How to Tell if Steak is Bad: 6 Signs You Shouldn’t Eat It

I honestly do not know whether it is worse to throw away an expensive steak cut or to be brave and give it a try, only to realize that it has gone bad. To save you from the latter, I will share with you some tips on how to tell if steak is bad.

Surely there’s nothing worse than getting food poisoning from eating bad meat. So, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

So how do you know if a steak has gone bad? There are a few signs you should be familiar with: the steak’s color has changed, it smells funky, there’s mold on the surface of the meat, it has an off-putting smell, it’s dry, and last but not least, the use-by date has passed. Below you’ll find a detailed explanation of each sign.

The 6 Signs Your Steak is Spoiled

Here are the six main signs for you how to know if steak is bad:

The Use-By Date Has Passed

Probably the most common way to tell if the steak has gone bad is by checking the use-by date. It is usually located on the packaging of the meat.

There’s also a sell-by date which is the date that grocery stores have to sell the meat. The use-by date is a few days after the sell-by date.

According to USDA, the raw steak can last in the fridge for up to five days after the sell-by date. At the same time, the cooked steak can stay in the refrigerator for 3-4 days at most (similar to the raw steak).

So, if the use-by date has passed, you should not eat the steak unless the steak is frozen. Frozen steak can last for months without going bad. However, you’ll need to protect it from freezer burn by storing it in a vacuum-sealed package or airtight container.

It’s Slimy to the Touch

Yet one more way to tell if your steak has gone wrong is by touch. If you notice that the steak is slimy or sticky to the touch, it’s a sign that it has begun to spoil.

The slimy film feels gross, I know. But that’s not the only thing you should be worried about. That filthy slime on the meat is bacteria growing on the surface of the steak. So, it’s best just to throw it away.

It’s Discolored

When the steak has gone bad, you’ll most definitely notice that the color of the meat has changed. The steak will usually turn brown or gray.

Proteins in the meat give color to steak. When they start to break down, it causes the color to change. So if your steak is exposed to oxygen for too long, it will cause the proteins to break down, and the steak will discolor (probably turning brown or grey).

However, if the steak has a few patches of brown or gray, it’s not necessarily bad. You can still eat it if there are no signs of other spoilage like a bad smell, slime, dryness, or mold.

One way to prevent discoloration is by storing the steak in an airtight container and removing as much air as possible or, even better, using a vacuum sealer.

It Has an Off-Putting Smell

Perhaps one of the most obvious signs that your steak has gone bad is the smell. Fresh steak shouldn’t have any scent to it. If you notice an off-putting, ammonia-like odor, it’s a sign that the steak has begun to spoil.

The bad smell is caused by the breakdown of proteins in the meat. So if you notice that your steak smells funky, it’s best to throw it away.

However, dry-aged steaks are an exception. Dry-aged steak should smell like cheese because of an aging process in a temperature-controlled environment. So if you’re not sure if the smell is typical, it’s best to ask your butcher or look for other signs of spoilage (mold, discoloration, or slime).

It’s Dry

When the raw steak has gone bad, it will often become dry and hard to the touch. It is because the moisture in the meat has evaporated, and the proteins have begun to break down. Lots of marbling may prevent it from drying out, but it’s not a guarantee. Dry steak is often chewy and has a hint of ammonia odor.

If you’re not sure if the steak is too dry, compare it to a fresh piece of steak. If it’s significantly drier – throw it away.

One way to keep it moist is to use a vacuum sealer. Vacuum sealing will prevent the steak from exposure to oxygen which causes the meat to dry out.

It Has Mold

Without a doubt, it’s the best sign that your meat is off. Mold growing on the surface of your steak is an excellent indicator – it’s time to throw it away. If you’re not sure what it is – mold is a type of fungus that grows in moist environments. A fridge is a perfect place for mold to thrive. So if there’s the slightest hint of mold on your steak ( colors of mold can range from white to green or even black), it means that the expiration date of your steak is indeed over.

However, you can prevent mold from growing on your steak by storing it in an airtight container or vacuum sealing it. It will prevent mold spores from settling on the surface of the meat.

How To Prevent Steak From Going Bad?

vacuum sealed steak
Vacuum sealed steak

If, to be honest, there’s not much you can do apart from one thing to prevent the steak from spoiling, and that is storing it properly. First thing first, the ideal temperature for storing meat is between 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if you can keep your fridge at this temperature, then it’s the best place to store your steak. And last but not least is to store steak in an airtight container or, even better, using a vacuum sealer. This will prevent the steak from exposure to oxygen which causes the meat to spoil.

I need to mention freezing as well. If you can’t eat your steak within a few days of buying it, then it’s best to freeze it. However, make sure to store it properly using the methods I described above.


Is a brown steak bad?

No, the brown steak is not necessarily bad. It just means that the proteins in the steak have oxidized and started to break down. However, if the steak has other signs of spoilage, like mold, slime, or an off-putting smell, it’s best to throw it away.

What does bad steak smell like?

It smells like ammonia. If you notice an off-putting, ammonia-like smell, then it’s a sign that the steak has begun to spoil.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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