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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
A fresh, well-cooked steak is one of life’s pleasures, with its juicy, tender texture and tasty browned surface. However, it’s not always possible to cook and serve a steak as soon as you buy it.
You might have to pop this prime cut of beef in the freezer for a few months, coming back to it on a busy weeknight, and are looking to make something quick and simple for dinner.
Before you use any piece of frozen steak, always check that it’s safe to eat. Otherwise, you risk serving rancid meat that contains destructive bacteria that can make you severely ill.
Luckily, there are several simple ways you can tell if your steak is bad.
1. How to Tell If Frozen Steak is Bad?
If you’re not sure how long your steak has been in the freezer, or if it’s been frozen for more than six months, check the meat closely for these telltale signs of rancidity.
It smells off and cheesy
If you’re looking for easy and practical tips for how to tell if frozen steak is bad, then here’s the simplest one. Smell the meat when you take it out of the freezer. If it gives off a strong, unpleasant odor that smells like ammonia mixed with cheese, then the steak is off.
This potent aroma comes from an increase in the number of spoilage microorganisms in the meat, which break down the steak’s structure and emits an unpleasant smell.
If you can’t smell this overpowering scent, you should still have a look at the steak’s surface before defrosting and using the meat. If you spot discolored areas with tinges of yellow, brown, or green, this also means your steak is spoiled and you would need to dispose it properly.
The meat’s surface has a viscous, yellowish film
When you take the frozen steak out of the wrapping, check to see if there’s a slimy membrane or film on the meat’s surface. When spoilage bacteria clump together, they create this slime and turn the steak rancid. This viscous coating is a sign the steak is a few days away from going moldy.
You shouldn’t have any issues spotting the membrane: it tends to look either yellowish or transparent, and it will stick to your fingers as you run them over the meat’s surface.
It looks and feels dry
If you’re still wondering how to tell if frozen steak is bad, check to see if it looks dry when you first take it out of the freezer. If you notice gray blemishes on the meat’s surface, this means the steak has come into direct contact with the air. This process can lead to oxidation, which results in the steak drying out and shriveling up.
If your frozen meat looks dehydrated, it won’t taste as good as a normal steak. That’s because the oxidation process negatively affects the overall texture and quality of any frozen food.
You can also check the steak’s dryness levels by touching the surface of the meat. If it’s not moist to the touch, you may want to throw the cut out.
Sometimes, you can’t tell if the frozen steak is dry at first glance. In this case, put the meat in the fridge and allow it to defrost. If all the meat’s juices and fat oozes out into the wrapping as it thaws, you’ll know that the steak is too dry to use.
More than six months have passed since you froze it
In theory, you should be able to freeze steak for up to a year, but if you want your meat to have a premium-grade texture and taste, you should defrost and use it within six months of freezing it. The longer you keep the steak in the freezer, the more likely the meat will come into contact with air and oxidize or dry up.
Remember that once you’ve defrosted your meat, you should use it within a few days. Never refreeze raw steak: doing this will negatively impact the meat’s structure and create an optimal environment for destructive microorganisms to grow. If you want to refreeze some of the meat, make sure to cook it first before sealing it properly and popping it in the freezer.
2. How to Prevent Frozen Steak From Going Bad?
Thankfully, there are a number of simple food preservation tips, in which you can prevent your frozen steak from going bad.
Wrap and seal the meat properly before putting it in the freezer
Make sure you wrap the steak properly before freezing. Try to seal the meat with plastic wrap first, then use aluminum foil to prevent oxygen from reaching the steak’s surface when it’s in the freezer. Push down hard on the foil to get rid of any potential air bubbles between the two layers.
One easy way to ensure an airtight seal is to put the steak in the bottom of a freezer bag and partially seal the top, leaving an inch or so open in the top corner. Put this bag into a bowl of water. The water pushes the air upward and out of the open corner. You can then seal the top fully, creating an airtight vacuum that protects your meat from freezer burn or dehydration.
Keep track of when you froze it
When you put your steak in the freezer, use a permanent marker to write the date and type of meat on the wrapping or airtight bag. This is a really simple way to track how long your food has been in the freezer.
Defrost with care
The best way to defrost frozen meat is to thaw it overnight in the fridge. If you try to defrost it quickly in the microwave, you risk overcooking some parts. You should also avoid leaving the meat out on the kitchen counter to bring it up to room temperature, as this process can overheat the surface of the meat without properly defrosting its middle section.
There’s nothing better than opening the freezer and discovering you have a prime cut of steak that you can thaw overnight to cook for tomorrow’s dinner. However, you must make sure the meat is safe to eat before using it.
Inspect the steak’s surface for blemishes or odd coloring, and check to see if the meat is emitting an odor. Also, make sure that it doesn’t look dry or shriveled. Following these tips can help you avoid serving or consuming steak filled with destructive spoilage microorganisms that could make you sick.
Read also: Best steak for grilling.