Is it time to say goodbye to the pork chops in your fridge? Trust your senses, not the sell-by date on the label.
Pork chops: they’re cheaply available at any grocery store and can easily be turned into a variety of delicious family meals.
Fry them, slap them on the grill, or slide them under the broiler; they will be just as juicy and tender either way. You can even prepare them in advance, then store them in the fridge and enjoy them over the next few days.
But don’t keep pork chops in the fridge too long, whether they’re raw or cooked, or they’ll go bad and you’ll have to throw them away. If in doubt, see our guide on how to tell if pork chops have gone bad.
How to Tell If Pork Chops Are Bad
To tell if pork chops are bad, use common sense and trust your senses. As with any other meat, nothing in their looks, aroma, and consistency should be a cause of concern.
Pork chops have gone bad when they’re dull and gray, the fat around the edges has turned yellow and gone rancid, they smell sour, musty, or putrid, and/or they’re sticky and slimy to the touch.
Follow the three steps below to determine whether or not the pork chops in your kitchen have gone bad. And remember food safety rule number one: “When in doubt, throw them out.”
1. Look Them Over
Raw pork chops should be a lively, bright pink, with a dark red or purple tinge if they are from pasture-raised pigs. The fat around the edges should be white (a slight pink tinge is fine) and pasty, like lard.
Spoiled pork chops have lost their vibrant colors and have become lifeless and gray, in some cases with a greenish or bluish cast. The fat around the edges may have turned rancid and yellow, and fuzzy mold may or may not have formed on the flesh.
2. Give Them a Sniff
Hold the pork chops up to your nose and sniff them inquisitively. Does anything smell off to you?
Fresh pork chops should smell meaty and porky. Fattier cuts may even smell slightly creamy from the lard. Regardless of the cut, nothing in the pork chops’ smell should make you cringe or raise eyebrows.
If the pork chops smell sour, like cheap vinegar, musty, like wet oakmoss, or putrid, like the rotting flesh of roadkill, then they’ve gone bad and you shouldn’t cook and eat them. Not only will their taste be sickening when cooked, but they may give you food poisoning.
3. Do the Touch Test
Touch the pork chops and feel the meat.
Fresh pork chops feel firm and springy. The muscles hold their shape and the meat itself feels moist and clean, almost like you’re touching the inside of your palm.
Pork chops gone bad feel dull and mushy. The muscles can no longer hold their shape, so your fingers sink in when you touch them. The meat itself feels sticky and slimy, in a way that sounds the alarm and makes you compulsively wash your hands before you touch anything else.
What Makes Pork Chops Go Bad?
If you keep pork chops long enough, they will spoil and become unsafe to eat.
Spoilage bacteria, fungi, and yeasts grow on pork chops and give them a disgusting smell, taste, and mouthfeel. These bacteria are generally harmless, but they aren’t the only type of bacteria that grow on the meat.
Not only do pork chops gone bad taste disgusting, but they can also become overgrown with disease-causing bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, and others.
Unlike spoilage bacteria, disease-causing pathogens are virtually undetectable. They don’t alter the smell, taste, or mouthfeel of our food in any way. Ingesting them—and the heat-resistant toxins they produce—can lead to life-threatening food poisoning.
If you’ve kept raw pork chops in the fridge for more than 3 to 5 days, or cooked pork chops for more than 3 to 4 days, throw them away and don’t eat them. Yes, cooking or reheating the chops will kill the bacteria on the surface, but it won’t get rid of the toxins they’ve left inside.
Similarly, if your pork chops show any of the above signs of spoilage, assume that they’ve gone bad and understand that you have no way of determining their safety. To minimize food waste, only buy as much pork as you can your family can eat, and freeze any raw or cooked pork that you don’t plan to eat within a few days.
Pork chops gone bad are gray, putrid, and lifelessly mushy. Remember that pork chops shouldn’t sit for more than 5 days in your fridge raw and 4 days in your fridge cooked, and always check for the signs of spoilage before cooking or eating them.