How to Tell if Beef Is Spoiled

By Elsie Goycoolea. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Tell if Beef Is Spoiled

Beef muscle meat is a great protein source in many people’s diets. It can be easily purchased from butchers and found it many food stores. Beef can be stored in the fridge or freezer for later use; however, the longer it is stored the easier it is for beef to spoil. Eating spoiled beef can risk the development of food-borne illnesses.

In this OneHowTo article we explain how to tell if beef is spoiled and share some advice on how to make it last longer safely.

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Steps to follow:

The first step is to look at the sell-by or expiry date on the package. If you remove the meat from the original package make sure to write down with a marker pen the date it was bought. If you are within the date imprinted on the package then generally it will be safe to consume. However, it is still helpful to consider the next following factors as well.


Beef starts to change color when it is turning bad. If it is turning slightly green discard it. Beef that is red colored or even slightly brown (sign of lack of oxygen) is generally safe to consume. If you want beef to turn back to its original dark read color try exposing it to air for about 15 minutes before cooking. Click on this OneHowTo article to learn more about red meat.

How to Tell if Beef Is Spoiled - Step 2

Beef will probably have a strong smell; however, if the smell starts becoming sour and pungent it is an indication that it is already spoiling. The more the meat is transferred packaging or exposed to different environmental conditions the greater the likelihood that it may start spoiling faster.


Different meat cuts will have different levels of firmness. Depending on the ratio of meat to fat content it will be firmer or softer. Higher fat cuts will seem oily, softer and have a gel touch. If the touch is rather slimy, sticky and rubbery it is a high indicator that the meat is not in a good state.


Beef that is cooked will help extend the sell-by date for a few days. If the meat is close to the sell-by date, it can be extended for a few more days if it is cooked, cooled and then stored in an airtight container in the fridge.


If you want to make it last even longer then freeze beef cooked or uncooked. Freezing stops the deterioration of the meat and can make it last up to 8 months. The lower the temperature the longer it will preserve. At least reach for -5 °C (23°F).

If you want to read similar articles to How to Tell if Beef Is Spoiled, we recommend you visit our Food & drink category.

  • Never leave meat at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Bacteria starts growing between 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F).

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What did you think of this article?
Michael Riley
Elsie, I take issue with your article. I hope you are not writing this article to support the beef industry because you are doing a big disserve advising readers to discard beef after the expiration date. Let me be clear, beef does not spoil, it rots. Beef is one of the few meats that bacteria only grows on its surface. Just scrape off the surface and fully cook the surface to kill the bacteria. This is why you can eat steaks rare and medium rare. By the way, rotted steak is called an aged steak because it is set aside to rot which makes the steak tender.
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Michael,

Aging beef is a careful process which requires very specific conditions to ensure it is consumable. Leaving beef too long at home in the wrong conditions can be very dangerous. Our advice here is not the advice of the beef industry, but taken from various hygiene standards organizations which act in the interests of public safety. You may say some of our advice is being on the safe side, but this is because it is the best way to avoid food poisoning, not something we are going to apologize for.
Adorna gerrard
What caused my cooked shin beef and onion to go sour and start to curdle it was cold then I added the cooked vegetables to make a meat and potato pie. This has been twice at different intervals.

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