How Do You Determine if Meat is Bad?

by (2053)
Asked on December 29, 2015
Created May 16, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Forgive me if this has already been asked before. I searched and couldn't find it.

How do you determine if meat is bad? Do you go by smell, color, date, all three, or something else?

I have some beef shanks I bought four days ago that I want to make. I'm not sure if it's my imagination, or if there's the slightest green tinge to them now. The smell is very faint but a tiny bit sour. Again, this might be my imagination. I'd love to eat them but I don't want to get sick. Also, I know that I tend to be a bit paranoid about meat freshness. A few weeks ago, I bought a chicken and was convinced that it was bad -- it smelled sour to me, not good. But I had a few friends who were over smell it and they all said it was fine and smelled like regular raw chicken. I ended up cooking it in the crock pot and it turned out delicious. We all ate it and no one got sick.

Will meat that is slightly old hurt me if I cook it really well? Can anyone give me some guidelines? Do you adhere to normal CW about meat freshness or are those guidelines too fussy and strict?

2053 · May 16, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Great answer, very thorough. Thanks :)

2053 · May 16, 2012 at 4:23 PM

I love the idea of letting the cats smell it!

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8 Answers

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982 · May 16, 2012 at 4:26 PM

Ground meats in particular, can be loaded with bacteria without any off odor at all.

So can other meats. The nose is not a reliable test for bacterial contamination BUT if it does smell off it likely is.

Bacteria resides on the surface of meats (including the inside cavity of poultry) and cut/ground portions have increased surface.

Temperature is key in bacterial growth rate. Too cool-linited growth, Too hot-kill. Danger zone lies in between.

I encourage everyone to understand the basics of food and meat safety via google.

In pretty much all cases if the meat is cooked properly to temp it will kill most bacteria. That does not mean it is a good idea to eat chicken /mayo/eggs or any other food that has been sitting in a hot sun or left out on the counter.

If in doubt toss-is the rule in food safety.

Everyone has a different level of tolerance/immune system to contaminated meat and to the "offness" of meat which even when cooked properly -like your chicken- will kill enough bacteria to not cause illness in "most" people. There is always "some" bacteria in pretty much all our food-including vegetables.

Rules: buy fresh/store properly/wash (veg)/cook properly. If in doubt-toss.

I will not eat "green" meat. You can cut those pieces off and thoroughly cook the remainder if it seems ok to you.

2053 · May 16, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Great answer, very thorough. Thanks :)

41752 · May 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Old meat tends to show visual signs of oxidation - i.e. turning green/grey. That's normal, and not necessarily a deal-breaker.

Odor is much more telling in my opinion. Food should smell like it should. Nothing should smell like a barnyard, that's poor sanitation. Dairy should actually smell sweet. If it smells sour and is not fermented, then it's off. Fish should smell like the lake or ocean, not a baitshop.

1669 · September 25, 2012 at 12:59 AM

Regardless, if you have any doubts cook the f out of it.

900 · May 16, 2012 at 1:52 PM

I buy all meat flash frozen right after slaughter/processing, I actually don't have any other option where I live. But even the meat you buy "fresh" at a grocery store was previously frozen.

I go exclusively by smell. If I am in any doubt I let the cats smell. If the cats won't eat it....you and I shouldn't either.

2053 · May 16, 2012 at 4:23 PM

I love the idea of letting the cats smell it!

8757 · May 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM

I always use my nose if I have any doubt; make sure you smell fresh meat and learn the difference, maybe that will help you be certain.

Unfortunately I've not had the luck you had, have cooked chicken I thought should be ok and wasn't, so now I don't take the chance.

I find that if I don't use the meat in 2 days it starts to go off (I think in my location the meat is not handled well to begin with in shipping/storing), so I'll put everything in the freezer and pull it when needed.

3661 · May 16, 2012 at 4:39 PM

You don't want to use color to make that call, most definitely. Though it looks pretty and pink, much meat from these days has been gased or otherwise treated, so that it will not turn dark. It will, however, rot. Sad state of affairs.

Sell by and use by dates are just as unreliable. I bought a fresh turkey a few years ago that had a "best by" date almost a monthe out. Turkey does not keep well at all. It may be cringe to think of someone putting faith in that date.

Smell will be your best indicator, along with texture changes. I toss anything slimy, though some people will rinse it well and use it. You can trim meats of most of their fat if it smells bad. You can also rinse it in baking soda and water and check the odor again after it dries.

We used to go by the "If in doubt, cook the shit out of it" rule. In recent years, I'm more likely to toss questionable food. We are so careful not to put legumes or vegetable oil in our bodies, why take a chance on possibly spoiled meat.

0 · September 24, 2012 at 11:13 PM

I bought a quarter of a cow and kept it frozen. I recently took some beef shanks out of the freezer and had them in the fridge for about 5 days. Today I'm cooking them, I noticed they smell a little funny and the paper that they were wrapped in was slightly greenish. I washed them and the smell mostly went away. I also noticed that it wasn't the meat that smells, but the marrow in the bones. I'm not very worried about it? I'd say go for it!

5853 · May 16, 2012 at 6:44 PM

I use smell, and i have always tested my fresh meats sampling raw pieces, so i learned to know how it should be taste when fresh. It has never failed. I thurst my nose. I never buy ground meat.

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