Properly preserved and prepared pork is a culinary delight. From pork chops to ribs, pork belly, roast, cutlets, ham, and bacon; pork is rich in protein and can be used to prepare hundreds of delicious dishes.
Sadly, like other meats, pork is perishable and prone to spoilage. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to know if it has gone bad.
So, how to tell if pork has gone bad? The best ways to know if pork has gone bad is to check for a rancid smell, a slimy or overly dry texture, discoloration, mold growth, and the expiration date on its package.
Read on to find out more about the best ways you can tell if raw or cooked pork has gone bad and what you can do to prevent it from spoiling:
Ways To Tell If Pork Is Bad
In order to avoid food poisoning from eating bad pork, it is critical to determine whether or not the meat is suitable for cooking and eating.
Food poisoning from pork can cause severe illness, although the severity of the symptoms varies depending on the type of bacterial contamination, the amount ingested, and the individual’s age and overall health.
Fresh and healthy pork will have a nice pink color, be moist but not slimy, and will not have a strong odor.
When working with pork, make sure to properly inspect it before cooking it as it can make the difference between a delectable dish and one that makes everyone sick.
One guaranteed way to tell if pork has gone bad would be to end up falling sick after eating it. But the whole point is to avoid that from happening, right?
There are better and safer ways to identify spoiled pork, most of which are easy to do and could save you a lot of discomfort.
Here are 5 clear ways to know if pork has gone bad:
1. Check The Smell
The best way to tell if your pork has gone bad is to smell it. It is the simplest and oldest method of distinguishing rotten meat from fresh meat.
A healthy piece of pork is quite odorless, but when bacteria start to infiltrate it, it goes through significant chemical and structural changes that cause it to smell bad.
Spoiled pork emits a sour odor, similar to ammonia which, over time, keeps getting worse.
It is worth noting that certain types of packaging may also cause the pork to smell a bit odd, and it is important to know how to distinguish this odor from the one associated with spoiled pork.
Vacuum-packed pork typically has an off-putting smell that quickly dissipates after rinsing and drying.
If the smell still remains after the meat is rinsed and dried, the packaging was probably not the culprit, in which case, you must toss the meat in the trash immediately.
2. Check The Texture
Another time-honored method for checking the freshness of pork is to make use of your touch senses.
Fresh pork should be solid and slightly damp to the touch. You must examine it closely and check for any irregularities you may feel on your hand.
The surface should be moist but not gummy. As you can imagine, slime is rarely a good sign when it comes to food. Keep an eye out for excessive dampness and toss any meat that feels slimy or sticky to the touch.
Another major red flag is when the surface of the meat is overly dry as this indicates that the meat is old and not the safest for consumption.
3. Check The Color
In addition to the smell and texture, the appearance of the pork also tells a lot about the health of the meat.
Fresh pork is pink all over, though the shade of pink may vary depending on the cut of the pork. For example, pork butt has a darker pink color, whereas pork loin roast and chops are much paler.
The color may fade or darken over time if incorrect storage methods are used. If the meat has any gray or brown patches, discard it.
Any fat present in the meat should be white in color. If it starts to turn yellow, it is a sign of deteriorating quality and is particularly true for cuts like pork butt or spare ribs.
While color change is a good indicator of spoiled meat, it can also be caused by a harmless process known as oxidation, where the meat starts to change color if it isn’t wrapped properly and oxygen gets in.
4. Check For Mold Growth
Mold is a tell-tale sign that your pork is past its prime and has gone bad. Mold flourishes in wet environments, and if you live in one, you should avoid storing pork for extended periods of time.
If you find mold on your meat, you should discard it entirely. Do not try to remove the mold and cook the parts with no mold growth.
This is because mold runs deep and the extent of its effects cannot be judged by the naked eye. Eating moldy meat may make you very sick, which is why it is best to discard any meat that is even slightly affected by it.
4. Check The Expiration Date
Packaged meats typically come with a sell-by date that is used by retailers to know when to take them off the shelf and discard them.
This can also be a useful indicator for customers to know whether the meat is fresh or not. According to the USDA, it is recommended to use or freeze pork with a sell-by date within 5 days of purchase.
Other than the sell-by date, you might also see a use-by date which guides customers when to eat or freeze the food.
The expiration date is the date after which you should not consume the meat and throw it away as it most likely has spoiled.
5. Extra Precautions
Although these signs are pretty easy to check and are often clear indicators of spoiled meat, you may sometimes miss them. For such instances, it is best to trust your gut as it is rarely wrong.
While the US has some very strict policies when it comes to meat handling and processing, other countries around the world may not be as careful with meat products, and this is where your instincts come in handy.
If you notice the meat is packaged in a weird way, simply walk away. Some sellers may even use shady tactics to change the sell-by date on their meat products.
The way the pork is stored will also tell you a lot about its condition. If there are flies in the shop where the meat is stored or the meat isn’t refrigerated within the recommended time frame, do not buy it.
Oftentimes, the meat may still taste good but could be harboring bacteria and other contaminants that could infect your stomach and make you very sick. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
How To Tell If Cooked Pork Has Gone Bad
You can check the condition of cooked pork using the same indicators you would for raw pork. A bad odor, a slimy texture, grey flesh, and mold growth can tell you whether or not your cooked pork has spoiled.
It is worth noting that it can often be difficult to smell pork that has been sitting in the refrigerator, such as when you have leftovers.
The best way to go about it would be to warm it up before you perform the smell test. When cold or frozen, even raw pork may not emit such a strong smell.
Similar to raw pork, a bad odor and sliminess are clear indicators of spoiled meat. Mold growth is also a definite sign that the meat needs to be discarded immediately.
What Happens When You Cook Spoiled Pork?
Many people believe that cooking pork that looks or smells weird will fix it. While heat does kill off certain food-borne parasites, it doesn’t work on pork that has already gone bad.
Cooking spoiled pork will not fix the unpleasant qualities, it will only intensify them. It won’t taste good either and won’t be appetizing at all, which defeats the purpose of cooking it in the first place.
The worst part is that it could make you seriously sick. You may develop cramps, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting after consuming spoiled meat and may need to consult with a doctor.
The bottom line is that you should never cook food if you suspect that it has gone bad. If there is even the slightest indication that the meat you are working with is bad, it is best not to take the risk and discard it immediately.
What Is The White Stuff Coming From Pork When Cooking?
Oftentimes, when you cook pork and other meats, you will notice a white substance that resembles cooked egg whites seeping out of the meat.
This white discharge is a mixture of protein and water that separates from the meat during the cooking process and begins to coagulate.
It may be visually unappetizing and may be disconcerting for new chefs who do not know what to expect, but it is harmless and has no effect on the quality and flavor of the meat.
Some chefs believe that the white substance is more prevalent when the meat is cooked too quickly and on very high heat.
Cooking pork at lower temperatures may reduce its appearance. Reverse searing is another good cooking method, particularly if your grill has a searing burner.
How To Prevent Pork From Going Bad
The main reason why pork goes bad is poor handling and storage.
While it is true that pork, like other meats, is a perishable item and will last a certain amount of time before going bad, there are ways to prolong its life and prevent it from going bad.
1. Maintain A Cool Temperature
According to the USDA, all types of meat, including pork, should be stored at a cool temperature below 40°F.
To maintain the meat’s temperature, make sure to put it in the fridge – or freezer – as soon as you bring it home from the supermarket.
2. Examine The Packaging
Pork usually comes packaged, and the condition of the packaging is generally a good indicator of how fresh and properly stored the meat is.
Since fresh and clean meat will last much longer, avoid purchasing pork in broken, torn, or unclean packaging.
3. Freeze For Longer Storage
If you do not intend to use the pork within 2-3 days after buying it, rewrap and freeze it in a freezer-safe airtight container to make it last longer.
The colder temperature slows down the growth of bacteria and extends the shelf life of the pork.
4. Thaw With Caution
The best way to thaw frozen pork is in the refrigerator, in cold water, or the microwave. Never leave it on the kitchen counter or in hot water as it will most likely make it go bad.
You can use frozen pork in the oven, stove, or grill, but it must be thawed first if you are using a slow cooker.
How Long Does Pork Last Before Going Bad?
Raw pork must be kept consistently cool during storage or it runs the risk of developing pathogenic bacteria that can make you seriously ill.
At Room Temperature
If the pork is kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours, chances are that it is contaminated and needs to be thrown away.
If the ambient temperature is above 90°F, you cannot leave it outside for more than an hour, after which it becomes unsafe to eat. Even if it looks, smells, and feels fine, you must discard it.
Here’s an informative video on storing pork without a refrigerator from Shangnairan on YouTube for your reference.
In The Fridge
The best way to store pork is to keep it cool, either in the fridge or the freezer. Raw pork can be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days. For ground pork, the time is shortened to about 2 days.
Cooked pork stays fresh in the fridge for about 3 days, provided that it was fresh when cooked and stored properly when raw.
In The Freezer
If you want to prolong the life of your pork, you may freeze it. It is best to use fresh pork and freeze it several days before it is due to expire in order to retain maximum freshness. Do not freeze pork that shows any signs of spoilage.
Ground pork stays good for around 4 months in the freezer whereas pork roasts and chops can be frozen for up to a year in an airtight container.
Now that you know how to tell if pork is bad and what you can do to prevent it from spoiling, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have:
How do you store leftover pork roast?
Place the leftover pork in an airtight container and put it immediately in the refrigerator. Use within 3-4 days.
How do you freeze cooked pork?
Cut the meat into slices and place them in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. It should last in the freezer indefinitely, although the flavor and quality will start to deteriorate after 4-6 months.
How to tell when pork is cooked?
Cooked pork is considered safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. the insides might still be pink, and if it bothers you, you can cook it to 155°F.
For pulled pork, the internal temperature must be at least 195°F or it won’t shred easily.