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Does Cooking Spoiled meat Make It Safe?

You bought a choice steak that you’ve been saving for a special occasion. But, for whatever reason, you didn’t grill it up last Saturday. Come next Friday, you remember the steak being in a fridge.  So, you realize you better start grilling now. However, when you open up the package, you notice a slight ammonia-like smell.   You’re disappointed. But, later that day, you ask yourself: What can go wrong?  and Can I get rid of any bacteria and other bad guys by just grilling it up?  To get the answer to this question and more, continue reading.

This post is not meant as a guide for salvaging your Midwest, $20, T-Bone steak that you forgot to cook, and you just found out that it has a funny smell and off-color look. It is meant for an SHTF survival scenario where you either eat, rotten or suspected rotten meat or goes hungry. So, unless you absolutely have to, I would not try any of these meat salvaging techniques.

How Do You Know If The Meat Is Spoiled or Not?

Obviously, it is important to know how to recognize the various signs that meat is spoiled. As a result, before examining any methods for cooking rotten or suspected rotten meat, it will first go in-depth into identifying spoiled poultry, ground meat, beef, and the common types of food poisoning. Finally, I will go into the best methods for ridding bacteria from spoiled foods.

Signs Of Meat Spoilage

Most food poisoning can be detected through smell, touch/texture, and looks. Each of these factors is evaluated below.


All forms of spoiled meat have a strong, noticeable, rancid smell. Any differences will be noted below.


Spoiled Chicken

The Dull Color Indicates That Something Is Wrong

  • Smell-Raw poultry should not have any distinct odor.
  • Looks– It should be a pinkish color for raw poultry, and white for cooked meat. Discard poultry that has grey-like color or a dull, unusual look. See the picture above for an example.
  • Touch -A thin liquid film over the meat is acceptable. The coating should not be the consistency of mucus and feel slimy.


  • Smell-Pork should not have any smell. Be especially wary of pork that has a sour smell that gets worse and worse over time.
  • Looks-It should h be pink to grayish color and be pale.
  • Touch-Moist to the touch but not slimy feeling.


  • Smell-A rotten steak has a distinctive ammonia-like scent.
  • Touch-It has a slimy feel when touched.
  • Looks– Fresh steak should be a bright red color, which resembles the color purple. On the other hand, a slimy yellow-like or clear film on the steak’s surface is a meat spoilage sign. Additionally, it still can be dangerous to eat if it doesn’t have any film, and it yellow, brown, or green color.

Ground Meat

  • Touch-For both raw and cooked meat, a slimy and sticky feel is a danger sign, and it is best to throw it away.
  • Looks– Good raw ground meat is likely, not spoiled if it is the outside meat surface is bright red and inside it is a brown or brownish color. Ground meat is likely toxic when its outside surface has a consistent gray, or brown color.

Food Poisoning

Food Poisoning-GI Problems

GI Issues Is a Primary Symptom Of Food Poisioning

Food poisoning is a major problem and it has been estimated that between 24 to 81,000,000 incidents of food poisoning-related dysentery occur yearly in the US, which costs between five to 17 billion in medical-related expenses and also productivity loss.

Diarrhea, which is a common food poison symptom, is normally just a major inconvenience, as you should be okay after a few days. During a disaster though food poisoning can be at best inconvenient. As you likely can imagine, to put it mildly, it would not be fun having diarrhea when you are needing to evacuate to a safe zone. So, during an SHTF scenario, making sure that your food is safe is absolutely essential.

Types of Food Poison

The three most common causes of food poisoning are bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Of the three, bacteria food contamination is the number one reason that meat and another foodstuff can get humans sick. As a result, the bacterial food-borne illness will mainly be addressed here.


The most common bacteria food poisoning is E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Campylobacter.

Botulism, is a bacterial toxin that is highly lethal. However, luckily it is not common. However, botulism poisoning is deadly. As a result, because of Botulism’s lethal nature, I felt it was important to address it and the causes separately in the appendix.


The most common food-borne viruses are Norovirus, Sapovirus, Astrovirus, Rotavirus, and Hepatitis A.


Parasitic food poison occurs when parasites invade and cause havoc on your digestive system. They can be present for years without you even knowing. An example would be Toxoplasmosis, which is found in kitty litter boxes, and a tapeworm.

Symptoms Of Food Poisoning

How Quickly Do They Come On?

The amount of time till you will start feeling sick from any type of food poisoning depends upon the specific bacteria. With that in mind, it can be as quick as an hour to nearly a month before you start feeling any symptoms.

The typical symptoms of food poisoning are the following:

  • Stomach Aches
  • Appetite Loss
  • Dysentery
  • Headache
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Slight Fever

The above symptoms will go away with time. But fatal symptoms that can and do occur are listed below:

• Diarrhea lasting for more than 72 hours and a fever of more than 101.5 degrees.

• Dehydration-This is largely preventable and may occur if you are drinking enough fluids after vomiting and bouts of diarrhea.

• Blood in Urine

Can You Cook Rotten Meat?

The short answer to this is under almost all circumstances you should throw ou out any rotten meat. (That is assuming you care about you are your family being affected by food-borne poisoning) However, if it is a choice of eating an off-colored steak or starving; you may be forced to eat rotten or suspected spoiled food. If you are, unfortunately, in that spot, you need to heat up the meat in an attempt to eliminate any present toxins.

Does Cooking Spoiled Meat Make It Safe?

Heating up the food, to kill bacteria is the best way to attempt to make spoiled meat palatable. However, as some bacteria are heat resistant, that is not even a guarantee. Below is the most common bacteria that can cause food poisoning and methods of food preparation.

E Coli

  • Sources-The major source of E-Coli is human-originated, feces-infected food that occurs from food handlers not washing their hands.
  • Optimum Growing Environment– NA-It is caused by contamination brought about by poor food handling.
  • Destroyed By– Following adequate food cooking procedures for the specific meat or food that you are cooking


  • Source-The Salmonella bacteria occurs in the intestinal tract of animals. It is most commonly found in meats with high protein like fish, poultry, and eggs. According to CDC with an estimated 1,000,000 cases a 20,000 hospitalization occur, Salmonella is the most common type of food poison.
  • Optimum Growing Environment– Temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Destroyed By-Temperatures above 150 degrees can destroy this bacteria.


  • Sources-This Bacteria most likely comes from spoiled poultry or poultry-based product like casseroles, salads, etc.
  • Optimum Growing Environment– Campylobacter is quite resilient as refrigeration will not kill the bacteria.  I.E. It can survive in water and milk, for several weeks at 39 degrees.
  • Destroyed By– Cook the food product to a temperature of 165 degrees or more.

Clostridium Perfringens

  • Sources– Found in poultry, meat dishes, and gravies.
  • Optimum Growth-Temperatures between 70 to 120 degrees
  • Destroyed By– Properly cooking all meat products and reheating to 164 degrees for at least 15 seconds.


  • Sources-In the 90’s Listeria poisoning was commonly found in hot dogs and deli meats. Also, undercooked or raw poultry, are common carriers. But, all meats, can carry the Listeria bacteria.
  • Optimum Growth Environment– Refrigeration does not stop the growth of this bacteria, as spores can double every 36 hours even at 39.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Destroyed By-Cook the food product to an internal temperature of  165 degrees.

Of course, knowing the signs of infected meats and how to safely cook the different meats is very important. However, the number one key for preventing food poisoning in meats and other foods is proper hygiene and food handling. For example, the Shigella bacteria can be spread through feces contaminated hands, during food prep. So, wash your da%$ hands!

Remember also that if you have any doubt, if food is frozen or not, throw the meat or any other food out, and remember that you should ONLY attempt to salvage knowingly rotten food when you do not have any other choice.


Botulism-A Rare, But, Extremely Deadly Food Poison

Botulism Deaths

Improper food canning can lead to death

Fortunately, as botulism poisoning is usually lethal, it is not that common. Per the World Health Organization, Botulism though is an extremely dangerous toxin that when ingested can lead to both muscular and respiratory paralysis.

Common Sources-The most common source of botulism is home-canned or fermented foods. And can be present in fish, which includes canned tuna, smoked fish, and the breakfast meats ham and sausage.

How Do I Know When Food Has Been Contaminated With Botulism?

Unfortunately, the average person cannot know as it cannot be seen, smelt, or tasted.

How Can Botulism Be Destroyed?

You can potentially destroy botulism if the food is boiled for five minutes or longer.

Best Practices For Preventing Botulism Poisoning?

As I said, botulism poisoning is quite rare. However, the best way to prevent it is to follow proper food canning procedures, which are listed HERE.