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What Should Brisket Smell Like? (Explained)

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Detecting rotten brisket is vital not just for maintaining food quality, but also for ensuring food safety.

Spoiled meat can harbour harmful bacteria that can lead to a variety of foodborne illnesses. While recognizing rotten meat is rarely difficult, it does not always reveal itself in an obvious manner.

However, bad brisket does not always emit a foul odor, so sometimes you’ll have to rely on visual cues to determine spoilage.

The following article addresses what brisket should smell like and additional ways to identify if you’re dealing with spoiled brisket.

Is Brisket Supposed to Have a Smell?

To begin, if your fully cooked brisket smells even slightly strange, discard it.

When in doubt, toss it out is a philosophy that every pitmaster should live by. Brisket that has been fully cooked should smell nothing short of delicious.

So, if you suspect it has gone bad, don’t taste it and trust your instincts.

Healthy raw brisket has a mild odor that is neither pleasant nor nasty. It usually has a slightly metallic odor, but nothing offensive to the nose.

It should be quite mild and not at all overpowering at all. 

Danger Zone Review

Before we get into how to spot a spoiled brisket, along with proper storage guidelines, it’s important to review the danger zone.

This is the temperature range at which certain meats are no longer deemed safe for consumption. This temperature range bands from 40 to 140 degrees(F).

For example:

  • Raw brisket should never be permitted to reach 40 degrees(F) at room temperature.
  • Fully cooked brisket should not be allowed to drop to or below 140 degrees(F) at room temperature.

Once in the danger zone, the brisket becomes a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria, which begin multiplying at an exponential rate.

Brisket, like most other meats, is already a fertile ground for pathogenic bacteria such as Listeria, Staphylococcus, E. coli, and salmonella. They are, however, insufficiently abundant to constitute a problem in fresh meat.

But, when meat enters the danger zone (unrefrigerated), they begin to multiply to dangerous proportions. It’s estimated that these microbes double in number every 20 minutes once in the danger zone.

How To Tell If Brisket Has Gone Bad


Brisket, as previously mentioned, should not have a “bad” odor. Most fresh raw meats have an odor resembling a blood like metallic odor.

However, raw spoiled brisket may have an extremely foul stench that has been compared to rotting milk or eggs. If it smells off, you will notice it right away, especially if it was opened from an airtight or vacuum seal.

Fully cooked brisket should not have a “off” aroma. Unless your seasonings or rubs are substantially amiss, any completely cooked brisket that smells even slightly off should be discarded.

Color & Texture

Raw brisket stored in a vacuum seal or airtight container will be dark red, almost crimson in color, with mild purplish tints. When these colors are exposed to air, oxidation transforms them into a vibrant, bright red tone.

The composition of spoiled brisket will be significantly darkened. It can deteriorate into a grisly grey with yellow/greenish splotches. The texture will change from simply moist to a slimy film-like consistency.

Keep in mind that older, unspoiled brisket might darken and turn almost grey in color. The idea is to keep an eye out for the yellowish tones mingled in.

Storage Tips

When storing raw or cooked brisket, you must keep oxidation to a minimum. The meat will decay quickly if exposed to the air.

Vacuum seals are ideal for this. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, use a shallow container instead. The shallower the container, the less airflow there will be around it.

How Long Can Brisket be Refrigerated?

The length of time brisket can be stored in the fridge depends on how fresh it is and how it was handled. It can typically last 3 to 5 days in most cases. Following that, it must be either consumed or frozen.

A refrigerator does not prevent bacteria from developing on meat; it merely delays their replication, keeping it safe to consume.

For the best results, store brisket in an airtight container on the lowest shelf as far back as possible.

How Long Can Brisket be Frozen?

It can last and retain freshness for up to 12 months depending on its condition prior to freezing!

While different airtight containers can be used to freeze brisket, vacuum sealing it yields the best results. Moisture can slip in if the container isn’t sealed, significantly degrading the quality with freezer burn.

Final Thoughts

There are numerous ways to determine if a brisket has spoiled. However, not all of them are as obvious.

The plain old-fashioned sight and smell test can often produce accurate results. If you’re still not sure, it’s probably a good idea to throw it out as a precaution.

No matter how hard you worked for your brisket, the danger of catching a potentially serious or life-threatening foodborne illness is never worth it.