Today I have a packed article on how to tell if pork is bad. This is an extremely important topic and could save your life! We will not only take a look at how to know when meat is bad but also how to choose the freshest cuts and how to properly store them.
If you want to learn more about working with pork, you should also read this article on How Long To Bake Pork Chops.
What Are We Looking At Today, And Why Is It Important?
In today’s jam-packed article, we will explore the ins and outs of raw and cooked pork meat. We will be taking a look at exactly how to tell if pork has gone bad and exactly how you can store it to help extend its shelf life.
But the question I will probably be asked most is why is this important.
And there really is just one answer: Not knowing these signs can cause death.
I know! So dramatic. But it’s actually true! The bacteria that specifically grow on pork can be deadly if left unchecked.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), about 600 million people get food poisoning each year. Of these, about 420 000 die.
The four biggest contributors to these cases include the Norovirus, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E.coli. Two of these are extremely common in pork meat, which is why it’s so deadly.
Risks Of Eating Bad Pork – How To Tell If Pork Is Bad
It’s always a safe thing never to eat undercooked or raw pork to avoid any foodborne illnesses. Now, of course, there are different cases. Some people get stomach cramps, while others, as I’ve mentioned, can die.
It mainly depends on the type of bacteria you’ve ingested, the number of bacteria you’ve ingested, and the state of your immune system.
Type Of Bacteria
Some bacteria, viruses, and parasites are more harmful than others. And some can cause severe food poisoning but not death.
The problem with consuming undercooked pork is that there is no way to know which type is present in pork meat. That is why it is crucial always to cook fresh pork meat and to cook it until its internal temperature has reached at least 145ºF (63ºC).
The most common bacteria that you can find on pork include E.coli and Salmonella. Other harmful types are Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes, which all die after cooking pork.
Amount Of Bacteria
Now, bacteria need time to multiply and thrive. That’s why it is safe to eat fresh pork, even with minor traces of these deadly microorganisms. If you cook the pork for long enough, they will all die.
However, the older pork products get, the more they deteriorate and smell worse. This, in turn, creates a more favorable environment for the bacteria to grow in. Ultimately, no amount of cooking will be able to make the meat safe to eat again. And that’s where the risk really lies and why it’s crucial you know how to tell if pork is bad.
Ingesting more of this bacteria (from older meat) increases your risk of getting sick.
Naturally, if your immune system is weakened or under immense strain (actively fighting diseases), you are more likely to get seriously ill from pork meat, especially if it is already slightly off.
That is why it isn’t recommended that pregnant women and young children eat pork, chicken, or fish. The risks involved are simply too high.
What Happens If You Eat Bad Pork?
If you are lucky, you will get stomach cramps and a runny tummy. However, most people that ingest bad pork get mild to severe food poisoning.
Some common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and nausea. In many cases, people are even hospitalized and suffer from dehydration.
The Tell-Tale Signs
If you’re handling pork often, you know that there are two easy ways to test if pork is bad. The first is by looking at the meat, and the second is by doing a sniff test.
What Does Bad Pork Look Like?
Bad pork meat is usually discolored in one way or another. This can be in sections or an overall dull, grayish color. And, if your pork has a green or yellow hue, it should be immediately discarded. When pork discolors like that, it is WAY beyond saving.
If you have a fatty cut, the fat will also turn from white to a pale, off-white, or yellow color due to the fat marbling.
These are all instant indicators that the meat is no longer fresh.
Another way to tell that the pork has gone bad by just looking at it is if any slimy or sticky substances have formed on the surface. This is an instant no-no, and the meat should be discarded immediately!
What Does Bad Pork Smell Like?
When pork meat goes bad, it smells rancid, sour, rotten, and generally has an unpleasant odor. Trust me: you cannot miss it! And it generally starts showing up pretty soon.
That’s one “great” thing about the spoiling signs of this meat. Unlike many others, the smell gives away the freshness almost instantly!
So, if you are ever unsure and the meat smells kind of funky, it is best to toss it.
How To Tell If Pork Chops Have Gone Bad
The signs for spoiled pork chops are pretty much the same as for all spoiled pork cuts.
When the chops start going off, a sour, rancid smell sour odor will form on the meat. Simultaneously, the color will become dull and eventually turn gray, yellow, or green.
Depending on the type of bacteria present, there may be a very slimy texture and sticky layer on the meat. And, as I’ve mentioned, the fat or marbling will also become less white and turn yellow or gray.
How To Tell If Pork Is Bad After It Has Been Cooked
Now, just because the pork meat or chops have been cooked doesn’t mean that they cannot spoil anymore.
In fact, once the meat has been exposed to heat, it is at even more risk of spoiling.
Cooked pork will only last between 3-5 days inside the fridge. And even that timeframe is pushing it. You have to perfectly store the meat to ensure it doesn’t get exposed to bacteria through cross-contamination. And even then, the bacteria already present can rapidly multiply if the pork isn’t stored at consistently cold temperatures.
Now, how do you know if cooked pork is still fine to eat?
The signs do differ slightly from spoiled uncooked pork chops and pork.
The smell will be less of rotten meat and more sour or unpleasant odor and rancid. It can still be an unpleasant scent, but less so than raw meat.
Furthermore, spoiling cooked meat tends to get a gray, dull color first, followed by a slimy layer. The meat doesn’t quickly turn yellow or green because the caramelization on its surface usually hides it.
On cooked spoiled pork meat, you can also usually see mold growth. That’s pretty rare on uncooked meat. You will also notice that the meat smells sour after days in the fridge, which is a sign that you have bad pork chops or pork meat in general.
How To Choose Fresh Pork
So, now that you know exactly how to tell if raw pork has gone bad, let’s take a look at how you can choose the freshest cuts in-store or at the butcher.
First and foremost, the color of fresh pork is bright and uniform pinkish-red, which should be easy for you to identify if you like preparing pork often. The fat (or any marbling) is also a clean white color.
If the color is slightly pale, you should look for a different cut. It doesn’t indicate spoiled pork, but it does indicate that the cut isn’t as fresh as it can be.
Then, you can also look out for dark bones. This is not good. The bone of the cut should be clean and white (or slightly off-white) – just like the fat is. Again, a dark bone doesn’t necessarily indicate spoiled meat, but it’s less than ideal.
Aside from the color of the meat, you should also consider the texture; the meat should be dry, not wet, does not feel slimy or sticky or have any type of substance on it.
It’s also wise to buy pork that is not too tender or too tough. Too much tenderness could mean that the meat has been out for too long, while too tough means you will have a harder time cooking it to tenderize.
How Long Does Pork Last in the Fridge
When properly stored in the refrigerator, raw pork can generally last for three to five days. It’s important to keep the pork in its original packaging, with the expiration dates or “sell by date,” which provides some protection and prevents cross-contamination.
If you prefer, you can also transfer the pork to a sealed container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to maintain its freshness. This applies to any cut of pork, including pork loin, pork chops, and ground pork.
For cooked pork, the shelf life is slightly shorter. Cooked pork can last for about two to four days in the refrigerator when stored properly in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
If you have limited space, you can place them in the same container as other meat, including chicken breast, given that they are in different plastic bags.
Ensure that you let the pork cool to room temperature before refrigerating to prevent condensation and bacterial growth.
How Long Does Pork Last in the Freezer
Freezing will ensure that you get to keep the pork fresh for longer. Generally, raw pork can be safely stored in the freezer for three to six months. However, it’s important to note that the specific duration can vary depending on factors such as the cut of pork, packaging, and the quality of the meat.
Moreover, you can always freeze cooked pork and pork chop to extend its shelf life for up to three months, ensuring that you place them in an airtight container.
When you try to thaw frozen pork, remember not to rush the process to avoid getting it all mushy. Thaw it by running cold water over it for a few minutes.
How To Store Raw Pork
First, it is important that you store uncooked meat away from cooked foods. Usually, raw meat is stored on the bottom shelf, and cooked meat on the top.
You can store different types of pork cuts together as long as they are the same age.
Try to keep the meat inside its original packaging for as long as possible. Otherwise, wrap it in wax paper, then lightly wrap it in plastic. This will keep it from drying out and spoiling quickly.
And ideally, the fresh meat should be stored in a fridge with a stable temperature of 40ºF (4ºC).
How To Store Cooked Pork
Cooked pork should always be stored inside an airtight container or resealable bag.
As I’ve mentioned, it is best to place cooked meat and cooked food on the top shelf. This keeps it far away from the highly perishable raw meats and ingredients.
You can keep cooked leftover pork in the fridge for about 2-3 days. It might last longer, but I tend to lean on the safer side of things and cook pork only when needed to avoid leftovers.
And again, your fridge should always run at a low, stable temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions
When the pork smells bad, that almost always means that the pork is bad, and you should not be using it to avoid any foodborne illnesses. You should also watch out for acidic aroma, ammonia like smell, and a slimy texture which are all signs of spoiled meat.
Discoloration does not automatically mean you have spoiled meat or that your pork is bad. Meat changes color when exposed to different temperatures and oxygen, especially with frozen pork, and you can still use discolored meat as long as there is no unpleasant smell or other signs of spoilage.