If you are peering in the fridge and weighing up the longevity of the ingredients you have in there, you might be wondering how you can tell if pork has gone bad, and whether this kind of meat shows clear signs of decay or not.
How can you tell if pork has gone bad? When it has gone bad, pork will show a variety of signs, including turning slimy or gray, or taking on a rancid scent that turns your stomach. Any of these will indicate that the pork is no longer safe to eat, whether you cook it or not, and they can apply to both cooked and raw pork.
How Can You Tell If Raw Pork Has Gone Bad?
There are three ways to tell if raw pork has gone bad: you should use your sense of smell, your sight, and your sense of touch. Take the pork out of the fridge and inspect it closely. If the meat is gray, slimy, or smells bad, it is no longer safe to eat. If you can see mold flecks, throw it away.
Gray meat is a good indication that it has gone bad. This occurs because the meat has been exposed to oxygen for an extended period. The oxygen reacts with the iron in the meat, oxidizing it. This creates metmyoglobin, which is brown and makes the meat look gray. (What food is gray? is a page where we list foods that have this color).
However, not all gray meat will have gone bad; this change can occur before the meat has had time to spoil. You do not necessarily need to toss gray meat away, although it does indicate that the meat is getting past its best.
You should therefore check the two other signs as well. Firstly, gently touch the meat and see how its texture feels. If it is firm and moist to the touch, it is likely still safe to consume. However, if it has gone mushy and slimy, the cells have begun breaking down due to bacteria, and you cannot safely eat it.
Similarly, if there is a bad smell, this is a very clear sign that the pork is no longer edible. Like many animals, humans are deterred by the smell of rotten meat because it will make us sick – so we have evolved to find the smell distasteful.
If any of these signs are present, you should be cautious. On its own, gray meat may be safe to consume, but slimy or smelly meat (or meat that is a combination of the above) needs to be thrown away.
How Can You Tell If Cooked Pork Has Gone Bad?
You can use the same three indicators to tell if cooked pork has gone bad. Gray flesh or mold flecks, a bad smell, or a slimy texture all show the same thing as they do in raw meat – and you should therefore avoid eating any pork that has these indicators.
It is worth noting that it can be hard to smell pork that has been refrigerated, so if you’ve been saving leftovers, you may need to let them warm up on the counter for 10 minutes before you perform the smell test. When cold, even rotten pork may not emit much scent.
As with raw pork, sliminess or a bad smell are clearer indications of decay than gray color, but mold spots are a definite sign that the pork needs to be thrown away.
Does Cooking Make Bad Pork Safe to Eat?
You cannot make moldy pork safe to eat by cooking it. Part of the danger lies in the toxins that the bacteria in the meat produce. Heating the pork will kill the bacteria, but will not remove the toxins, so bad pork can make you sick no matter how much you cook it.
If you suspect that some pork has gone bad, you need to throw it away, rather than consuming it. This is crucial, because if you eat spoiled pork, it could make you very ill. Severe cases of food poisoning can even be fatal, so do not take the risk by cooking meat that you know has gone bad.
How Long Can You Store Pork For?
Raw pork can be kept in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. If the meat has been ground, shorten this to around 2 days. Cooked pork can be stored for about 3 days, provided it was fresh when cooked and it is refrigerated promptly.
Remember that pork needs to be kept consistently cool during its storage, otherwise it is at risk of developing pathogenic bacteria, which are undetectable but can cause extreme sickness.
If the pork has been kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it needs to be thrown away, even if it looks, smells, and feels fine. If the room is above 90 degrees F, you cannot leave pork at room temperature for more than 1 hour before it becomes unsafe to eat.
You must obey these guidelines in order to keep yourself safe when consuming meat.
Can You Put Pork in the Freezer?
If you will not use pork within the stipulated time period, you may wish to freeze it. You can do this, but it is best to do so several days before the pork is due to expire. Do not freeze pork that is on the turn or shows the signs mentioned above.
This is because the freezing and thawing processes take time, and the pork may go bad meanwhile. It is best to freeze pork when it is fresh if you are not going to use it. If necessary, slice it into portions so you can thaw only what you need, further reducing the risk of spoilage.
Ground pork should keep for around 4 months in the freezer, while pork roasts and chops can be kept for up to a year in an airtight container.
If some pork has gone bad, it will usually lose its color and texture, and take on a rancid scent. Make sure that you always carefully inspect pork, especially if it has been stored for a few days, before cooking and eating it. This will reduce your risk of food poisoning.