Why Steak Turns Brown In The Fridge – And How To Stop It

brown steak

Do you ever open your refrigerator to find that your steak has turned brown? It’s not a pretty sight, is it? It sometimes even smells sour. It happens because of a process called oxidation. I will explain to you as thoroughly as possible why steak turns brown in the fridge and how to stop it from ever happening!

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Why My Steak Turned Brown In The Fridge?


Steak turns brown in the fridge because of the process known as oxidation. It can happen to many different types of foods (not only meat but also vegetables and fruits). When we expose food to air, it causes the molecules to begin breaking down and interacting with other compounds. When it comes to steak (and some other meats), it leads to the formation of a compound called oxymyoglobin, which creates a brown discoloration on steak as it reacts with oxygen.


Steak can change in color quite quickly. Leave your steak uncovered for half a day – take a look at it later. You’ll surely notice the difference. Even in the cool temperatures of your refrigerator, the steak is beginning to turn brown as a result of spoilage bacteria. This process happens thanks to a chemical reaction between oxygen and amino acids called tyrosine in the meat. As these compounds react over time, they release iron that provides a brownish-red color. In addition, additional enzymes also become activated at lower temperatures, encouraging further oxidation that turns your steak an even deeper shade of brown. 

Marinades and Salt

There’re some spices that can cause oxidation. For instance, salt is a pro-oxidant; therefore, if you’re going to store your steak in the fridge for more than a day, it’s best not to salt it before putting it away (only salt the meat if you want to dry brine). The same goes for other pro-oxidants such as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and even some types of fruit juices.

Note: Keep in mind it’s normal for meat to turn brown. I highly suggest reading the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s post on safe food handling.

How To Prevent Steak From Turning Brown

how to prevent steak from turning brown

Use Steak As Soon As Possible After Purchasing

Use steak as soon as possible after purchase. The sooner you cook it, the less time it will have to brown in the fridge.

Store In An Airtight Container

One way to prevent the steak from turning brown is to store it in an airtight container. It will limit the amount of oxygen that steak is exposed to, which will help prevent the formation of oxymyoglobin.

Wrap Steak In A Parchment Paper

Another way to keep the steak from turning brown is to wrap it in parchment paper. This paper is permeable to oxygen, but it will create a barrier that will slow down the oxidation process.

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