Warning Signs Your Pork Has Gone Bad

Pork, properly preserved and prepared, is a culinary delight. It's rich in protein and invariably delicious, whether in the form of pork chops, baby back ribs, tacos al pastor, Italian porchetta, or hundreds of other dishes around the globe. But pork, like all meats, is perishable, and thus prone to spoilage. Just as there are few things better than good pork, few things are worse than pork gone bad.

Luckily, there are many warning signs to ensure this never happens. According to Livestrong, one of the most commonsensical is the expiration date. However, it is important to differentiate between the "sell-by" date and the "use-by" date. The former is aimed at butchers and supermarkets, with a time cushion built in for consumers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends using pork within three to five days of its sell-by date. The use-by date, on the other hand, is for consumers, and includes no extra cushion. Whatever the date listed, that's the last day it's safe to prepare your pork.

Use your eyes and nose to evaluate pork

Strict fidelity to expiration dates will help to ensure you cook your pork before it goes bad, but you should also visually evaluate the meat before using. What is the texture like? A slimy or sticky texture is bad, per Livestrong. A dull or grayish color to the pork, as Home Cook Basics notes, is also a sign your pork may be going bad. A yellowish or greenish color is even worse. Healthy pork should have a pinkish hue, with white fat marbling. Use your nose as well. Any sour or ammonia smells are sure signs your pork has spoiled and should be discarded.

Another telltale sign for bad pork is puffed-up packaging, according to Cathead's BBQ. Bad bacteria produce gases that cause the packaging to appear bloated. But open the package and use your sense of smell to confirm whether it's bad before discarding.

How to store and cook your pork properly

According to the Food and Drug Administration, it's important to cook pork to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, with a three-minute resting period before eating, in order to avoid issues that can arise from undercooked meat. For pork, these issues can include trichinosis and salmonella poisoning.

The FDA recommends keeping your refrigerator at 40 degrees or colder to avoid any possibility of bacterial contamination during storage. As Recipe Tips notes, pork can be refrigerated safely for about four days. If you don't intend to use it within that time, consider freezing it instead. Pork can be safely frozen for between four and 12 months, depending upon the cut. Pork chops, for example, can be frozen for four to six months, per the FDA. Make sure the pork is wrapped properly before freezing, with an airtight seal, and write the date of freezing on a piece of tape for reference.