Should We Eat This?
November 27, 2012 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Edible or no?

Organic ground beef, purchased at Trader Joe's on Friday and opened Friday evening. Small amount used, immediately put back in fridge. Now it's Tuesday night and we want to use the rest of it for tacos. It's turned brown in the meantime, not surprisingly. More concerning, the meat has an odd smell to it. Not a routine bad-meat smell, but smells sort of like vinegar. Should we eat it?

Note: not interested in "no, never eat anything EVAR if there is even the slightest doubt in your mind". Interested in thoughtful replies based on this actual scenario, your experience, your knowledge, etc.
posted by parrot_person to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I get that odd smell after a few days in the fridge and once the meat has oxidised like you mention. Haven't had any bad results after cooking meat that smells like that. I think of it as quite distinct from a spoilt meat smell but since I can't smell your meat I wouldn't be able to say that for sure.
posted by peacheater at 7:27 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Obviously the turning brown is fine. Pretty sure the vinegar smell is it just starting to turn. I wouldn't eat it, but it probably wouldn't kill you if you cooked it thoroughly.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:29 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Raw burger should smell like raw beef. It should be a good and wholesome, meaty smell, very faint.

Vinegar is wine that was turned rotten by bacteria. Don't eat meat that smells like vinegar that you haven't actually put vinegar on.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:29 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

If it smells, I'd dump it.
posted by maryr at 7:31 PM on November 27, 2012

(You won't enjoy eating it if you're doubting it the whole time anyway.)

(Uh...oops, just saw your last statement. I still that the true answer is that it is bad.)
posted by maryr at 7:31 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Timing-wise, it should be fine. Browning, not a problem, that's just air getting to the meat. The smell would concern me, though.
posted by Miko at 7:31 PM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: The USDA recommends that you use it within 1 or 2 days. Toss it.

Food safety-wise, ground beef is high risk to begin with. It's a lot of exposed surface area and random bits of meat mixed together. People are right that the coloring isn't the best indicator, but the smell plus the timing puts you in the danger zone.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:37 PM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

Also thorough cooking of spoiled meat will indeed kill the bacteria, but their little corpses can still make you very sick. It's not worth it to save five bucks of beef.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:51 PM on November 27, 2012

Don't eat it. Either the meat will make you sick, or your post-meal worrying about the meat will make you think you're sick. Save yourself the trouble and just go buy some fresh meat.
posted by krakus at 7:52 PM on November 27, 2012

Use or freeze ground beef within 24 hours.

I spent eight days in the hospital with food poisoning once. I do not recommend it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:53 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, we ate it (my boyfriend's opinion combined with the first few responses here). Very well-cooked and didn't smell post-cooking.

Will post back with results.
posted by parrot_person at 8:00 PM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: If it were whole steak, I'd say go for it. But this is ground beef. Whatever bacteria are making vinegary (plus others you are not detecting) are not only on the outside but very likely to be distributed throughout the clump of meat, with lots of surface area. If you cook it completely through at a bacteria-slaughtering temperature, well you probably won't die or anything. But are you that desperate?

Next time, put it in the freezer if you want to save it for later.
posted by zennie at 8:01 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Next time, into the freezer it goes.

I don't really believe in USDA recommendations, seeing as how they recommend cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 900 bazillion degrees, rendering it inedible.

It wasn't about saving 5 bucks, it was about being very hungry and all the nearby stores are closed.

Also, we're not the type to sit around worrying. I understand that if you have experienced food poisoning you're gun-shy and everything looks like a gun.
posted by parrot_person at 8:17 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I'd have eaten it unless it was well past the best by date on the label.
posted by 26.2 at 9:39 PM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: I just yesterday cooked up some ground beef that had gone grey on the outside for chili dogs, and I'm normally in the "eat it unless it smells like death" crowd, but the vinegar smell would definitely concern me. I'm not sure where that would come from. Mine just smelled super meaty, which just-going-grey burger tends to do.
posted by ronofthedead at 10:08 PM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: Vinegar smells are caused by acetic bacteria, which acidify their growing media as a way of inhibiting competition (i.e., it inhibits many pathogens).

The taste will definitely be affected, but I would likely have eaten it. Always cook not-super-fresh ground meat thoroughly, and preferably keep it above 140 for as long as feasible, since pasteurization is a product of both temperature and time (10 minutes at 140F is like 1 minute at 160F is like 10 seconds at 180F - but 180F is over-cooked).
posted by IAmBroom at 1:01 PM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the explanation about acetic acid, IAmBroom! I Googled a little bit but hadn't found out what specifically caused a vinegar smell.

We are both fine, noticed no ill effects.
posted by parrot_person at 8:54 PM on November 28, 2012

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