How To Tell if Vacuum Sealed Meat is Bad: Pro Tips

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Vacuum Sealed Meat

The main purpose of storing meat in vacuum-sealed packages is to keep it fresh for longer periods of time. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for the meat to spoil while it’s in there, though. Here’s how to tell if vacuum sealed meat is bad or not. 

How To Tell if Vacuum Sealed Meat is Bad

When a package of vacuum sealed meat feels puffy and bloated, it usually means that excess air has gotten inside. If that’s the case, the meat has probably spoiled. A foul smell, discoloration, and a slimy texture can all denote the presence of hazardous bacteria. If you notice any of these signs, discard the meat at once. 

How To Tell if Vacuum Sealed Meat is Bad: A Guide

Check the Package

Your first step will be to inspect the package closely. If it appears bloated like a balloon, then it’s overinflated. This is a problem, because it means the product was exposed to excess air during storage. 

I also try to find any tears or punctures in the material. It’s possible that the package came into contact with something sharp during storage, creating holes where air can get in. 

The key to storing meat in vacuum packaging is to create a tight seal. If air is allowed to enter the package, bacteria can set up camp there. That means the meat will spoil more quickly. 

Vacuum Sealed Beef Meat

Do a Color Test 

When meat goes bad, it can undergo certain cosmetic changes. Darker shades of pink or red don’t necessarily denote spoilage, but if the meat has turned brown all over, it’s better to discard it. 

Ditto if you notice any tinges of blue, green, or gray. White spots or patches can indicate the presence of mold—a sure sign that the meat is past its prime. 

Give it a Sniff 

The smell test is one of the most critical steps in the process. Fresh meat doesn’t have a noticeable odor. You might catch a faint whiff of something metallic, indicating fresh blood, but that’s as far as it goes

A sour or sweet odor means that the meat has turned the corner. The smell might also remind you of hard-cooked eggs. Should you notice any of these scents, don’t bother taking the test any further—just discard the meat. 

Test the Texture 

After taking meat out of the package, run your finger along the surface. Does it feel firm and springy, with only a faint hint of moisture? That’s a good sign. 

On the other hand, if the meat is mushy or slimy to the touch, it’s probably not safe to consume. When meat spoils, it loses its firm texture and starts to disintegrate. Even if it weren’t dangerous, it would be unpleasant to eat meat that’s crossed into this state. 

What To Do When Vacuum Sealed Meat is Bad 


There’s only one thing to do with meat that’s gone bad: Throw it out. That’s true whether it was stored in a vacuum-sealed package or not. 

In the past, I’ve been tempted to cook the meat off anyway, just to “make sure.” But that’s the worst thing you can do. If the meat is spoiled, cooking it won’t reverse the process. You’ll just be wasting more time and effort on food you won’t be able to eat. 

How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Meat Last in the Fridge? 

The shelf life of vacuum sealed meat depends—at least in part—on what type of meat it is. 

Beef and lamb, for example, can keep for 2 to 3 weeks when they’re sealed properly and stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Chicken has a shorter shelf life, even when vacuum sealed. It will only keep for around 4 to 5 days. 

Although turkey also falls under the poultry label, it keeps longer in a sealed package than chicken does. You can plan on sealed turkey lasting for up to 10 days. 

Pork products are technically red meat, and they have more in common with beef and lamb than with poultry in terms of storage as well. When stored in a vacuum sealed package, pork can keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

It’s important to remember that ground meat will usually go bad more quickly than whole muscle cuts. But prepared fresh sausages can keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge as long as they’re vacuum sealed. 

Pork Spare Ribs Fresh in Vacuum Seal

How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Meat Last in the Freezer? 

When you store meat in the freezer, it won’t spoil. Bacteria can’t grow at subzero temperatures. Since your freezer should be set at 0 degrees or below—go ahead and check it now to make sure—the meat will technically be safe from spoilage while it’s in there. 

That said, frozen meat does start to go downhill in terms of texture after a while. The vacuum packaging will stave off freezer burn, but the trick won’t last indefinitely. 

A vacuum sealed package of raw beef or lamb will retain its texture for up to 3 years in the freezer. By contrast, you should defrost and consume it after 6 to 12 months when it’s left unsealed. 

When it comes to poultry, the storage period depends on whether you’re dealing with a whole chicken or turkey, or just the parts. I’ve kept whole turkeys in the freezer for a year or more without ill effect, but chicken breasts should be thawed within 9 months. 

Large cuts of pork, like Boston butt and whole picnic shoulder, will last for up to 3 years in the freezer when stored in a vacuum sealed package. For pork chops and tenderloin, try to restrict the storage period to just 1 year. 

Ground meat products—beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and fresh sausage—should only be stored in the freezer for 2 to 4 months. This is true whether they’ve been vacuum sealed or not. 


The Bottom Line

Knowing how to tell if vacuum sealed meat is bad will save you a lot of grief in the long run. By sealing the package properly and keeping it safe in the fridge or freezer, you can reduce the risk of spoilage. 

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar


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