So, you’ve just gone to bring out the lamb from the refrigerator to cook a delicious meal, and you’ve noticed a pungent smell coming from the meat.
It didn’t smell this bad when it was being stored, but now the entire fridge smells like bad meat.
As with any kind of meat (and most foods in general), it’s vital to understand what it means when meat smells bad.
While meat might smell bad, this doesn’t always mean that it’s gone off.
This is why it’s important to know the other key indicators that the meat has gone bad, such as its coloration and texture. At the end of the day, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
If your gut feeling is that the lamb isn’t safe to eat, and you don’t want to risk getting sick, then you should throw it away.
However, lamb is a fairly expensive meat, and you don’t want to waste money on meat that is actually fine to eat.
So, why does your lamb smell bad, and is it safe to eat? Here is everything you need to know!
Fresh Vs Bad Lamb
Firstly, let’s take a look at what fresh lamb meat should actually look and smell like.
Fresh lamb meat usually comes with a slightly gamey odor, so don’t panic if you notice that the meat has a scent to it. It’s not always easy to determine this scent if you don’t buy lamb meat regularly.
Still, if you have just bought your lamb meat from the butcher shop and noticed a slight odor to the meat, this should be fine.
When fresh, lamb will range from light pink to dark red in color depending on where the cut of meat is from.
It will also come with a cream-colored, bright fat covering, and will be moist (but not slimy) to the touch. Bad lamb, however, is the complete opposite.
The smell of bad lamb is more odorous than fresh lamb, with a similar yet stronger scent.
It might not smell particularly unpleasant, but it will be significantly stronger than it was when you first bought the meat.
As for the appearance, bad lamb will look more gray than red.
What was once a pink or red meat will look discernibly more brown or gray, appearing distinctively duller than it was before.
Not only this, but the once-creamy fat on the outside of the meat will become discolored and dry.
As for the texture, bad lamb will feel and look far drier than it once did when it was fresh.
However, it’s still possible for lamb meat to turn slightly dry and brown while still being safe to eat.
These are normal steps in the oxidation process, which doesn’t always mean that the meat has gone bad.
It’s only when the meat has turned a concerning color, texture and smell that you should worry.
In fact, some people will deliberately wait until the lamb begins to turn slightly brown, as it is said to be more flavorful than when the lamb is completely fresh.
This is known as “hanging” the lamb, and occurs when someone deliberately leaves the lamb in the refrigerator for 3 days after purchasing the meat fresh.
The key to cooking lamb, whether fresh or 3 days after the purchase, is to ensure that the internal temperature of the meat is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is the aimed internal temperature for cooking lamb in all ways, including rare or medium rare.
The reason why you have to aim for this internal temperature is because this is the minimum temperature for bacteria inside the meat to be destroyed.
The higher the internal temperature, the more bacteria that is killed, which is essential for lamb meat that is slightly old!
Signs That Lamb Has Gone Bad
So, if you can safely eat lamb that has gone slightly brown and dry after 3 days of storing, then what’s the difference between that and spoiled lamb?
Truth is, you will know when lamb meat has gone bad purely by instinct.
There is a huge difference between fresh lamb and bad lamb, but if you don’t buy lamb regularly, then you might need to know the key indicators that lamb has gone bad and needs to be thrown away.
Here are the main signs that lamb has gone bad:
- Meat has turned gray, brown, or dull
- Unpleasant odor that is strong and slightly gamey
- Meat is either very dry or slimy on the surface
- Fat has turned brown or slightly green while curling at the edges
In the worst scenario, if the meat has ticked all of these boxes, it’s likely a sign that the meat is now rotting.
Unfortunately, there is no way to safely consume rotten lamb meat, so it will need to be thrown out immediately.
Is It Safe To Eat Bad Lamb?
So, we know that cooking lamb to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to destroy bacteria if the meat isn’t as fresh as it was three days prior.
However, does this mean that you can still safely eat spoiled lamb meat as long as you cook it to a high internal temperature? To put it simply, no.
It is not safe or advisable to eat bad lamb under any circumstances, because even cooking spoiled lamb to a high internal temperature won’t be enough to kill harmful toxins, germs, and even mold.
Not only this, but eating cooked spoiled lamb meat isn’t going to taste or smell nice anyway.
It’s not worth the risk of getting sick, nor is it worth destroying your appetite with a piece of gross meat. Of course, it’s not a 100% guarantee that eating bad lamb will make you sick.
In the same way that eating raw chicken won’t always make you sick (unless the meat carries salmonella), there’s no guarantee that consuming bad lamb will lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach problems.
Regardless, it’s not a risk worth taking.
There is no way of telling how your body is going to react to bad lamb, nor is there a way of telling what harmful toxins have developed inside the meat.
So, to be on the safe side, throw the lamb away!
How To Safely Store Lamb
If you’ve bought lamb for a meal in the near future, and you’re worried about it going bad too soon, you need to know how to safely store the meat to prevent it from spoiling.
When you buy fresh lamb at the butcher shop or grocery store, it will probably come in a plastic wrap or bag.
The first thing you need to do is remove the meat from its plastic encasement, because plastic actually doesn’t provide good storing conditions for lamb.
Of course, this shouldn’t matter if you’re planning on eating the lamb that day.
Once you remove the lamb from the plastic, place it on a clean plate and loosely wrap the plate and meat in aluminum foil.
This will allow enough air circulation to keep the meat fresh without drying it out completely.
However, if the lamb came in a vacuum packed plastic encasement, this should be fine to store without removing it from the plastic.
Vacuum packed meat lasts longer than regularly packed meat, because there is no air left for the meat to dry out.
It’s best to store the plate on a low shelf in the refrigerator to prevent any juices from the lamb from dripping onto other foods.
Liquid from the meat might pool in the plate after several hours of storing, so keep an eye on this and mop away any excess liquid when necessary.
As for how long to store the lamb for, the general rule is that ground lamb will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 2 days, fresh lamb meat can be stored for up to 3 days before it goes slightly brown, and cooked lamb can be stored for up to 4 days.
Can I Freeze Lamb?
If you’ve bought lamb for a future meal, the best way to keep it fresh for longer is to freeze it!
Fresh uncooked lamb can keep in the freezer for 6-9 months, with ground uncooked lamb lasting for up to 4 months.
Make sure to wrap the meat in aluminum foil or freezer bags to prevent the cold air from penetrating the meat, which will ultimately dry it out.
What Happens If I Cook Spoiled Lamb?
If you didn’t check the warning signs before cooking the lamb, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll probably know when lamb is bad by cooking it.
Spoiled lamb isn’t going to disguise itself as delicious and tasty lamb, so don’t worry too much if you accidentally cook the lamb before checking if it’s gone bad.
This is because spoiled lamb will smell just as bad, maybe even worse, when you cook it.
So, if you notice the kitchen smells unpleasant while roasting or frying lamb meat, then it’s likely because the meat is spoiled.
Lamb is supposed to smell absolutely delicious during the cooking process.
Whether or not you’ve cooked meat before, you’ll understand the difference between fresh meat and bad meat depending on the smell.
So, if you’re trying to cook the lamb in hopes that it will somehow reverse the bad bacteria lingering inside the meat, it’s time to admit defeat and put something else on the menu for dinner!
So, there you have it! Hopefully, this guide has given you some reassurance on how to identify bad lamb, and why it’s not safe to take the risk by eating it.