How to Tell if Pork is Bad: Reading the Signs

September 22, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

There are several indicators that your pork is spoiled, and the most prominent sign is that it’s covered in slime. There are more ways to tell pork is bad other than being past the packaging's expiration date. These include discoloration, a foul odor, and packaging that’s puffing.

I had to learn how to tell if meat was good or bad pretty early on in my culinary career. This is one of the first things they taught us since the last thing you want to do is to give your diners food poisoning!

In this post, I will show you how to determine if pork is bad, as well as drop some hints on how to keep it fresh for longer. Let's get started!

How to Tell if Pork is Bad

Main Signs Pork Has Gone Bad

Here are some of the indicators for how to tell if pork is bad:

It’s Slimy and/or Sticky

Go ahead and pick up the meat. Does it have a slimy film on it? This is a surefire sign that bacteria have begun to multiply on the meat’s surface. Sometimes, the slime is sticky. If your pork is slimy or sticky, it’s too far gone, and it’s time to toss the meat. Wash your hands after handling.

It Smells Bad

If you suspect the meat has gone bad, another thing that you need to do is to conduct a sniff test. Do this after you open the packaging of the raw pork. If you get a foul scent, then chances are it has gone bad. Rotten pork smells sour - detect any off smell and you should discard it immediately.

It’s Discolored

I don't recommend only going by color changes when trying to figure out if the pork has gone bad. This is because color changes are pretty normal with meat. Pork should be a light pink color with fat that is firm and white. If your pork is a bit pale, the meat is probably still safe for you to consume. 

Brown or gray pork is likely spoiled and should be tossed in the trash.

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raw pork seasoned on a tray

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Other Indicators of Spoiled Pork

Here are some other signs that the pork is bad:

The Expiration Date

The easiest way to keep track of whether or not pork is still good is by using expiration dates as guidelines. Pork is typically labeled with a sell-by date, which tells stores and consumers when a product is no longer safe to sell or purchase.

When it comes to fresh pork - or any meat in general - I take this date seriously. Fresh meat can spoil when it gets long in the tooth. And the consequences of eating spoiled meat are serious. (More on that in a bit.) So, pay attention to the expiration date, and discard any pork that's expired.

Puffed Up Packaging

Sometimes, you won't even have to open up the packaging to know that your pork is bad. If the packaging is all puffed up, then bacteria have begun to multiply inside. The bacteria are producing gases, which is why the packaging appears puffy.

How Long Before Pork Goes Bad?

Now that you know all the signs of spoilage, I’m going to tell you how long it takes before fresh pork goes bad. This will give you an idea of your timeframe when you bring home pork from the grocery store.

How Long is Pork Good in the Fridge?

Fresh, uncured, and uncooked cuts of pork last for 3 to 5 days after their packaging date when stored in the fridge. Frozen pork can last for up to 6 months in the freezer.

Any drops in the refrigeration temperature or power outages will cause raw pork to spoil more quickly.

Once cooked, pork can last around three to four days in the fridge.

Keeping fresh or cooked pork in the fridge is a good way to stave off spoilage. This is because most bacteria thrive in a temperature range known as the Danger Zone - between 40°F and 140°F. At these temperatures, bacteria can double in as little as 20 minutes. Refrigeration keeps pork at temperatures below the Danger Zone.

You should also know that if your pork has already started going bad, putting it in the refrigerator isn't going to stop it from spoiling. Once it's spoiled, it stays spoiled.

chunk of raw pork with herbs

Can You Cook Pork If It is Bad?

Let's face it, no one wants to throw away meat that they have spent money on! This is why I will often get desperate phone calls from friends or family members asking me if they can cook and eat pork that’s bad.

As much as I hate to burst your bubble, the answer is no. Do not cook pork that has gone bad. Yes, when cooking pork, the heat does kill the bacteria to a certain degree. The problem is that these bacteria produce toxins that can't be destroyed by the cooking process. These toxins can cause food poisoning.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Pork?

Let's say you accidentally ate some bad pork chops. What will happen?

Well, you can get a foodborne illness. Here are the symptoms you can suffer from:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Abdominal bloating and gas

What Causes Premature Spoilage?

Let's imagine that you’ve opened your package of pork before its sell-by date and you notice a sour odor and that it has gone bad. What's to blame for this pork spoilage?

Well, it’s probably because the pork was left out in warm temperatures beforehand.

Improper storage can also contribute to this issue. If the pork wasn't stored in a cold enough area (40°F or colder), then bacteria are able to grow and multiply.

How to Keep Pork Fresh for Longer?

Here are some tips on how to keep your raw meat fresh and avoid food poisoning:

Purchase From a Good Source

Always buy your pork from a reputable source, such as a well-known butcher or a good grocery store. I look for sellers that take care to process and store their meat properly. This reduces the risk of bacteria settling on the pork.

Transport Pork Carefully

Unless it’s a short trip to your home, it's best to be prepared to transport pork properly. I take either a cooler or an insulated bag if I’ve got a long drive or it’s a hot day. I take some ice packs as well to keep the meat cold.

cooked pork with gravy

Put Pork in Cold Storage Immediately

Finally, put the meat in the refrigerator immediately once you get home. Don't keep it in your car or out on the counter for more than a few minutes.

Any pork you don't plan on cooking within the next few days should go in the freezer.

Defrost the Meat Carefully

If your meat is frozen, you’ll need to properly defrost it before cooking. The safest option is to leave it in the refrigerator to thaw. This can take twelve hours or longer, depending on the size of the pork cut.

Use ground pork within a day or two of thawing. Other cuts of pork, such as chops or roasts, can remain refrigerated for three to five days.

If you don't have much time to spare, you can submerge the pork in water - fill your kitchen sink with cold water, and stick the pork (still in its packaging) in there. This should take significantly less time. Change the water every thirty minutes or so. If you thaw your pork using the cold water method, cook it immediately after thawing.

You can also defrost pork in your microwave using the defrost function. If you thaw pork in your microwave, cook it immediately.

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Conclusion

That’s all you need to know on how to tell if pork is bad. As you can see, there’s a lot more information to digest than you first realized - no pun intended!

It’s easy to spot the difference between good and bad pork once you know how. Learning this skill is important to keeping you and your family healthy.

So, make a note of these tips and keep them in mind the next time that you are handling pork. These guidelines could save your life or, at the very least, a trip to the doctor.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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