Let me guess. You’ve just cut the plastic of a vacuum sealed rack of pork ribs or unraveled the bag from the butchers only to be met with a foul stink coming from the ribs. We’ve all been there.
Whether you source your pork ribs from the local butcher or they’re humble Costco ribs there’s always a chance you’ll find yourself with some bad smelling ribs — even when it’s nowhere near the expiry date — so what gives?
Is it normal for pork ribs to smell bad?
Here we go through what a normal pork smell is, why pork ribs end up smelling foul, eggy, or sulphuric, and how to know if they’ve actually gone bad. Plus, we’ll share some quick tips on how to fix the bad odor easily!
Normal smelling, fresh pork ribs should smell meaty and fatty, but certainly not rancid, eggy, or like sulfur.
But, even fresh ribs that have only spent a few days in a vacuum-sealed package, or wrapped tightly in plastic and butcher paper, can start to produce an ‘off’ smell.
The longer the pork ribs spend in their airtight package, the longer the meat and juices are starved of oxygen. This causes the juices to discolor and start to develop a foul, tangy, eggy odor, which gets more intense over time.
If you’ve got yourself some bad-smelling pork ribs that have been in plastic packaging for a while but are well within the expiry date then they’re probably safe to consume. It’s likely they have just absorbed a funky smell from being sealed.
Why Do My Pork Ribs Smell Bad?
There are two main factors that will play a part in creating the smell of pork ribs. The first is the freshness of the meat. The second is how the pork ribs have been packaged and stored.
After the meat has been butchered into its various parts, the protein and fat in the meat begin to age. Over the aging process, when the meat is starved of fresh nutrients, it begins to give off an ‘off’ smell.
This aged smell alone is normally not the culprit of pork ribs smelling horrendous. But, the aging smell plus the foul, tangy, ‘off’ smell that comes from the pork being in an airtight package really makes for a horrid odor.
So, when you open up any kind of pork rib packaging, whether it’s from the butcher or Costco, you can always expect a slight ‘off’ smell.
However, this smell should be temporary as the pork comes in contact with fresh air and deodorizes. If you want to help rid of the smell you can also dry your ribs with a towel, or wash them in vinegar.
Does Bad Smelling Pork Ribs Mean It’s Boar?
There’s a common theory that if you have bad smelling pork ribs, that they’re from a wild boar instead of a pig. Although this has probably happened before, it’s highly unlikely that this happens often at all, unless you’ve gone shopping at a rural farmers market.
Plus, even if you were provided with boar ribs instead of pork ribs, it wouldn’t make the ribs smell like a fart, or ‘off’. Instead, wild boar meat provides a more beefy and gamey smell, which is much more distinguishable than a ‘bad’ smell.
Does Bad Smelling Ribs Mean They Are Spoiled?
Just because your pork ribs have a bit of an ‘off’ smell does not mean they are actually spoiled. It’s completely normal for your ribs to have a bit of a smell to them, particularly if they’ve been cryovaced or vacuum sealed, or wrapped up for a while in the fridge.
It’s a natural process when the meat and juices are starved of oxygen and they’re confined to a small space. Now, whenever I’m unpackaging vacuum sealed pork ribs I prepare for there to be a bit of a smell so I can get out of it’s way without catching a whiff.
But, it’s important to point out that there is always a chance that your pork ribs have indeed gone bad. So, if they’re past their expiry, have been stored too long, or were stored in unsafe temperatures then it’s not worth taking the risk.
This goes for all cuts of pork too, from pork chops, spare ribs, St. Louis ribs, to other pork meat too.
How To Fix Bad Smelling Pork Ribs
When you’re met with a particularly bad smelling rack of pork ribs, your first thought might be that they’re off. Although there is a possibility, most of the time the ribs are within their expiry and they smell it’s simply because they’ve been vacuum packed, or starved of oxygen tightly packed in plastic.
There are a few easy ways you can help rid the foul smell from your pork ribs:
- The easiest way and most natural way to deodorize your ribs is simply to let them air dry. First, take them completely out of the bag or container, lay them flat out on a surface, pat them dry with paper towels and let them sit in the air for 5-10 minutes. By this time the ribs should have returned to a much more normal and tolerable pork smell.
- You can use some help from some vinegar if you want to go the extra mile. Pat your ribs dry with paper towels first, then lightly rub your rack of ribs with some vinegar. After leaving it for a minute or so, simply rinse the vinegar off with a small amount of water, and pat to dry again.
The vinegar will effectively help extract any of the old, smelly juices from the pork ribs, and leave you with a much more neutral, normal smell. Although it’s not necessary all the time, ridding the initial bad smell of the pork ribs will make you feel that much better over the cooking process, whether you’ve using an instant pot or you’re smoking ribs.
- Dry brining or wet brining your ribs helps to draw out all the “smelly” moisture from the meat, and the salt helps neutralize the smell. The result? normal smelly meaty ribs!
That's A Wrap!
Fresh pork ribs should not have any distinctly bad smell.
But, fresh pork ribs that have been wrapped in plastic, vacuum sealed, or stored in any airtight conditions will begin to naturally produce a smell.
This is caused by the starvation of oxygen to the meat, and is a completely normal process. So, don’t think for a second your ribs are off based on this initial unpleasant smell.
Let them airdry or pat them dry with a paper towel and leave them for 10-15 minutes and this smell should disappear.
But, if the smell doesn’t go away, you should do further investigation to see if your pork ribs ARE actually off!