You were planning a delightful dinner with pork as the main course, but when you opened the envelope and the smell of the meat hit your nose, you immediately knew something was wrong: your pork smells like sulfur.
When raw pork smells like eggs, sulfur, or something as unpleasant, it’s never a good sign, in fact, it most probably is gone bad or not good for cooking. Depending on the situation, a good rinsing may be enough to save your meat, but oftentimes you will need to throw it out.
Why does your pork smell like rotten eggs?
Fresh meat doesn’t smell, so if your raw pork smells like sulfur, you may want to go back to the store immediately and get your money back.
This is true for all parts of the pork, in fact, if your pork ribs smell like rotten eggs or if your pork tenderloin smells bad, they’re probably not fresh or past their expiration date.
Ground pork that smells like sulfur is to avoid as well. It means it was made with meat that wasn’t properly stored or that has gone bad. And of course, if your pork shoulders smell like rotten eggs, don’t even think about making that stew.
Sometimes, rinsing the meat does eliminate some of the smell, and some people may be tempted to eat it in order not to waste the pork, but ask yourself if you would risk an expensive medical bill for a few bucks of meat.
The meat is also vulnerable to other infectious diseases that are caused by the production and packaging process, where safety measures and hygiene protocols are not respected.
However, there are a few exceptions where the meat smells bad but it’s still good to eat, specifically when the foul smell is caused by boar taint or by vacuum packing.
When your pork roast smells like rotten eggs, it may be because the cooking process enhanced the boar taint, which is an odor that non-castrated male pigs have once they reach puberty.
Around 75% of the population is sensitive to this odor, with women being more likely to smell it, which is why pork producers should be very careful in controlling it. Without control, around 50% of the male pigs are likely to develop boar taint.
The boar taint is due to androstenone and skatole, two compounds present in the fat of the pig. Androstenone gives the meat a scent of urine/sweat, while skatole gives it a fecal flavor.
While androstenone is only produced in male pigs, skatole is born from intestinal bacteria and can be found in both male and female pigs, so it’s not enough to buy only female pork meat to avoid the boar taint, even though only 1-2% of female pigs are affected by the boar taint.
If you’re wondering how to tell boar taint apart from the smell of rotten pork, it’s actually easy: boar taint is unpleasant, while pork that has gone bad will be nauseating.
Also, sometimes boar taint doesn’t surface until you cook the meat, while if the pork is spoiled, you will know as soon as you open the package.
Boar taint makes the meat smell bad, but it doesn’t make it dangerous to eat. If you can bear the smell, you can safely eat the meat.
The only way to ensure that your pork doesn’t have boar taint is to know your producer personally and be sure that they castrate their animals. Otherwise, there’s really no way to know in advance.
Vacuum packed pork
Many consumers are not aware that it is normal that vacuum-packed pork smells bad because of the packaging process.
When opening vacuum-packed pork you may be hit with a sort of gas smell or something that smells just as bad. In that case, the problem is not the meat but the vacuum packing.
You should rinse the pork thoroughly and let it air out. After half an hour, smell it again and you will see that the bad scent is gone. You can then cook your meat safely.
However, in the case the pork still smells bad after you rinsed it and let it air out, or if it starts smelling bad during the cooking process or after, do not eat the meat and throw it away because it’s not fresh.
What does bad pork smell like?
If boar taint smells unpleasant, rotten meat is almost unbearable and your whole body will tell you that you shouldn’t eat it. This is because our instincts are trained to protect us from food poisoning until the dawn of time, so you should trust your gut feeling.
Bad pork usually smells like sulfur, rotten eggs, or has a sour and ammonia-like odor. It is that kind of smell that makes you want to throw up, so luckily there is no way you can be mistaken about it.
The type of packaging can also give the meat an unpleasant smell, like plastic or something industrial. Usually, this does not mean the meat itself is spoiled, but it’s better to rinse it properly and eliminate the odor.
Fresh and unpacked meat can also smell bad if the environment has weird smells, so when you visit a butcher shop or a supermarket and you smell something unpleasant in the air, be aware that the same smell could remain on everything you buy.
Other ways to tell if your pork has gone bad include:
– Meat color: fresh meat is pink to red in color, while the fat is white and there shouldn’t be anything yellow anywhere. Meat that has been in the fridge may become a little darker, which is normal. However, do not keep pork in the fridge for more than 3-5 days. It is usually not good to be consumed after this time. Meat should be stored in the freezer, and always vacuum sealed before doing so. In the freezer, if properly stored and not taken out, it can last up to 5 months.
– Meat firmness: another important step to take to verify the freshness of your meat is to use your touch. Fresh pork is tender but has a firm consistency. Also, it shouldn’t be too dry and shouldn’t have a slimy layer over it. In the presence of any of these characteristics, your meat is not as fresh as it should be and you should probably throw it away.
– Package: the first thing to do before buying pork is to check the best by date. You need to know when you will use the meat, or you risk leaving it in the fridge for too long and making it inedible. As a general rule, it’s better to know when you’re going to cook the meat and even better if you cook it the same day you bought it. If your meat has passed the expiration date and you haven’t kept it in the freezer, do not eat it.
– Improper storage: when you walk into a store, pay attention to warning signs such as foul stench or swarms of flies. In this kind of environment, it’s a given that the freshness of the meat is not a priority. Even without warning signs, pay attention to how the meat is stored and if it’s kept in less than perfect conditions, buy somewhere else. Improper storage, even in the refrigerator, will decrease the quality of the meat over time and may cause bacterial infections even if the meat tastes good.
– Mold: it goes without saying that if you see mold on your meat, you might as well throw it out as it is. Mold thrives in a moist environment, so if you live in that kind of environment, make sure to cook your pork as soon as possible to avoid storing it for too long. It is recommended to boil and salt your meat in order to avoid mold. Do not try to remove the mold or to slice the affected part in order to cook the ‘clean’ part, it is useless. In fact, mold runs deep in your meat and it’s not always visible to the eye.
How to prevent raw meat from going bad.
Here are some tips to store your meat properly and keep it from going bad:
– When possible, consume the meat the same day you bought it.
– Store the meat in the refrigerator if you know you will consume it within 3-5 days, otherwise store it in the freezer.
– Vacuum pack your meat before storing it in the freezer.
– Meat stored in the freezer is best consumed within 2-3 months, as its quality will decrease over time.
– Store your meat between 33 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit.
– Cook meat by the “best by” date on the package or at most within 2-3 days from the best buy date.
– Do not eat your meat if you have a slight doubt that it could be rotten. Buying meat is cheaper than treating food poisoning!