How To Tell If Pork Is Bad: Barbara’s Unique Tips & Practical Guide
Festivity times can’t be imagined without meat. And pork is the most popular of them all.
During the holiday period, I’m staying extra busy, always cooking something.
My boys (all three of them) love baked meat, and pork chops are among the most favorite dishes on our dinner table. I prepare them with special care. 🙂
Throughout the week, I’ve found one meatloaf in the freezer I forgot about during this chaotic period and was unaware of how long it was there. The situation where you don’t know this information is very tricky, as it can bring you to the danger zone.
If you consume meat that has gone bad, the symptoms arise three days after the consumption; food poisoning with rotten meat will induce pain, cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and even vomiting. You don’t want that.
Recently I wrote about recognizing how to tell if the chicken has gone bad; stimulated by that experience, I realized that I need to conduct a thorough inspection before putting my pork into the frying pan, and here’s what I did.
Determining if the pork has gone bad – Three steps to be 100% sure
The loaf I found in my freezer was packaged in foil, but the label faded away because I buy from a butcher that’s near my house. We are good friends, and he selects the freshest meat for me every time I come by.
Jack (the butcher) packs the meat in a foil and then in plastic boxes, and the label was inside, near the meat. When I put the loaf in the freezer, I threw the box away and kept the foil, because the freezer was stacked at the time.
1. Inspect The Packaging
You should look at the label of your packaging first. To have your pork perfectly clean and safe, you should use it during the use-by period.
Freshly bought, pork should be used during the first day if you’re not planning to freeze it. If it happens that you have other stuff to do or just don’t have the time to prepare it right away, you can keep it in the fridge for entire three days.
(While I’m writing this, I realized I had to throw the loaf in the freezer to keep its freshness)
When put in the freezer, pork meat can stay in for three months without losing its consistency and quality. Keep in mind that with more time, the quality of the meat deteriorates inevitably. The properly sized freezing bags with zippers can definitely help to prolong the life of pork, but it’s advised to use the meat during the first two months.
2. Inspect the meat thoroughly - Use both your hands, nose, and eyes
Even though the labels showcase the most accurate information, nothing beats the chef’s touch and inspection. First and foremost, the visual inspection will provide insight on how long the meat has been stored. When looking at pork, rose to red color is your friend. If you notice anything else, something’s wrong.
White lines and fat separations are normal on fresh pork, and there shouldn’t be anything yellow on it. Speaking of the color, you must know that after staying in the freezer for a while, pork gets a little darker variation of red color. That’s why it’s important to know how meat changes in color over time.
The main culprit for this chemical reaction is the relation between oxygen and protein. These two don’t go well together, and meat fiber is rich in protein. The oxidation process changes the color of the pork gradually, regardless of the temperature, or the doneness of the meat. On the other hand, low temperatures keep the pork in a safer zone, but the color fading is imminent.
When you have a situation like that (just like I had with this meatloaf), you have two options – either to discard the entire meat or to cut off the faded meat.
But how to know what to do then?
3. That’s when the smell & hand inspection comes into place
When you inspect the pork, you have to check the meat consistency and texture and finalize the check with the smell check. If you have any suspicions about the meat’s quality, these two will definitely solve any dilemmas.
The sensation of pork meat in hand is quite distinctive and easy to recognize. Healthy pork meat is tender, yet consistent while held in hand. Overall, you’re looking for more firm than soft content.
Next, it’s important to look for overall dryness and the presence of the slimy film over the surface. If the meat feels too slimy or too dry, that piece is not as healthy as it was while it was fresh.
The difference in the smell is quite easy to distinguish and recognize; fresh pork meat is almost odorless. If you feel anything that resembles a sour, ammonia-like odor on the pork you’re inspecting, this is the big red light.
The bacteria in our surroundings attack the gentle surfaces of the meat and develop easily on the right temperature, violating the texture and integrity of your pork. Depending on the level of damage the bacteria has done, the smell of the meat will get more and worse.
So, to sum it all up, to tell if pork is bad with 100% certainty, you need to:
- Inspect the packaging
- Inspect the meat visually
- Inspect the meat with your hands - Smell the meat
Your pork matters - That’s why you need to prevent it from going bad
Knowing the condition of your meat connects with the knowledge of preserving the meat in the best state as much as possible. To avoid all the symptoms I showcased for you above, you need to know how long can pork stay (depending on conditions) in good state.
First and foremost, fresh pork should be used in approximately a day or two. If not consumed or heat treated, pork should be in the freezer. If you’re unsure if you’re going to use it right away, you should aim for a maximum of 4 days in the fridge.
Storing pork in the freezer requires proper storage bags and vacuum sealing. It’s simple – because we know that meat and oxygen don’t mix well, we want our meat to be frozen and without any air (or with the least air possible) contained in the packaging.
I’ve had a situation where I forgot about a chunk of meat I put outside the freezer to have in ready during the week. Four days have passed, and on the fifth day, the color of the meat has changed. I knew it – it was time to throw it out.
If you experience this situation, don’t get tempted to refreeze the meat again, or use it “because it’s not too late.” Your belly will thank you later. 😀
Now you’re probably wondering: “How long to keep the pork in the freezer?”
The right answer is – up to five months.
This is the recommended period, during which the meat will stay in good condition. During the “freezer career,” you should keep in mind that once you take the pork out, you should use it.
Returning it to the freezer is not recommended, even though I did it a couple of times, and nothing happened.
If you’ve taken your pork out of the freezer and now ought to return it in (for your reasons), know that the time doesn’t reset: if your pork has been in the freezer for the whole three months, you can’t count the time from the start.
On the contrary, if you return it after such period, there’s maximum of two weeks of freshness left in your pork. So be careful!
Everybody loves pork; it can be delicious and made in so many ways. If you prepare it well, the whole neighborhood will enjoy the aroma that’s coming from your house, and your family will praise you.
But, you have to be careful with it while storing. If it gets bad (which can happen quite easily if you’re careless), pork can make you and your loved ones feel bad and ruin a potentially great day/night.
When you’re not sure, just stick to my tips on how to tell if pork is bad, and you’ll be 100% safe. If there’s someone you think can benefit from this article, you know what to do – send it his/her way!
Until our next meet 😉