How To Tell If Ribs Are Bad (The 5 Signs & FAQ)

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It’s essential to know if the ribs sitting in your fridge are suitable to consume or not. Ribs are famous among cooking enthusiasts, and there shouldn’t be any reason you should compromise with its edibility.

Today, I’ll teach you how to tell if ribs are bad to make your cooking more safe and delicious. There are multiple ways to test if ribs have spoiled. Check properly to avoid funky tastes and any health risks. Let’s start, shall we?  

How To Tell If Ribs Are Bad (5 Ways To Know)

If the environment where the rib was is a favorable area for bacteria, ribs can suffer from spoilage. The good news is that by performing a few tests, you can quickly identify spoiled ribs. I’ve discussed details about the tests below. 

Smell Test

You can smell foul odors from spoiled ribs. The smell is similar to ammonia or sulfur. However, if you still can’t differentiate the smell, you can always compare your ribs with vacuum-sealed meat. 

Meat that you stored in an airtight environment can have a weird smell too. But it disappears from the meat once you wash it using cold water. 

Spoiled ribs, on the other hand, will smell foul even after you’ve thoroughly rinsed them. This is because of the change in structure when bacteria attack ribs. 

Color Test

If you notice the ribs changing color, it could be a sign of spoilage. Fresh meat has a color close to pink or red with white strands throughout the surface. If, however, you notice the color brown, gray, or green, the ribs may have gotten bad. 

Note that a change of color doesn’t always mean spoiled meat. Sometimes the surface can seem a bit different, but the inner area may be completely fine to eat. If that’s the case, you can scrape off the surface and eat the rest. 

The fat on the ribs can either be white, grayish, or yellowish. Sometimes when you store the ribs for an extended period, the color can fade a bit. However, that doesn’t mean that the ribs are spoiled. 

It’s better not to take any risks if you have doubts about the meat’s color. Similarly, it’s better not to throw away the whole rib before thoroughly checking it. 

Related: Best Rib Rack For Big green Egg (Top 5 Picks)

Firm Test

You’ve used two of your senses to check the meat. Now, it’s time to level up and use your touch sense to figure out your rib’s condition. If the ribs are okay, they’ll feel firm inside your hand. 

Check for any inconsistency. This method works best when you’ve stored the meat by yourself. If you’re buying the ribs from a store, the owner may not allow it. But if he does, I recommend using this method to check for anything out of the ordinary before purchasing. 

Another thing you should remember is that not everyone will be able to identify spoiled ribs using the firm taste. However, experienced cooks can easily differentiate the texture between fresh meat and spoiled meat. 

So, if you are not confident about this taste, I recommend using other methods like checking the expiration date, color, and smell.

Related: Best Roasting Pan For Prime Rib With Lid & Rack – Top 5 Picks

Mold Test

If you ever notice a mold on the meat, never ever second guess whether you should consume any part of it or not. Don’t.

The thing about mold growth is that you can’t identify how far inside the meat it has spread. So, it’s better to stay away from meat that has developed any mold altogether. 

Sometimes, the surface area can show symptoms of mold growth, but the inside can look fresh. However, even if the mold’s spread inside, there’s no way to spot it with your naked eyes. 

That is why I always suggest you throw away any meat with mold growth. In fact, avoid touching them at all costs to be safe. 

Mold is, most of the time, a result of a moist environment. To prevent the ribs from developing a mold, avoid storing the meat for too long before using it. 

Expiration Date 

Many people don’t know it yet, but store-bought ribs come with an expiration date. The manufacturer will leave an expiration date for the users. Therefore, it’s best to consume the ribs before the date. 

The safest and easiest way of determining whether ribs are fresh or not before purchasing is to check the date. Even though it’s unlikely for any store to keep expired meat, check for yourself to be sure. 

Besides, if you intend not to store the meat for long, you won’t be needing an extended expiry date. On the contrary, if you want to store your ribs before consuming them, make sure that the meat comes with a satisfying duration of the expiration date.

How To Tell If Cooked Ribs Are Bad

If your cooked ribs are spoiled, they’ll surely smell, feel and taste different than they’re supposed to. So, look for the meat’s texture. Is it slimy?

The ribs should not be slimy. If they are, they’re properly spoiled. Then, check the smell. Bad ribs don’t smell delicious, as you can imagine. 

If there’s nothing odd about the smell or texture, but you’re still worried, taste the meat. If it tastes sour, it may be spoiled. Unless, of course, your recipe is supposed to taste sour. 

Tips To Increase The Shelf Life Of Ribs

Here are some tips you can try to increase the lifespan of ribs. 

  • If you store the ribs in the freezer without opening the store-bought package, they’ll last longer than you expect. 
  • You can’t freeze ribs twice, meaning that if you’ve already frozen them once and thawed them for cooking, you can’t refreeze them. So, as long as ribs are concerned, make sure you plan before you cook to avoid wastage. 
  • If you suspect the ribs are already spoiled, don’t put them in the freezer. Freezing the ribs won’t fix them. Instead, they’ll make the freezer smell bad and affect other food stored inside. 
  • When buying ribs, look for the freshest, firm, and vacuum-sealed pack to ensure maximum shelf life. 
  • Check if the expiration date is near. Avoid buying ribs with a close expiration date.
  • Avoid buying torn, dirty, opened, or unsealed meat packs if you want them to last longer.

How To Prevent Ribs From Going Bad

Consuming spoiled meat can never result in a good way. So, to ensure that your ribs don’t go bad, follow these precautions. 

  • Keep Them Cold

The ribs need to be kept in a cold environment where the temperature is below 40 degrees F. The USDA suggests this temperature to prevent spoilage. Store the meat as soon as you get home. Don’t let the ribs stay out in the open for long. 

If you keep ribs at room temperature for more than two hours, you won’t be able to consume them. This is because the bacteria are most rapid-growing at any temperature between 40 degrees to 140 degrees. 

So, for short-term preservation, keep the meat in the refrigerator. For prolonged preservation, store the ribs in your freezer. 

  • Check The Package Before Buying

Always buy meat that’s sealed in a package. If the container is somehow torn or broken, avoid purchasing it. Also, make sure that the box is clean and free from any dust and dirt. 

In addition, don’t forget to check the best before the date of the ribs. The package will contain a date that indicates how long the meat will stay fresh. 

  • Store Everything In The Freezer

The refrigerator will do fine if it’s for a day or two. However, if you want to keep the ribs stored for a long time before cooking them, store them in the freezer using the proper freezing procedure. 

Keep them inside an airtight container, or better yet, vacuum-seal them before storing them. This prevents the bacteria from attacking the meat. 

  • Thaw Properly

If you cook the ribs using a grill, stove, or oven,, you can skip the thawing part. However, if you intend to use your slow cooker, the meat must be thawed. 

The proper thawing process is a crucial aspect here. Many people thaw the meat on their kitchen counter or a hot surface, which is entirely the wrong thing to do. According to USDA, you should always thaw your ribs in the fridge, microwave, or cold water. ​

Once you’ve thawed your meat, you can’t refreeze it again. So, make sure you’re ready to consume the whole meat before cooking. However, you can store the ribs after cooking. 

​​You can keep the ribs in the refrigerator for about four to five days when thawing. 

However, if you’re thawing them in the oven or using cold water, you’ll have to cook them right away. If the ribs are large in amount and you can’t consume the whole thing at once, store them as leftovers rather than refreezing them raw. 

You can’t refreeze the ribs if they’re raw. However, freezing them properly as leftovers will last up to months before you have to eat them. 

How Long Do Leftovers Ribs Stay Safe

It depends on how you store the ribs. If you are using the refrigerator, leftover meat will last up to 4 days. The 4th day is somewhat risky. Let’s dial it down to 3 days. 

So, if you want to eat leftover ribs within three days, you can keep them in the fridge. However, if you wish prolonged preservation, use your freezer. 

If you store the ribs using the right way, that is, in an airtight environment, they can last up to three months inside the freezer. If you’re not sure about storing leftover ribs in the freezer, consider consuming them. 

It’s better to pre-plan before cooking. If you have a large amount of rib in the freezer, wait for an occasion before cooking it so that you won’t have to store it again. Or, you can simply store the dish in the fridge and consume it within three days to avoid any extra hassle. 

Note that the longer you store the dish, the more it’ll lose its original taste. So, the sooner you eat it, the better. 

How long can raw ribs be left at room temperature?

Not more than 2 hours. Bacteria can grow rapidly if the meat is left at a temperature between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. So, if the ribs were at room temperature for more than 2 hours, you shouldn’t consider consuming them.  

How long do raw ribs last in the freezer?

Considering you used the proper ways of storing raw meat, ribs can last from three to four months in the freezer. 

How long do raw ribs last after being frozen and thawed?

It depends on the thawing method. If you used your refrigerator to thaw the ribs, you could store them for another four to five days in the fridge. However, if you’ve thawed the meat in cold water or microwave, you should cook them immediately to prevent spoilage. 

How long do ribs last in the fridge once they are cooked?

The fridge will store your cooked ribs for three to four days. It’s better to consume leftover ribs within three days if you’ve stored them in the fridge. Use your freezer if you want them to last longer.

Final Words

Knowing one thing or two can save you from massive disasters. You don’t want your ribs to give you food poisoning or any other sickness, do you? Ribs are delicious meat, and consuming them using the safest way can keep you satisfied and healthy at the same time. So, get your facts straight about how to tell if ribs are bad. Imagine not identifying spoiled ribs, spending your whole day cooking them, and then realizing they’re not edible. 

So, pause for a moment before cooking and examine your ribs thoroughly.

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