Curing meats and "sell by" dates.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by pipelinegypsy, Feb 29, 2016.

  1. pipelinegypsy

    pipelinegypsy Fire Starter

    I like to get to Sam's early and take advantage of any "reduced for quick sale" meat. I am wanting to make some pastrami and found a brisket with today's "sell by" date. I know beef is usually still good for several days beyond it's "sell by" date... usually... but if I put in on to cure today, will it still be good in a week? I mean I know that the cure will preserve it, but it does take a while for the cure to reach all parts of the meat. I think it will be fine, but I remember being wrong once about something many moons ago so... opinions?
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    It will be fine. Maybe the label should say, sell by, freeze by, or cure by.

  3. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    Exactly!!-----Or "Begin" curing by.

  4. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Until you add the nitrite cure it needs to continue to be treated as fresh meat and so would have a chilled shelf life of several days passed the sell by date. Providing you add the cure within this time you will be fine.
  5. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

     Hey Bear,

    That's exactly what I meant to say, but didn't elaborate. After seeing this I thought what I said could be misinterpreted as it had to be fully cured by that date.

    Thank you for clarifying that.

  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Sell by dates give a guideline as to when Surface Bacteria may start to degrade the meat. The interior would be fine for even several more weeks. You need to control the bacteria with, Freezing, as in this case, Cure and Salt or Smoke and as is also common, Dry Aging. With Dry Aging the surface where the Bacteria are is allowed to dry to the point it can't sustain growth, but the interior of the meat is fine for several weeks longer...JJ
  7. pipelinegypsy

    pipelinegypsy Fire Starter

    Thanks guys!! I appreciate the feedback
  8. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic

    The food dating system in the U.S. is a confusing muddle. So much so that it's estimated that approximately 25% of perfectly good food gets discarded due to the confusion and/or lack of understanding the various dates, of which there are 3 primary ones.

    The "Sell By" date is primarily used for inventory control and for stocking purposes, so that a retailer knows when to replace products with those that will have a continuing and longer shelf life in the buyers home. Basically, it's a date than be ignored as it has nothing to do with food safety.

    The "Best By" Date is the date recommended by the manufacturer for best flavor and quality. It is also not a safety date.

    The "Use By" date is the last date determined and recommended by the manufacturer for the use of the product while at peak quality. As with the other two, this date also has nothing to do with food safety.

    Aside from infant formula, the USDA and the FDA have no published guidelines or regulations pertaining to the dates you see on any food products. Some States have guidelines, and possibly regulations, but many don't. For the most part, the product dating system is a cooperative venture between the manufacturers and the retailers.

    Also, most manufacturers don’t even use scientific lab testing techniques to make the determination of the dates. They simply rely on consumer taste test panels and/or what their competitors are using.
  9. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  10. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Thanks...This causes me to be more specific...I use the term " Guideline " as in an Estimate of how long I am comfortable leaving a tray or vac-pac of say, Ground Beef, Roasts, Chops or Steaks, in the refer before use or freeze the meat. With perishable " freshly purchased " items, the Sell by date starts my clock and Use By date I cook or freeze. It is Bacteria that is causing the spoilage and I have frequently noticed the dates are a pretty accurate method of judging time to Use It or Lose It...Nothing with Bacteria and Food is a Safety Hazard until there is a Time and Temperature abuse. Give Bacteria Time at Temps above 40 and less than 140 and you have a Safety Hazard. Bacteria on refrigerated meat over time is only a quality issue, it spoils...JJ
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016
  11. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    What in the world has happened to common sense? Perhaps the pope should consider me for sainthood because it is a miracle I am still alive. I eat raw eggs, meat beyond the sell by date, pickled eggs that are two years old, cured foods with nitrites in them and meat cooked below 160 degrees. Bottom line, if you are not comfortable eating certain foods, don't eat them.


  12. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    But Tom you are a healthy strapping lad who is a model of fitness (maybe there were a couple of big assumptions in that last sentence [​IMG]). Yes the Sell By and Best By are guidelines but the Use By is there to protect the more vulnerable among us. When feeding yourself people are perfectly free to eat what they feel comfortable eating but when it comes to feeding it to others then that is a very different situation. The dates are all there to manage risk. Also a big factor is how the food has been stored and subsequently processed/cooked. People may be perfectly safe 99 times out of 100 eating eating the food past its Use By date but it only needs to be that one time to have potentially life changing effects.

    The examples you give are fairly safe bets within reason for someone who is fit (especially the pickled eggs), but there are many other foods that would be a much more significant risk.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2016
  13. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Well taken Wade, and thanks for the health diagnoses. [​IMG]    I contribute my good health to my diet, which has one rule, if it looks good, smells good, and taste good, eat it. This is a personal opinion and not necessarily meant for others to follow. Oh, as I'm not from New York, I eat as much as I want. [​IMG]

    I pity the fool who denies me anything to eat because of my age. It would most likely be very embarrassing for both of us. [​IMG]

     Quote: If you are not comfortable eating certain foods, don’t eat them. “Basic common sense”.

  14. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  15. A lot of whole primals, meaning vac packed whole muscles such as brisket, don't even have sell by dates or best by dates. They come with production dates and the retailer puts the sell by on it. Whole primals that come vac packed from the packers will last a long time. With beef if it's bad you won't have to ask. You'll smell it.
  16. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    True...The problem is the satisfactory but poor sanitary conditions in grocery butcher departments. The relatively bacteria free Box Beef and Pork comes in, them minimum waged and undertrained, don't give a crap, employees get their dirty hands on it. Been in the Grocery biz. Workers changing gloves, only after breaks, handling Chicken, Beef, Pork same knives, same bloody work tables and wearing the same soiled aprons all shift. No cleaning of saws and grinders between runs, a tub of meat falls on the filthy floor, it's picked up and dumped in the grinder. Now not all this happens in every shop but guaranteed some unsanitary practice happens in all of them. This is why a vac-pac 15Lb Packer Brisket from a place like Restaurant Depot, direct from producer, lasts a month or more in your refer but the cut and trimmed Flats from the grocery with Sell by Dates are stinking 5 days later on or shortly after the Use By Date.

    If we all had access to, from the packer Butts, Brisket Flats and Roasts...SMF members would not have to sweat a Smoker dying for a couple hours. When I had access to Tube Beef from a national packer like IBP, I would not hesitate to sample raw meatloaf mix or eat a Pittsburg Rare aka just Seared Blue Burger. NO WAY I would try that with grocery store on the Pink Foam Tray Ground Beef!...JJ
    pabstman80 likes this.
  17. Let's not forget that the mere act of cutting that vac sealed bag of primals open exposes the contents to oxygen and speeds up the clock on bacteria growth dramatically. It's not all about clean and sanitized, cross contamination ect, which are also incredible contributors to spoilage.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2016
  18. smokeymose

    smokeymose Master of the Pit

    I'll agree with T on this. If all the "rules" apply, I should have been dead years ago. I've read a few reports lately about the whole "Use By, Best By, Sell By" thing, and most of it seems to about marketing. If a grocer in this law-suit happy world is willing to sell something, then you can be pretty sure it's OK for a while. As for meat; does it look OK? Use your gut common sense. If in doubt, don't.
    Make that Pastrami, Gypsy! (I love Pastrami...).

  19. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The problem is, the rules keep changing. Not always for the right reasons.
  20. pipelinegypsy

    pipelinegypsy Fire Starter

    Regarding the "common sense" replies, yeah sure I can tell when meat has gone bad. However, this is my first time curing meat and I was uncertain if I would be able to tell, whether by smell or sight, if the meat had gone bad after sitting in a brine/cure solution for a week. I might be possible for the solution  to "mask" the early stages of spoilage? Common sense did tell me that it would be safe, I was just wanting the opinions of some seasoned curers. At any rate, I put it on to brine/cure for 7 days then desalinated overnight. Put the rub on and let dry in icebox for 2 days... man it's been hard seeing and smelling that for 2 days!!! Now it's on to the smoker today! Many thanks for all the replies guys!! 

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