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Jan 20, 2004 05:48 PM

How do you know if meat has gone bad?

  • c

Alas, I'm really not sure. Bad chicken is unmistakable. I remember opening an old package and it smelled like sulfur. But meat? I don't cook it often these days and have only rarely encountered anything questionable.

I've got a pork shoulder that was purchased on Friday. The sell-by date is 1/20. When I took it out of the fridge, I noticed a distinct tangy smell even before I opened the package. The smell is certainly not overwhelming. Am I right to assume that it's past its prime and should be throuwn out?

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  1. Sometimes pork acquires a certain odor when close to the critical date. If you wash it with cold water, it should remove the smell. You might want to marinate it for a bit before cooking. Keep in mind that many ethnic recipes marinate to freshen up meat.

    1. What I teach my employees --

      When in doubt, throw it out.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gayla

        Basically, I agree. But much good meat is thrown out unnecessarily. Pork wrapped in plastic will acquire a smell if kept wrapped. If the meat is removed from the plastic and put into a lightly covered bowl, it will not acquire that odor until is spoils. Of course, if it reeks...throw it out. In the South, the origin of BBQ pork butt is the vinegar marinade to retard spoiling. Many times the roast was kept for days in the refridge in the vinegar.

      2. When I dry age a prime rib, it gets an off 'nose' and what looks like freezer burn or beef jerky. I cut that off. Actually old chicken breasts tend to decay from the skinniest ends inward. In both cases, trimming solves the problem.

        My knowledge of pork shoulder is zero, but other animal shoulder cuts are fairly roast-like. Thus, you should be able to trim the exterior visually 'off' areas and have a decent piece of meat.

        As an aside, the sell-by date is an artificial construct. Arbitrary, at best. Usually too conservative, but often just a guess based on the usual selling patterns. Meat, dairy, etc.