How To Tell If Steak Is Bad or Spoiled (5 Signs)

Want to know the best way to tell if your steak has gone bad and if it’s safe to eat? 

You’re in the right place! Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

  • What to know about sell by dates
  • How to tell if a steak is bad or spoiled (5 simple steps)
  • And much more!

Is Steak Bad After the Sell-by Date?

A common mix up with food is the sell by and use by dates.

The sell by date lets stores know how long they can keep it on their shelves for customers so they can safely cook or freeze.

Food should be consumed or frozen before the use by date to prevent serious illness from bacteria. This is also the expiration date. 

Read More >> How to Defrost Steak (3 Easy Ways)

How To Tell If Steak Is Bad Facts

How to Tell If Steak Is Bad or Spoiled (5 Signs)

Whether you’re checking for signs of spoilage or wondering if you have spoiled meat because the expiration date has passed, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Check the best by date
  2. Check the appearance
  3. Check the texture
  4. Check the smell
  5. Check how long it’s been in the fridge

1. Check the Best-By Date

Remember, the sell by date is for stores so they know when to pull items from the shelves, but if your steak is way past it’s sell by date, you will want to check it for other signs of being spoiled.

If your steak has a use by date and it has passed, check it over for other signs of being bad. A steak that is only a day or two over it’s use by date is unlikely to be spoiled just yet.

If you don’t see any signs of your steak being bad and it’s just a day past the use by date, it should be good to cook and eat. However, anything longer than just a day or two should probably just be thrown away.

Related >> The Best Steak Knives

2. Check the Appearance

An obvious sign that your steak has gone bad is mold on the meat. Once there is mold on your steak, wrap it up and toss it.

Another visual indication that steak has gone bad is a slimy appearance. The slime that covers a bad steak can be clear or yellowish, making it difficult to make out with the naked eye, but it will also be shinier than a normal steak is.

Discoloration can be another sign that steak has gone bad. However, some discoloration in raw meat is expected. Even if your steak has turned brown, it could still be good since the brown hue is a part of the process when it is exposed to oxygen.

Severe discoloration or anything outside of the normal range of colors for steak should be double-checked before you cook and eat it.

Editor’s Note: Does your steak appear shriveled up and dry? While this may not indicate that it’s spoiled, it will greatly affect the taste of the steak once it’s cooked. Dry steak won’t leave you sick, but the taste won’t be what you expect.

Related >> How To Cook Frozen Steak On The Grill (Step by Step) 

3. Check the Texture

While not everyone wants to handle raw meat with their bare hands (especially if it’s gone bad), a texture test of the steak can help let you know if it’s gone bad.

Much like with the appearance, if the steak has a slimy texture on its surface, it is no longer good. The slimy film is a breeding ground for bacteria, and you don’t want to get sick. Sticky textures on the meat can also be a sign that the steak has gone bad.

Related >> How To Cook A Steak On A Griddle (7 Easy Steps)

4. Check the Smell

If everything else passes the test to see if the steak is still good but you’re still unsure, give it a smell.

You may notice a rancid smell as soon as you open the package, or you may have to take a closer whiff to be sure.

Raw meat isn’t going to smell like flowers, but rotten meat has a certain distinct, nose shriveling smell to it. Any off putting smells coming from your steak and it’s likely to be spoiled. The nose knows after all.

Related >> How To Put Out A Charcoal Grill (3 Quick Steps)

5. Check How Long It’s Been in the Fridge

Marking packages with the date you should use them by when you move them from the freezer to the fridge is a good way to keep food from going bad. Once the steak in the refrigerator is thawed, it should be used within 2-3 days.

If you can’t remember how long it’s been since you put it in the fridge to thaw, you may just want to throw it away.

When in doubt, throw it out.

If you’re unsure if your steak is safe to eat, it’s best to just toss it and cut your losses before getting sick.

has your steak gone bad infographic

What Color is Steak When it Goes Bad?

Your meat has gone bad if you see a slimy texture, yellow color, or a green color instead of the normal red or pinkish color you’d expect to see with steak. 

As mentioned above, if your steak has been kept in the freezer or refrigerator, it may have a slight brown color, but that does not mean it has gone bad.

Is Brown Steak Bad?

It is common for a steak to turn a brownish color (due to oxidation) during refrigeration storage. Just because it turns a slight brownish color does not mean it has gone bad. 

Please follow the 5 steps above to determine if you have a bad steak.

What Happens if You Eat Bad Steak?

If you eat spoiled steak, you’re likely to get food poisoning due to several different types of bacteria that grow in the meat.

These are common signs of food poisoning, according to the CDC:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

The Best Way to Keep Steak Fresh for Longer

If you have a steak in your fridge that you know you won’t use by the best by date, then your best bet is to put the steak in a ziploc bag and place it in the freezer. Steak will stay fresh much longer when frozen than it will in the fridge. 

We recommend adding the date your put the steak in the freezer on the ziploc bag. This will help you to eat the older steaks in your fridge first, as well as throw out any steaks that may have been in your freezer for too long.

FAQs About Spoiled Steak

Here are common questions we’re asked about steak:

What Does Bad Steak Smell Like?

If your steak has gone bad, it will have a distinct smell that smells like eggs, ammonia, or downright sour. 

Smelling a slight metallic or bloody smell is normal for fresh red meat.

Can Steak Go Bad in the Freezer?

Even though you might have placed your steak in the freezer, if it is left there long enough it can still go bad. In fact, after about 12 months it is best to assume the steak you placed in your freezer is no longer safe to eat.

How to Tell if Frozen Steak is Bad

The best way to tell if frozen steak is bad is by thawing it, then evaluating it for signs of spoilage–like a rotten meat smell or a slimy texture. But you can also assume your steak has gone bad if it has signs of freezer burn. 

Speaking of frozen steak. If you’re ever wondering about ordering frozen steak online, check out our review of Snake River Farms.

What Does Bad Steak Look Like?

Bad steak will typically have some sort of spots on it, like mold or black or brown discolorations. The steak may also have a weird, slimy sheen to it that feels slick when you tough it. But you can’t judge a steak on looks alone, you should also look at the best by date and smell it to see if it is still good. 

How Long Can Steak Be Frozen?

When properly stored and frozen, steak can stay good in the freezer for 4 to 12 months. It’s still best to examine it once it’s thawed though!

How Long Is Steak Good In The Fridge?

After being safely stored in the fridge, the steak should be cooked within 5 days.

Read More >> How Long Can Steak Last in the Fridge?

Final Thoughts On Spoiled Steak

When it comes to cooking food for yourself or for others, safety is always the top priority. 

The last thing you’d want to do is get (or to give someone else) food poisoning

Here are some other good safety tips:

  • Expiration dates are good indicators if you have spoiled steak
  • Bad steak has an odor and usually feels off.
  • Raw steak should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours
  • Bacteria grows during the danger zone, which is when your meat is between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit

Once you’ve determined your steak is good, here’s how you can smoke a t-bone steak and make a mouth-watering meal!

Want to learn more about grilling? Check out these other useful resources!

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Shawn Hill

Hey, I'm Shawn and I love this site. With a wife and 7 kids, I get most of my grilling practice from feeding my own family. I'm here to help you learn more about grilling, smoking, and backyard BBQ! With almost a decade of manning the grill and helping over 25,000 aspiring grill masters, you're in great hands! I've tried just about every type of grill, accessory, and gadget you can imagine. Because of that, I am here to help guide you to the best of the best and help you save time and money by avoiding the junk.

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