Ask LH: How Can You Tell When Raw Meat Has Gone Off?

Ask LH: How Can You Tell When Raw Meat Has Gone Off?
Image: Getty Images

The summer season is nearly upon us, meaning it is almost time for the classic Aussie barbeque to come out in full force. With that, all the staple BBQ foods will be broken out; ready to be the stars of your backyard parties. We’re talking sausages, beef patties, steaks and kebabs – meat aplenty.

With so much meat around, it is important to make sure that what you’re cooking and eating is safe and not, you know, completely rotten. Especially when it is so easy to forget the pack of mince sitting in the back of your fridge or freezer. In case you didn’t know, eating raw meat is never really a good idea, unless you’re into food poisoning.

Raw meat looks suspicious at the best of times so it is normal to be confused about the signs it has gone off. Most meats are considered high-risk, potentially hazardous foods because they present the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, viruses or even parasites. Never fear though, there are some tell-tale signs of spoilage that you should be able to spot.

This week’s Ask LH is dedicated to helping you spot when your raw meat has gone off… hopefully, without ruining your appetite for beef burgers.

Does off raw meat smell?

Raw meat, like many foods, will have an unpleasant smell when it goes off. Once spoilt meat starts to smell, it is pretty hard to ignore, mostly because it is an incredibly pungent stench. The minute your raw meat starts to smell, it’s well overdue for its trip to the bin.

However, as mentioned last week, smell isn’t always the most trustworthy indicator of meat going off.

To make things just a little bit more complicated for you, some pathogenic bacterias that cause salmonella, E Coli and listeria don’t always have a distinct smell once it has developed on your meat. This basically means that while your meat may smell fine (or as fine as raw meat can smell), that doesn’t mean that it is okay to eat.

Raw Meat Mince
Image: Getty Images

Will off meat change colour?

Now that we can’t really trust our sense of smell to spot spoilt food, (unless it stinks like an actual carcass is rotting in your fridge) you’ll need to have a geez at what colour your raw meat is. According to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, rotten meat will undergo some not-so-subtle changes in colour during its degradation process. We’re talking about the meat literally going green.

Sure, your meat will only turn blue or green when some serious bacterial damage has been done to it, but the image of blue meat is truly straight out of a zombie-esque nightmare. If that mince in your fridge even has the slightest blue/green hue to it, please bid it farewell.

Sometimes a colour change on your raw meat doesn’t mean that it is spoilt, though. Raw minced beef, for instance, might begin to brown because it has been exposed to oxygen. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it definitely isn’t green – so count your blessings.

If your meat is greyish-brown on the inside, there is no need to panic. It just means that there is a lack of exposure to oxygen, which is totally normal. However, you should probably cook that meat up soon.

At its freshest, your meat should be a bright red colour.

What does off meat feel like?

Unfortunately, spotting food spoilage isn’t always the easiest thing to do, particularly when the meat doesn’t have obvious signs like an off smell or colour.

If this is the case, I’m very sorry to say but you are going to have to touch it. No one wants to touch raw meat even when it is fresh so touching potentially spoilt meat is truly gross, but it is necessary.

Fresh raw meat should be firm to touch and your finger should spring back if you press it. If the meat is a little older, it may have lost some of that firmness. If that happens, it is best to use that meat quickly.

When it becomes concerning, however, is when your meat is slimy or sticky to touch. A slimy film on raw meat is the best indicator of spoilage and is definitely not a sign you can ignore.

Oh, and if you spot even a smidgen of mould, chuck that meat out now. And don’t even get me started on people rinsing their meat. I don’t have the willpower to unpack that.

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