We all love pork, don’t we? However, as you might already be aware, improper storage of this precious white meat can lead to premature spoilage. Spoilage occurs due to an infiltration of dangerous bacteria.
The problem with these bacteria is that they may pose a major threat to your family. Why so? Because it can cause serious stomach complications in addition to vomiting, cramping, nausea, diarrhea and generally food poisoning. These symptoms may be painful and expensive to deal with and, therefore, you really want to prevent them before they actually happen.
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As the old English saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine, let’s walk you through some basic pointers you can use on how to tell if pork is bad.
How To Tell If Pork Is Bad
1. The Smell of the Meat Tells It All
This is the easiest and probably oldest way to tell spoiled meat from fresh one. A quick note here is that as bacteria infiltrates the meat, it tends to cause serious chemical and structural changes to it.
The more it attacks the pork, the more the degradation that takes place. Eventually, this can lead to a significant change in the color and smell of the pork even before you cook it. We’ll talk about the color a little bit later but as far as smell is concerned, it can vary from an ammonia-like to a sulfur-like smell.
However, it is important to differentiate this smell from the one associated with pork that has been vacuum packaged. Normally, the vacuum packaged pork tends to have a strange smell which easily disappears upon rinsing the pork in some cold water.
That’s, however, not the case with a bacteria-induced smell as it tends to stick whether you wash or boil the meat.
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2. Look For Changes in Color
Fresh pork is typically pinkish in color with a few strands of white. However, as the meat begins to spoil, this color generally begins to change moving from brownish to greyish and sometimes to greenish. This is a serious sign that you shouldn’t even buy that pork in the first place.
The main cause of this change in color is the presence of yeast. Apart from yeast, you may also need to be worried about things like protein breakdown, molding and the appearance of freezer burns.
Experts around the world agree that fresh meat should be reddish in color. Any improper methods of storage used or prolonged storage may cause this color to fade or even darken over time indicating that a breakdown process is still on course.
However, in some cases, this change in color may not necessarily indicate that the entire pound of pork is spoiled. All you need to do is trim off the upper surface of the meat and this will reveal what the lower surface looks like. If the color change is only skin deep then the meat may generally be safe to it.
As for fat, always note that the best fat is one that’s either white not yellowish or greyish. Just to be on the safe side, never eat pork whose mere appearance and the smell seems suspicious to you. Better safe than sorry.
3. How does the Pork Feel?
Herein goes another age-old method that’s used by chef’s around the world to determine whether the pork has gone bad or not. It involves your tactile senses.
Typically, fresh meat tends to feel firm on the hand. You can touch it even keenly and be on the lookout for any signs of inconsistency in the pad of your hand. Also, be on the lookout for any signs of excessive moisture. Likewise, you want to avoid any extremes because even an extremely dry or sticky piece of pork might also be surely spoiled.
So, if your grocery store allows it, be sure to squeeze the meat just to make sure it is of the quality that you deserve. Don’t settle for anything less than what has been recommended here.
4. Checking The Packages
You don’t always have to resort to manual methods of determining the quality of pork. This is especially important for those of us who are extremely busy and would not have the time to move around smelling and touching meat. The easiest method to go about this is to go for pre-packaged pork.
Manufacturers of such pork are normally required to embed a “best by” or “use by” date on the wrap. So be on the lookout for any piece of pork being retailed without this important mark on it.
Likewise, if the label appears on it, be sure to check that the meat has not exceeded the recommended sell-by date. Never – we repeat – never, attempt to cook or eat pork that has expired as this might pose a serious danger to your well-being.
5. Trust Your Gut
Sometimes, pork may spoil prematurely and this could be due to issues of mishandling of meat or the slaughter of inappropriate animals. Of course, this may not happen within the US but if you happen to visit other parts of the world, you’ll be surprised to know that it happens quite often.
So, how can you determine that improper handling has taken place? Well, this is where your gut comes in handy. If you walk into a meat sales point and your gut tells you to avoid it, just avoid it.
Likewise, should you spot anything weird when the meat is being packaged for you just refuse the meat and walk out. Some stores may even resort to crooked methods of re-dating the sell-by date.
The truth of the matter is that nature will never lie. So, if something doesn’t look or sound right to you, trust your instincts. It’s high time you insist on getting a better deal.
6. Be on the Lookout For Signs of Improper Storage
The way the pork is stored can go a long way to tell you whether it’s bad or not before you buy it. So, if you walk into a grocery store and what welcomes you is a swarm of houseflies and a deep stench, that could be an indicator that something is really wrong.
Likewise, if you walk into the shop and realize that the meat is stored in less than stellar conditions, it’s high time you run for the hills.
This is because after those days, the freshness of the meat gradually declines and safety may also become a factor of concern. Therefore, such meat should be discarded even if it tastes good.
That’s because, it some cases, the meat may still taste okay but you might be surprised that it’s harboring a fast-growing colony of bacteria which may infest your stomach and turn things from bad to worse.
7. Wait, Is That Mold
Mold is a sure sign that your pork has gone bad. As you might be aware, mold thrives in moist conditions and, therefore, if you live in such conditions, then you may need to avoid storing your pork for too long prior to cooking it.
In fact, some chefs recommend boiling or salting the meat as ways to prevent this from happening.
What you should do the moment you notice some mold on your meat is to throw it away completely.
Don’t even attempt to remove the mold with your hands so you can maybe cook the non-moldy parts.
The truth of the matter is that mold tends to run deep within and you’d need more than a naked eye to assess how deep its effects are. So, the best advice is to always keep away from any such meat completely.
Don’t even try to boil it or slice away the affected part. Otherwise, you might end up under a spell of food poisoning and regret it.
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Pork that is improperly handled during the slaughter, storage, and transport process may be at risk of premature spoilage. Likewise, meat that’s improperly handled or stored once it gets home may be prone to this challenge as well.
For instance, you may want to avoid thawing frozen meat instead of doing the same on the kitchen counter. This can help in lengthening its storage period and effectively keep you safe from the risk of eating contaminated meat.
Another important point to keep in mind is that the kind of temperature you store your meat at matters quite a lot. Always store your meat in temperatures of 40 degrees at maximum. Storing the meat at higher temperature tends to leave a leeway for some adaptive bacteria to multiply fast.
So, for that reason, you want to keep the temperatures low in order to prevent such surges from taking place. If in case you forget to store your pork in good time and, therefore, it ends up being kept for long hours at room temperature, you’re better off throwing it away as well.
Ultimately, your safety comes fast. So, if your pork doesn’t meet the strict tests recommended above, don’t take chances – throw it away. Remember, it is cheaper to purchase another pound of pork as opposed to treating food poisoning.