How to Know if Steak Is Bad (5 Signs to Look Out For)

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: December 1, 2023

You may have brought a steak a while back and just threw it into the fridge because you were going to cook it soon, right?

But then forgot about it for what may have been a bit too long?

We have all been in this situation, which is why our cooking experts got together all the signs you should look for that indicate your steak has gone wrong.

Let's go through these signs to see if your raw steak is still acceptable to eat even before its use-by date.

Quick Summary

  • Raw steak going bad can be identified by a distinctive smell, dryness, a slimy texture, discoloration, or passing the expiration date.
  • A bad steak may have an intense ammonia-like aroma, be dry and juiceless, have a slimy film on the surface, or change color to dull brown, yellow, or green.
  • The use-by date is a reliable indicator of steak's freshness; consuming steak past this date can lead to foodborne illnesses.

Fresh steak does not take as long as most people think it would before it begins to go wrong.

If you have kept your steak in your fridge for a few days and are now suspicious of it, then continue reading to find out if your steak has gone wrong or not!

5 Signs Your Steak Is Bad

cooked meat

Nothing is worse than being ready for a nice juicy piece of cooked steak, and you light up the grill, only to be suspicious of the frozen steak that has been sitting in your fridge for a while now.

Knowing the signs if steak meats have gone wrong is extremely important for people who eat their steaks cooked medium-rare or rare, as harmful bacteria can still be present in raw meat cooked this way.

When you cook medium-well or well-done, the steak is on the grill for longer, which can kill any of the developing bacteria more than a steak that is cooked medium-rare or rare.

If the steak is starting to turn and you do not cook it well, it could still have listeria or salmonella bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses such as food poisoning [1].

So, how can you tell if the steak is bad?

Let's go through the five signs you can look out for.

Also Read: How Can You Tell if Pork Is Bad?

1. Bad Steak Has a Distinctive Smell

woman smelling spoiled food

Fresh steak does not have the best smell globally, and some people will find this smell off-putting until the raw meat is cooked.

However, you will be able to distinguish between a fresh raw steak and a raw steak that has gone bad by just smelling the raw meat.

There is a difference in smell between a steak that is still good to eat and one that you should probably throw away.

A spoiled or rotten steak will have a potent odor that will not smell close to what a fresh raw steak would smell like.

The spoiled steak will instead have an intense ammonia-clad aroma that you will easily smell.

If your steak has this distinctive smell, you must throw it away. It is essential to note here that only using your nose to determine if your steak is terrible or not is not the best way of going about it.

Sure, like dry-aged steak products, steaks are still excellent to consume, but they have a similar smell to the one described above.

So, you should always pair your smelling test with at least one other method of determining if your steak is terrible to ensure you do not throw out a good steak.

2. Is Your Steak Dry?

fresh meat

A dry steak could mean the steak has gone bad.

So, when you examine your steak, does it look dehydrated or shriveled, and is it dry when you touch it?

If you notice that your steak is juiceless and dry, this does not necessarily mean you will get foodborne illnesses if you consume the steak, but it will impact the overall flavor and indicate that the steak is on its last legs.

If your steak looks like this, you need to eat it soon; otherwise, it will become a spoiled steak, and if you cannot eat your dry-aged steak within the next day, you should throw the raw meat out or freeze it.

If you consume this steak, it will be chewier, and it may have less of the beef taste that we all enjoy.

3. Does It Have a Slimy Texture?

hand view of a person slicing meat

To tell if the steak is bad, check for a slime-like film on the surface of the steak to avoid food poisoning.

You will see and feel this slime when you pick the steak up, and this is a tell-tale sign that your steak is bad, and you should probably throw it away.

The slime covering your steak will be yellowish or clear and make it seem shinier than it should be. When this happens, you'll know it's spoiled, meaning it's best not to eat bad raw steak.

It will have a sticky or slippery feel when you touch this slime. The spoiled steak will generally develop this slime a few days before it begins growing mold.

As we all know, mold is a definite sign that the steak is spoiled and should be thrown away immediately.

You need to thoroughly inspect the entire steak before you throw it on your grill if you suspect it may be off, as this slime will not form all over the steak at once.

Once the bad steak begins to turn, this slime may only start in one specific steak area.

Before you tell if steak is for consumption, you need to ensure there are no patches of slime anywhere because if it does, this spoiled meat will need to be thrown away.

4. The Cut May Be Discolored When It’s Bad

spoiled meat in a plate

The best way to tell if raw steak is bad is by its color. After all, rotten steak meats always suffer from discoloration.

This discoloration will turn the raw steak from a lovely bright red to a dull brown, yellow, or even sometimes green. It may not be all over the bad raw steak, as it can start in patches too.

It can happen within a few days of the frozen brown steak being kept in the fridge and is affected by several factors, including the animal's age, how well the muscle was used and exercised, and what cattle ranchers fed the cow during its life.

So, if you buy a raw steak and it goes bad faster than you expected, it may not have been your fault. Throw it away to avoid food poisoning in the long run.

Also Read: Why Would Meat Turn Brown?

5. The Steak Has Passed the Expiration Date

chef holding up meat with an upset face

This is one of the most obvious ways to tell if the raw steak is bad, but a large number of people do not understand the difference between a use-by date and a sell-by date, which is why their raw steak tends to spoil more than others.

A use-by date is the expiration date of the piece of steak if the steak is kept raw and in the fridge.

If your steak has been stored raw in the refrigerator past the use-by date, you need to throw the steak away.

A sell-by date is for the butcher or grocery store selling the raw meat to you.

The sell-by date indicates to the store or butcher when the meat needs to be sold, and if the meat is not sold by this date, it can no longer be sold to customers as it is too close to the steak's expiration date.

It happens because it will not give the customer enough time to cook or store the steak before it goes bad, so it is taken off the shelf.

If you notice that your steak is past the use-by date, you need to throw it away as you will have a higher chance of an upset stomach if you consume it.

The steak has gone bad due to many different bacteria strains that will begin to develop on the spoiled steak, including listeria and salmonella, which can cause foodborne illnesses [2].

Related Articles:

The Best Method to Keep Steak Fresh for Longer

storing steak in plastic

There are two ways you can help increase the life of your raw steaks before the use-by date.

The best way to store steak that you will not be consuming for a while is to freeze the steak in a bag that has been vacuum-sealed to ensure the raw meat keeps all its juices.

If you are going to eat steak soon, you can keep it in your fridge in a sealed container until you are ready to cook it.

Remember to use more than one method to test your steak as certain frozen steaks may be acceptable to consume but still have a trait found on this list, and the last thing you want to do is throw out a good delicious steak. Again, it's best to check the use-by date to ensure your steak is fresh.

For your quality and organic steak needs, get your meat from ButcherBox.

Remember that this steak will only last 2 to 5 days in the fridge, so be sure you will use it in time if you store your steak like this, especially considering the use-by date.


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About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy is a professional chef and the main man behind Carnivore Style. He’s an advocate of the carnivore diet, an athlete, and a pure health enthusiast. Timothy believes that a good steak is a great conversation starter, and his love for food eventually brought him to start Carnivore Style, a website designed for meat lovers and all things meat-related.
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