How should pork smell? Any beginner cook or chef that loves to grill meat or cook it in various ways asked this simple question when he started in the kitchen. In this article we will cover how should pork meat smell when it’s fresh, and what to know about the meat in general.
A true connoisseur of all things meaty will always appreciate a piece of succulent, rich pork. It’s pink and deliciously tender once cooked and gets a different dimension of flavor when the fat is left on the meat.
But it’s one thing to enjoy eating well-cooked pork, and another to deal with raw pork and cook it. For one, you should be able to judge the meat’s freshness by its smell alone. So how should pork smell?
If you’re not used to working with fresh pork, it might be a little confusing for you to understand if the meat is fresh. Uncooked pork is slightly grayish, while cooked pork is pinker.
However, color is not the only feature you should consider to gauge the freshness of pork. Its smell can be an instant giveaway. The sulfur-like or ammonia-like odor pork is the result of bacterial infiltration.
When bacteria cause structural and chemical changes in pork, they cause degradation of meat quality. That is when we say that the meat has gone bad – and the smell of the pork is a clear indication of spoilt meat.
You must remember that this smell is different from the small of vacuum-packaged pork. The latter goes away when washed. However, the odor caused by bacteria will stay even after washing.
How Should Pork Smell? Smell of Fresh Pork
At the time of buying fresh pork in the market, the first thing you should check is its smell. But how does fresh pork smell? To put it simply: fresh pork should not really have any strong smell.
It should have a mild metallic whiff, like that of blood. It should smell like raw protein and fat. Of course, the smell should have a distinct characteristic that separates it from other meats like chicken. But it should also be mild.
Fresh pork should not give off any strong smell – not even if it’s the discernible porky smell. Trust your nose; it is capable of picking up bad smells.
You’ll be able to tell when there’s something off about the pork’s smell. It will be a little acidic and almost sweet – but not in a pleasant way at all. If you notice a strong or pungent smell in the pork, it means that meat has started to rot.
How Does Raw Pork Smell?
The mild metallic smell is the best indicator of good raw pork. You might even get a light whiff of pork fat. When selecting raw pork, pay attention to the color, texture, size, labels, expiry date, and of course, the smell.
Raw pork has more than one shade of pink. Lean meat has a lighter pink shade and should not be overcooked. It dries out faster if you cook it more. Boneless pork chops have a much paler pink color. Pork in dark pink contains more moisture and is good to taste once cooked. You need to select the meat cuts based on the recipe. For example, pork loin roast tastes the best when you use really dark meat as it will still retain moisture even after roasting.
What if you see white patterns on raw pork?
These are nothing but pork fat. The texture is called marbling (white ribbons on pink meat) and varies based on the cuts. People who avoid fat choose pork with little or no marbling and lean cuts. But the meat with high marbling (derived from the stomach and butt regions) has more fat content and is a preferred choice to make flavorful pork dishes. The fat layers will melt when you cook the meat.
Fresh meat doesn’t have a string smell in most cases. It just has a scent of blood, which has a metallic feel to it (kind of like a slightly rusted metal). If you choose a fatty cut (the butt or belly areas with more fat content), the smell of lard or pork grease can be detected. However, even this smell is mild. Raw pork’s smell will not catch your attention if the meat is fresh and unspoiled.
As the raw pork gets old and starts to spoil, it will acquire a stronger scent. Any raw pork that smells like rotten eggs or ammonia is spoiled and should not be used.
What if you detect a foul smell once you start cooking pork? It means that the meat is spoiled and should be thrown away. If the meat has started to go bad, the acidic smell will intensify when it is exposed to heat. So, if you missed detecting the signs in raw meat, you can still identify rotten pork when it is being cooked.
Raw Pork Size
Pork can shrink by up to 40% once it is fully cooked. This is a deciding factor when you buy raw pork for dinners and gatherings. Buy bigger-sized cuts so that you won’t end up with less food after cooking.
Expiry Date and Labeling
Unfortunately, pork doesn’t have a grading system as beef does. However, you can find a USDA stamp on the meat packet to indicate that the pigs were inspected before being slaughtered for pork. You can find organic pork too. Just look for the details on the label.
Don’t forget to check the expiry date when buying raw pork. Look for ‘best by’ or ‘sell by’ dates on the packet. Don’t pick the ones close to this date. Pork has a shelf life of three or four days after you purchase it. That said, if you buy a packet close to the expiry date, you’ll have to cook it sooner. Raw pork rots as it gets older, and once the rotting begins, it cannot be stopped or reversed.
When raw pork is vacuum-packed, it is treated with a chemical to preserve its texture and freshness. So, opening vacuum-packed pork can lead to an acidic smell. It’s easy to confuse this with the smell of rotten pork.
Wash the pork thoroughly under running tap water (cold water). Pat it to dry with paper towels and leave it on fresh paper towels for a few minutes. Remove the package from the vicinity to avoid confusion.
Wait for a while, smell the pork and try to detect its scent. Fresh pork will have a mild metallic smell. But if the pork continues to smell like ammonia or acid, throw it away. You also need to wash your hands and clean the sink and countertops to prevent the bacteria from spreading.
What Does Bad Pork Smell Like?
Different animal meats have different smells, textures, and tastes. Pork has its unique smell but is mild when the meat is fresh. Even for pork shoulder, the smell can be noticed only when you get close to the meat and breathe in the scent.
Bad pork, however, will announce itself with a pungent smell. This is because of the pathogenic bacteria present in the meat. The bacterium multiplies rapidly as the pork goes bad.
Sometimes, pork might smell like urine or sulfur. This happens because of two reasons. Firstly, it could imply that the pork has gone bad and is not good for consumption. But it can also be because the meat comes from a male pig (or boar) that has not been castrated. The smell is unpleasant but caused by compounds of androstenone and skatole. These are compounds are produced by the pigs’ testes.
Boar meat is thicker (or beefy) and has a gamey smell (like urine). But how can you be sure that it is boar meat and not bad pork?
In such instances, rely on other factors such as color, texture, and firmness of the meat. If the slab of pork meat is firm and has a clean surface (without any slime), it means that the meat is fresh and not spoiled. Pay attention to the color as well. The meat should be dark pink (never red, brown, black, or gray), and the ribbons of fat should be white in color (if it turns ivory or yellow, it is a sign of rotten meat).
What if the raw pork is dry and hard?
It means the pork is bad. Fresh meat looks healthy and appetizing. Bad pork can be sticky and slippery or dry and hard in brown color.
What about pork liver?
Well, livers always have an extra smell. Like chicken liver, pork liver has a different smell. You can get rid of the smell by using herbs and onions to braise and stir-fry the liver pieces.
Flavor of Cooked Pork
Traditional gastronomy dictates that pork should belong to the white meat category. Cooked pork has a taste and texture that are more meaty than gamy.
Unseasoned and overcooked pork can be bland and may remind you of chicken. But the flavors of well-cooked meat can be rich and aromatic. In fact, the flavors will vary based on different cuts and cooking methods.
Processed pork meats, like cold cuts, ham, meatballs, and sausages, may retain some of the distinctive smell of pork in a subtle way, but they catch the flavors of the ingredients used in their preparation.
The texture, however, is almost gone because it is brined and boiled.
|bacon||Pork shoulder||Pork ribs||Pork chops||The pork loin|
|The fattiest pork cut. and although it is processed meat, it offers a much meatier flavor.||is similar to roasted beef, with the extra fat and the flavor being its distinguishing features.||are tender and flavorful and are similar in texture to beef ribs, only with less cartilage.||derived from the loin, can be compared to beef steak or goat meat.||itself, is similar to flank steak in softness and texture.|
The most popular cut is the belly – packed with lots of fat and flavor.
Smell of Bad Pork – Can You Cook Smelly Pork?
If pork starts to give off an acidic pungency or there’s a strong smell, it means that the meat has begun to go bad. As mentioned before, fresh pork will not have any significantly strong odor, except the mild, meaty smell of pork.
Anything out of the ordinary is indicative of bacterial infiltration. Such a smell will not go away even if you wash the meat properly. You should also check processed meat for any odor.
If your pork has gone bad or started to smell, the best option for you is to throw it away. When you cook pork that has gone bad, the odor will intensify. The taste will continue to be unpleasant, and it can even make you unwell.
Pathogenic bacteria may not bring severe apparent changes but can cause foodborne illnesses. So, learning to detect when pork has gone bad is essential for your safety.
Pork Smells Like Eggs – Is It Good or Bad?
Pork should not smell like eggs, especially rotten eggs. It’s a clear indication that the meat has gone bad and is spoiled if it smells like eggs. You should buy meat cuts as the last item before billing in a supermarket. This prevents the meat from thawing and growing bacteria when the packet is in your trolley.
Furthermore, place the meat packet with other frozen items to retain the cold temperature. Store the pork immediately in the refrigerator after reaching home unless you want to cook it right away. Changing temperatures will affect the meat faster and activate bacteria. This speeds up the rotting process and spoils the meat.
The egg-like smell also occurs in vacuum-packaged pork. It could be because the pork and the juices inside the packet are deprived of oxygen. The smell should disappear once you wash the pork and leave it in the open air for a couple of minutes.
Sometimes, rubbing the pork in vinegar also helps get rid of the egg-y smell. Rub vinegar onto the pork and let it sit for a minute. Wash the meat and pat it dry. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and smell the meat again. Don’t use the pork if it still smells bad or off.
Another reason for the egg-like smell and discoloration in pork is due to an injury to the pig. The meat might have been spoiled from the beginning due to an injury the pig suffered. An unhealed injury will affect the muscle and parts around it. When these parts are cut into pieces and sold, you end up with bad meat. Butchers usually identify injured pigs and separate them, but mistakes do happen.
Other Signs of Bad Pork:
Besides foul smell, there are other ways to tell if pork is spoilt, like color, firmness, or moisture level. The bacteria attacking the pork may not always cause changes that are easily detectable. Apart from odor, you must also look for the following signs:
Fresh pork is greyish pink, with some white strands. When the meat deteriorates, the grey starts to take over, and it gradually turns brownish or greenish.
Such changes are caused by yeast, or due to molding, protein breakdown, or freezer burns. Sometimes, the color changes may be skin-deep, with no signs on top layers. Also, fresh meat will always have white fat and not grayish or yellowish.
Besides using your visual and olfactory senses to check the freshness of pork, you should also use your tactile sense. A chunk of fresh pork should be consistently firm, besides being moist. So, squeeze it properly to feel the firmness with your hands.
Look out for inconsistency throughout the meat, too. Remember that excessive dryness or stickiness. The surface should be moist but not slimy.
To ensure complete safety, make sure to discard pork that has one or more of these signs of spoilage.
Consequences of Eating Bad Pork
Trying to reduce waste is a good idea, but for that, you cannot consume food that’s rotten. Eating bad pork can cause illnesses or even lead to death.
Several cases of deaths, hospitalizations, and infections resulting from consuming bad pork have been reported in the past. In fact, it’s getting worse.
Bacteria in pork can be of two types. One of them causes the meat to smell rotten, while the other form of bacteria attacking pork is pathogenic, like salmonella.
These bacteria may not cause severe changes in the appearance, feel, or smell of pork, but can cause many diseases, starting with diarrhea and vomiting.
Prevention of Pork Spoilage
To prevent pork from getting spoilt, you need to store it properly. Refrigeration and freezing are the two common ways of storing meat.
To make sure that it stays fresh for a long time, you must refrigerate pork at a temperature of 40 F or less. After buying pork, you must immediately refrigerate it.
A pre-packed and sealed package of pork cuts lasts for 2-4 days in the refrigerator. Ground pork, on the other hand, in a sealed package, can last for 1-2 days. As for smoked pork or ham, you can refrigerate them for 3-4 days.
Processed meat can be kept for a week. Don’t forget to check the date on the label. You can refrigerate cooked leftovers for 4-5 days. Just don’t keep them outside for more than 1-2 hours.
To freeze fresh pork cuts, keep them wrapped in waxed paper, aluminum foil, cling film, or plastic bags. Double the layer of cover, if necessary, and freeze then below 0 F.
Fresh pork cuts can be frozen for up to 6 months, while ground pork can last for 3 months in the freezer. You can freeze processed pork and ham for 2-3 months, though freezing the latter is not recommended. Leftovers, too, can last for 3 months.
Thawing Frozen Pork
Now you know how to freeze pork to make it last for several months at a time. But what about thawing? You must perform the process of thawing frozen pork in the fridge, cold water, or microwave. You must not leave it on the shelf to unfreeze on its own.
If you plan to grill the pork or cook it on the stove or in the oven, thawing is not necessary. But if you’re going to cook it in a slow cooker, make sure to thaw it first.
Remember that there’s no need to wash thawed pork before you cook it. The heat used in the process of cooking is enough to kill the bacteria that might have developed on the meat surface.
Once thawed, if you are unable to use up the entire amount of pork, you can refreeze uncooked meat. But this might compromise the quality of the meat as the thawing and refreezing can lead to moisture loss.
It’s a good idea to defrost pork when it’s wrapped. If you’re going to defrost the pork in the microwave, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to select the right settings.
The process will take just a couple of minutes. But if you’re not using the microwave, the time taken to thaw the meat can take anything between 3 hours and 14 hours, depending on the quantity and the thickness of the pork.
Cooking and Serving Pork Safely
Completely thawed pork can be safe for consumption after it is cooked at 145 F. Use a thermometer to check the temperature. If it’s only partially thawed, increase the cooking time by around 50%.
If it is still frozen, make sure to cook at an oven temperature of 325 F. But you shouldn’t cook frozen pork in the slow cooker. Organ meat, however, must be cooked till the internal temperature is 160 F.
Remember that the range of temperatures between 40 F and 140 F is considered as the Danger zone. If you leave the pork in this range for more than a couple of hours, it can spoil the meat.
So, if you leave the meat out in the hot temperature of 90 F, bacteria can start to form quite rapidly. Some of it can even double in just about 20 minutes, and cooking may not kill them.
Determining Pork Smell Genetically
When it comes to the smell of fresh pork, you either love it, or you hate it. That’s how you are genetically programmed. Scientists claim there is a gene in humans that decides how he will feel about the smell of pork.
This gene connects the smell of the meat with the odor of ammonia or the fragrance of vanilla. It depends on the presence of a compound is called the androstenone, which is similar to testosterone.
During studies, subjects who consumed pork with androstenone content were divided into two groups – those who liked the smell and those who didn’t.
Those who found the smell unpleasant were found to have two copies of the OR7D4 gene, while those who liked it had only one copy of it.
Fortunately, most people do not find the smell of androstenone revolting. Interestingly, it is found in large concentrations in male pigs, and since pigs are castrated in Europe and North America, the androstenone concentration is reduced.
The castration of the animals might soon stop, keeping animal welfare in mind. It’s only in the meat of wild boars that you can smell a strong whiff of androstenone.
Boosting the Smell of Pork
Pork connoisseurs who know how to appreciate the rich smell of pork have many options of meat types to choose from. You can choose lean meat with less fat, or heirloom or heritage pork with more fat content.
Either way, you can do your bit to enhance the delicious smell of the meat.
- Brining, or soaking pork in salty water, doesn’t take long. You can immerse the meat in a mixture of half a cup of salt and 4 cups of water for around half an hour. Just wash them before cooking.
- Overcooking kills pork’s texture and smell. Its internal temperature must not cross 160 F. But the temperature rises even after cooking is stopped. So keep checking and stop at the right time.
- Resting cooked pork properly for the right duration can help to lock the flavors. Cover the meat in foil and let the piece rest for 10 minutes. The juices will be absorbed back to retain flavors.
- Adding fat to a piece of pork by covering it with bacon or butter at the time of cooking, grilling, or baking will boost pork’s flavor. It will also make the meat more succulent and delicious.
- Cooking methods, using spices, and sauces with vibrant flavors can be the best way to boost pork’s taste, though it’s not always the easiest. Don’t forget to caramelize pork fat with sugar.
Using a combination of the above methods can give you delicious pork with a mouth-watering smell!
Pork can be turned into a richly flavored delicacy, depending on your method of cooking. However, there’s more to pork than just cooking methods. You must remember to buy and serve nothing but fresh pork.
Buying pork from the local butcher is a good way to get fresh meat. It reduces the risk of ending up with rotten or bad pork. Supermarkets don’t allow people to touch perishables like the meat to check the texture and firmness. You either have to ask for permission or take their word for it and return the meat if it turns out rotten after opening the package (T&C applies).
While inspecting pork, check its smell, which can indicate if the pork is in good condition. So, to enjoy pork, ensure that its smell is not too strong or acidic at the time of buying or cooking.