My parents bought a slab of steaks from my cousin who personally shrink-wrapped them. But when they thawed them out they were brown!

Are they still good to eat? What's going on?

My dad didn't cook them.


3 Answers 3


I assume the steaks were frozen or packed in ice:

The freezing process, especially slow freezing damages the cellular properties of organic material. This results in discolouration, texture changes(it'll be tough) and flavour loss. Snap freezing, using the Birdseye process (The company and the process are named after Clarence Birdseye) reduces cellular damage and preserves flavour, resulting a better preserved product.

If your meat is frozen sufficiently it should keep for around one year. But the texture and flavour will never be as good as a fresh steak. It should be fine.

  • Yes it was frozen after being wrapped. My dad thawed them and thats when he discovered their color. I will let him know they are probably fine to eat!
    – Carmen
    Oct 10, 2012 at 21:10

Steak in the supermarket is wrapped in permeable plastic to let oxygen reach the muscle and keep it bright red. Shrink wrapped meat is not, so it can often look brown. This doesn't necessarily mean it is bad.

For details see this article. The key is:

The red color of raw meat is mostly the result of oxygen exposure. When the myoglobin is exposed to oxygen, it becomes oxymyoglobin, which turns the steak into a bright red color. To maintain the bright red color consumers prefer, supermarkets use a plastic wrap that oxygen can pass through to package the beef.

Yes, it's true, many things turn brown when they oxidize. But not all things.

Of course, the existence of one reason for brown meat that doesn't mean bad meat is not at all the same as "go ahead and eat brown meat from your freezer no matter what." Defrost it, smell it, poke it with your finger, and if it seems ok, it probably is ok. Most "freezer damage" is dehydration, which makes the meat less pleasant to eat but not unsafe.

  • Supermarket meat also tends to have chemicals added to make it stay red. Oct 10, 2012 at 17:49
  • Necroing this post, but is there a trustworthy source for this advice? Letting oxygen into the meat is going to cause oxidation, so I believe this answer objectively incorrect.
    – Phil
    Sep 18, 2021 at 14:52
  • A steak is not an apple, @phil. Edited in a quote, Sep 18, 2021 at 15:01

Oxygen does not keep it red…it oxidises the meat and causes it to go brown. This is why refrigerated and old meat goes brown. Vacuum sealing meat keeps it red.

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