Can you cook rotten meat? (+3 ways to spot bad meat)

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you cook rotten meat?”, and how to prevent it from going bad?

Can you cook rotten meat?

Can you cook rotten meat? 

You should not cook and consume rotten meat. This is because even if cooking does kill the harmful bacteria that contaminate it, the cooking temperature might not be enough to get rid of the toxins that these bacteria have produced in the meat. With that being said, there are chances that consuming such meat might not always result in unfavorable conditions, but why take that risk?

Read on if you want to know how to prevent the meat from going bad.

How to tell if the meat is bad?

Let your senses guide you and reject any meat that does not qualify for the sensory evaluation. While it may be tempting to cook rotten meat and save your money but it will cost you in the long run so better throw it away if it displays any of the following signs.


Give your meat a sniff. If it has an unpleasant pungent smell or gives off a rancid and ammonia-like odor, throw it out immediately.


Pay attention to the color. If the meat appears discolored and develops green or gray patches, you need to discard it right away as this is a clear indication of fungal growth. If the meat appears dull rather than a bright red color, it is not an alarm for safety, however, it might not be very good from a quality perspective.


If the meat feels tacky upon touching, this is an indication of bacterial growth. Bacteria emit different substances and gases and destroy the texture. Discard your meat if it feels slimy on the surface.

Why does meat spoil?


As soon as the animal is slaughtered, the cells in the meat start to break down or decompose. Incorrect storage conditions speed up the process. 


Bacteria can already be present in the meat of the animal at low levels while some invade it during slaughtering. Improper storage conditions like high temperature and exposure to oxygen can provide a favorable environment for bacteria to multiply and spoil the meat.


Mold spores germinate and spoil meat when exposed to raised temperatures and a humid environment.

Oxidative rancidity

Meat is highly prone to oxidative rancidity due to the presence of fats. Fats undergo rancidity and spoil meat by producing a sour and rancid flavor. 

At what temperature should meat be cooked?

According to the USDA, fresh meat and ground meat should be cooked to an internal safe temperature of 145°F and 165°F, respectively.

How to prevent the meat from spoiling?

Safe storage is the key to preventing spoilage in meat. Never keep the meat on the counter. If it was kept on the counter for more than 2 hours above 90°F, it is likely to have become contaminated.  If the meat is not to be consumed for another 2 days after the purchase, it is best to freeze it in a freezer bag or a heavy-duty plastic wrap to prevent it from freeze injury. Freeze injury will deprive the meat of its flavor and texture.

 Freezing will extend the shelf-life of meat for months. However, it will gradually start to lose its texture and flavor. 

If you will be consuming it within 2 days, it is best to freeze it. Marinated meat will preserve its freshness for longer in the refrigerator because the added salt and spices inhibit microbial growth.

According to the USDA guidelines,  the shelf-life of meat under refrigeration and freezing conditions is given in the table below.

In the fridge In the freezer
Ground meat2 daysUp to 4 months
Hot dogs1-2 weeksUp to 2 months
Bacon7 daysUp to 1 month
SteakUp to 5 daysUp to 12 months
Organ meat2-5 days.Up to 4 months

How to buy meat?

Do not purchase meat that does not have an expiry and manufacturing date. Make sure you are buying meat from a trustworthy seller. If the meat is of a dead animal i.e tainted meat, it can have serious effects on your health. It is important to buy from a legitimate meat shop because they make sure that the meat is not contaminated during the slaughtering process in order to comply with the standards of the government.

Buy any perishables including meat at the end of your grocery shopping. If you will be consuming it on the same day you bought it, it will not be a big issue. But if you are going to use it later, safe storage is important as the meat is highly prone to attack by Salmonella, E.coli, clostridium, and staphylococcus.


In this article, we answered the question “Can you cook rotten meat?”, and how to prevent it from going bad?


Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.