By the time you remember the steak you left in the freezer, you will probably wonder how to tell if frozen steak is bad.
You might try to take a closer look at it, but you are not entirely sure what you are looking for.
So, before you waste time cooking a steak that tastes poorly and makes you feel worse, make sure it’s still okay to eat.
There are a few different signs to determine if frozen steak is bad, but it will smell slightly sour like rotting eggs might, and it will also have started developing a slimy film.
When it comes to vetting the freshness of your frozen steak, get ready to engage almost all of your senses.
You will need your sight, smell, and touch, and if all goes well, you will undoubtedly need your taste when you throw that steak on the grill.
Read on to learn how long frozen steak will last in your freezer and how to tell when it has been sitting in there well past its lifespan.
According to the USDA, frozen meat will remain safe to eat so long as it is appropriately stored in a freezer that maintains a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
However, sometimes sellers fail to package the steak properly, and the freezer does not always maintain the temperate that it should stay.
This will cause bacteria and microbes to rise from their dormancy.
Tip: Just because a steak does not mold under the right circumstances does not mean that the quality will not deteriorate severely when you store it in the freezer for too long.
According to the FDA, you can keep frozen steak in the freezer for anywhere from six to twelve months without sacrificing the quality of the meat.
This applies to most other cuts of beef as well, except for ground beef, which has a freezer life of three to four months.
If you are refreezing steak that you have already cooked, the FDA recommends that you keep the cuts in the freezer for no more than two to three months.
If you know beforehand that you plan to keep steak in the freezer for a few months, you can take extra precautions to ensure that the meat stays fresh for as long as possible.
You should take the following measures to ensure that your frozen steak will meet the highest possible quality by the time that you decide to thaw it and cook it:
- Freeze the meat as soon as you have it to maintain peak quality.
- Write the date that you first freeze the steak on its packaging.
- Seal the steak properly, first with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil.
- Thaw it in the fridge overnight, not in the microwave or in a room temperature environment
Tip: Properly sealing the steak will carry a lot of weight when it comes to keeping the meat fresh. This will prevent oxidization from affecting the quality.
There are a few different signs to look out for when trying to tell if a frozen steak is bad.
If you spot any of the following issues with your frozen steak, it is best to do away with the steak and find yourself another meal.
Smell the Steak
When you first unwrap and defrost the steak, you might notice a smell before anything else.
If you can smell the steak without bringing your face very close to it, that’s not a good sign.
A bad steak will smell slightly sour in the way that rotting eggs might. A scent similar to ammonia is one of the most common odors of a steak gone bad.
This will differ significantly from the mild and often metallic or bloody smell of a fresh steak. If it makes you recoil, then the meat surely needs a trip to the trash.
The pungent odor of a rotting steak is due to the build-up of bacteria and other microorganisms that will likely lead to some unpleasant symptoms if you consume them.
Look for a Slimy Film
When you take the steak out of the freezer, check for a slimy film.
Before a steak begins to mold, the bacteria first solidify on the surface, developing a slime-like film.
The membrane they form often has a yellowish hue, but it can also be clear in color.
Slime on steak is certainly not a regular occurrence, and if you have found that a film covers your steak, then be sure to throw away the steak immediately.
Eating the steak will likely lead to a foodborne illness.
Feel for Dryness
When you first take a frozen steak out of the freezer and it’s thawed, you should be able to feel the moisture when you touch it.
If the steak looks or feels dry, it has likely fallen victim to oxidization and that missing moisture will be noticed when you cook it.
Tip: A dry steak will not likely give you a foodborne illness. However, it will not be as fresh when you cook it, and it will probably not meet your standards for taste as a steak-lover.
Remember When You Put It Away
Remember that steak only lasts in the freezer for six to twelve months.
So, if you suspect that it has been in there well past that range of time, but you cannot directly see or smell any issues, then it is probably best to do away with it and get your hands on a new steak.
Mark the date the steak goes in the freezer and regularly rotate frozen meat to avoid one cut sitting on ice for too long.
Seeing a steak that is any color except for a juicy red can be unsettling. Grey steak occurs due to the process of oxidization.
However, this does not necessarily mean that the steak is unsafe to eat.
The process that turns steak grey does take a little while to occur, though. So, if the steak is grey, then look the steak over for other signs and symptoms of having gone bad before you cook it.
This is especially important since it has likely been exposed to oxygen.
Tip: If the only sign is the grey coloring, though, then the steak should be safe for you to eat.
In the worst-case scenario, eating a spoiled steak will lead to food poisoning in roughly one to three days.
Food poisoning can result in any or all of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, a call to the doctor is in order.
Freezer burnt steak is different from a spoiled steak. It occurs when the steak hasn’t been appropriately wrapped.
You can cut off the freezer burnt portion of the meat before cooking the steak.
Tip: Be sure to examine the rest of the steak for signs of spoiling.
Whether it is a porterhouse, a rib-eye, sirloin, or a NY strip, it can be exciting to remember that you stored a nice cut of steak away in the freezer.
Learning how to tell if frozen steak is bad just requires you to scrutinize it.
Keep your eyes and nose peeled for the following signs of a steak-gone-bad:
- A mucous-like film
- A pungent scent of rotten eggs or ammonia
If your steak looks, smells, and feels healthy, then it is time for you to fire up the grill and pull out the spice rack before your steak exceeds the six to twelve-month threshold.