How To Tell If Steak Is Bad? 7+ Signs To Check For A Conclusive Answer!

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You want to treat yourself right with a beautiful steak for dinner. But you wonder how to tell if steak is bad cause it’s been a while since you saw this cut on your fridge.

Don’t worry, today, we’re going to explore how to discern a good steak from a bad one. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to look, sniff, and touch your way to confidence in the freshness of your steak. Let’s dive in!

How To Tell If Steak Is Bad?


You can tell if your steak may go bad from these 7 signs:

  • It smells off.
  • It changes color.
  • It’s slimy to the touch.
  • It tastes weird.
  • It’s warm to the touch (if raw).
  • It’s swollen from the packaging.
  • It’s over the sell-by, use-by date.

How Do You Know When A Steak Is Bad?

Determining whether a steak is bad involves a few checks. Start with a visual examination. If you see a greenish tint or moldy spots, it’s a no-go. Next, run your fingers over the steak. Fresh steak is firm but tender. If it feels sticky, tacky, or leaves a residue on your fingers, it’s not safe to eat.


The most reliable test is the sniff test. Fresh steak has a mild iron-like smell. If your steak smells sour, acrid, or simply unpleasant, it’s likely spoiled.

Lastly, check the packaging. If it’s bloated or damaged, the steak inside might be compromised. Remember, these tests are not foolproof. When in doubt, it’s safer to discard the steak than risk food poisoning. Trust your instincts.

If it seems off, it probably is.

Is Steak That Turns Brown Bad?

No, brown steak or grayish steak doesn’t always mean it’s bad. Oxygen exposure can change the color of beef to a brownish hue, a process called oxidation. So, how to tell if steak is bad? If your steak is brown but checks out in other areas, it might still be good to go.

If your stored beef has turned brown, developed an unusual odor, and feels sticky when touched, it’s likely spoiled meat and should not be consumed.

How To Tell If Steak Is Bad Or Spoiled From Color

Color can be a helpful indicator to tell if a steak is spoiled. Fresh steaks typically have a bright, purplish-red color, courtesy of myoglobin, a protein found in muscle tissues. However, what if you notice your steak has turned more brown, yellow, or green? It might be spoiled.

But remember, don’t judge a steak solely by its color. Always use it in conjunction with other checks like smell, texture, and the sell-by-date. 

How To Tell If Steak Is Bad From Smell

One of the most reliable ways to verify the freshness of a steak is by smell. A fresh steak has a clean, meaty aroma, not dissimilar to iron. If your steak smells rank, sour, or reminiscent of sulfur or ammonia, it’s probably spoiled.

However, this doesn’t apply to all steaks. Dry-aged steaks, for instance, will have a cheese-like smell due to lactic acid released during the aging process. So, don’t be alarmed if your dry-aged steak smells a bit like blue cheese.

Other Signs That Steak Gone Bad – Clues For Spoiled Steak


There are several ways on how to tell if steak is bad beyond just color and smell. These include:

  1. Texture: Fresh steak should feel firm but tender to the touch. If the steak feels sticky, and slimy, or leaves a residue on your fingers, it’s likely spoiled.
  2. Taste: While it’s not advisable to taste suspicious steak, a spoiled steak will have a sour, rancid, or generally unpleasant taste.
  3. Packaging: If the packaging of the steak is swollen, bloated, or damaged in any way, it’s a good indication that the steak inside might be spoiled.

How To Tell If Steak Is Bad Frozen?

Even when frozen, steak can go bad over time. Here’s how to check:

First, look at the color. If the frozen steak that you store raw has dark or faded spots, it might be a freezer burn. Freezer burn doesn’t make the steak bad, but it can affect the taste and texture negatively.

Next, check for ice crystals. If the steak had a lot of ice crystals on it, it might have been frozen for too long and could have lost its flavor.

Lastly, check the packaging. If it’s damaged, air might have gotten in and spoiled the steak.

Once you’ve thawed the steak, use your other senses too. If the steak smells off or has a slimy texture, it’s best to throw it away.

Remember, even when frozen, food doesn’t last forever. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

How To Tell If Steak Is Bad Before Cooking?

We will need to go down the path of see-touch-and-smell with this one. Unless your seasonings change these indicators, your steak is safe to eat if you don’t see any color off or smell something funny from your steak. 

However, these three might not be a 100% foolproof approach. We hate to sound like a broken record that repeats ourselves over and over but – Always Trust Your Intuition! If you think it’s bad then it’s better to make your dinner other options.

How To Tell If Steak Is Bad In Fridge?

You might think that the fridge can get your steak to last longer. It can, but not for a long time. You must re-do all the check-ins below that we have listed to make sure you still have a good and safe-to-eat steak on your hand.

If it’s cooked, no mold, no color changed, and of course no smell.

It’s it’s raw. You want the steak to stay perfectly fine within the packaging with no puffing (it’s the CO2 from bacteria). The print-on date is also a good indicator. Don’t eat steak that has gone off the date.

What Should Raw Meat Steak Smell Like?

Raw steak is red meat and has a mild and fresh smell that is often described as slightly metallic or iron-like. This comes from the myoglobin, a protein in the meat that gives it its color.

Some people also describe the smell of raw steak as similar to that of raw iron or a faint scent of blood, which is typical due to the presence of iron and hemoglobin in the meat.


If the steak has been vacuum-sealed, it might have a slightly sour smell immediately after the package is opened. This is due to the lack of oxygen in the packaging, and the smell should dissipate after a few minutes when the meat is exposed to air.

However, if the smell is strong, unpleasant, or doesn’t go away, it’s a sign that the steak might be spoiled. Always trust your nose – if it smells off, it’s safer not to eat it.

How Can You Tell If Raw Beef Is Bad?

Identifying bad raw beef involves using your senses. Look at the color – it should be a bright red, not brown or green.

Touch it – it should be moist but not slimy. Smell it – it should have a fresh, slightly metallic scent, not a rotten or sour one.

Lastly, check the sell-by date on the package. If it’s past, the beef may not be safe to eat. If any of these checks raise concern, it’s better to toss it out.

How To Tell That Your Steak Is Safe To Eat?

Ensuring your steak is safe to eat involves a few steps:

  1. Check the Color: Fresh steak should be a vibrant, purplish-red color. If it’s brown, gray, or green, it might be spoiled.
  2. Touch Test: Fresh steak should feel moist but not slimy. A slimy surface can indicate bacterial growth.
  3. Sniff Test: Fresh steak has a mild, meaty smell. If it has a strong, sour, or unpleasant odor, it’s likely bad.
  4. Sell-by Date: Check the date on the package. If it’s past the sell-by date, it might not be safe.
  5. Packaging: Look for any damage to the packaging. If it’s puffed up or has holes, bacteria may have gotten in.

When in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s best to discard the steak.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Steak?

If you accidentally eat spoiled steak, your body might quickly let you know something’s wrong. Spoiled steak can harbor harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, or Staphylococcus, which can cause food poisoning.


Symptoms can start a few hours after eating the bad steak or take a couple of days to appear. You might feel nauseous or start vomiting. You could have stomach cramps, diarrhea, or a fever. In severe cases, you might even get chills and become dizzy.

While it’s not pleasant, most healthy adults can recover from food poisoning within a few days with rest and lots of fluids. However, for those with weakened immune systems, like the elderly, young children, or people with chronic illnesses, food poisoning can be serious or even life-threatening.

The bottom line? It’s not worth the risk. If you’re in doubt about whether your steak is good or not, it’s safer to throw it out. Remember the golden rule: when in doubt, throw it out!

Final lines

So how to tell if steak is bad? Identifying a bad steak involves using your senses—look, touch, and smell. Check for changes in color, an off-putting smell, a slimy texture, or swollen packaging. Remember, when frozen, steaks can still go bad, and even when refrigerated, they don’t last indefinitely.

Trusting your intuition is crucial; if you suspect your steak might be spoiled, it’s safer to discard it than risk food poisoning. Always prioritize health and safety over the desire to save food.

Spoiled Steak FAQs

How Can You Tell If Cooked Beef Is Bad?

Cooked beef going bad can be identified by a few signs. If it has a strange, sour smell or a dull, grayish color, it’s likely spoiled. The texture may also change, becoming slimy or overly dry. Lastly, if the flavor is off and doesn’t taste like it normally does, it’s best to discard it. Always trust your senses; when in doubt, throw it out to avoid foodborne illnesses.

What Does Spoiled Steak Smell Like?

Spoiled steak often has a distinct smell. Instead of a fresh, iron-like smell, bad steak can smell sour, rancid, or reminiscent of ammonia or rotten eggs. The smell is due to bacteria and the gases they produce. If a steak has a strong, offensive odor, it’s likely spoiled and should be discarded.

Is It OK if The Steak Smells A Little?

If your steak smells a little sour or off immediately after you’ve opened vacuum-sealed packaging, that’s normal. This is due to the lack of oxygen in the packaging and the smell should dissipate after a few minutes. However, if the smell persists, or if the steak wasn’t in vacuum-sealed packaging, it’s best not to take a chance.

What Does Bad Steak Taste Like?

What Does Bad Steak Taste Like?
Bad steak can have a sour, rancid taste. It might taste “off” or not like steak should. However, tasting should be a last resort check for spoilage, as consuming spoiled steak can lead to food poisoning. If you have any doubts before cooking, it’s safer to throw the steak out.


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