them completely.

Steak can stay good in the freezer for 6-12 months. It is not safe to eat it after 12 months in the freezer, so watch your dates.

For fresh, refrigerated steak, that date is even more important.

Usually just a few days after you buy the steak it will reach its expiration date. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can toss it into the freezer at that point and extend its life.

If you cook steak, it is good for one or two days in the fridge after cooking. That’s how to tell if cooked steak has gone bad- keeping track of how long it has been in the fridge. You can also check the other indicators we listed above.

Prevention is Better than Cure

Here are some tips to prevent your steak from spoiling:

  • Always store your steak in an airtight container and keep it cold until you’re ready to eat.
  • Don’t reheat steak more than once, as this can expose it to bacteria and potentially cause food poisoning.

Safety First

Eating spoiled meat can lead to food poisoning, so it’s crucial to handle and prepare your steak safely. Make sure to wash your hands and clean surfaces where you’ve prepared raw steak to avoid cross-contamination.

Closing Tips

If you have tuna steak and you want to know how to tell if tuna steak has gone bad, I want to remind you that tuna is another volatile meat that won’t stay good for long. A few days after you make this food, it will go bad, even when stored in the fridge.

To keep steak and other meats safe to eat for longer, store them in an airtight container and keep them cold at all time until you are ready to eat them.

Don’t reheat them more than once, as that exposes them to bacteria and can lead to food poisoning, if you eat food that has been reheated multiple times.

We have covered how to tell if steak is bad before cooking and what to do about it.

Now that you know what to look for, you can eat safer and not wonder if your food is good to eat or not.

Don’t toss steak that may still be good, but don’t take your chances with steak that is questionable.

You put yourself at risk when you do so, and it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to potentially spoiled meat.


Is it OK if steak smells a little?

A slight odor is normal for vacuum-sealed steak. However, if the smell is strong, persistent, or unpleasant even after rinsing, the steak might be spoiled and should not be consumed.

How do you know when a steak is bad?

Steak is likely bad if it has a persistent foul smell, a slimy or sticky texture, a dull color, or if it’s past its expiration date. Always trust your instincts if you’re unsure.

Is steak that turns brown bad?

Steak that turns brown isn’t necessarily bad. Oxygen exposure can cause this color change. However, if it also has a bad smell, slimy texture, or is past its expiration date, it could be spoiled.

What happens if you cook bad steak?

Cooking bad steak can lead to foodborne illness if bacteria present in the spoiled meat are consumed. Symptoms can include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Always ensure meat is fresh before cooking.

What does bad steak smell like?

Bad steak typically has a strong, pungent odor that’s often described as sour, rotten, or similar to ammonia or sulfur. Fresh steak should have a mild smell or no smell at all.

What does raw steak smell like?

Raw steak typically has a mild, slightly sweet or metallic smell. It should not have a strong or off-putting odor. If it does, it may not be safe to eat.

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Pauline Loughlin
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I'm Pauline, a mother of four grown children, my passion for cooking stemmed from the joy i get cooking for my family. I love to try new dishes, especially when dining out but creating and sharing my own recipes is my favourite thing to do!