Why Does Pork Smell Bad When Cooking? The Complete Guide

If you’ve ever cooked pork and noticed a foul odor, you’re not alone.

The smell of cooking pork can be a major turn-off, and it’s important to know why it happens. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind the unpleasant smell of cooking pork and what you can do to prevent it.

From detecting spoiled meat to proper handling and storage, we’ll cover everything you need to know to ensure that your pork dishes are safe and delicious.

So, let’s dive in and find out why pork sometimes smells bad when cooking!

Why Does Pork Smell Bad When Cooking?

There are several reasons why pork might emit a foul odor when cooking. One of the most common reasons is that the meat has gone bad. Pork that has spoiled will often have a sour or acidic smell, which intensifies when exposed to heat.

Another reason for the unpleasant smell could be boar taint. Boar taint is a natural compound found in male pigs that can cause an unpleasant odor in the meat. However, it’s important to note that boar taint is not harmful to humans and does not affect the safety of the meat.

Improper handling and storage of pork can also lead to a bad smell when cooking. If the meat has been stored at an incorrect temperature or for too long, it can spoil and emit an unpleasant odor.

Lastly, some packaged pork may have a faint smell of ammonia due to the processing and packaging methods used. While this smell may seem sour, it’s not necessarily an indication that the meat has gone bad.

The Science Behind The Smell Of Pork

The unpleasant odor associated with pork can be attributed to several factors, including genetics. A study has found that there is a gene responsible for how a compound in pork smells to humans. This compound, called androstenone, is similar to testosterone and found in high concentrations in male pigs. When heated up, androstenone becomes more volatile, making it easier to detect in cooked pork.

The gene responsible for detecting androstenone is called OR7D4. Those who find the smell of pork offensive have two copies of this gene, while those who don’t notice the smell or find it pleasant have only one copy or none at all. This genetic difference can explain why some people are more sensitive to the odor of pork than others.

In North America and Europe, most pigs are castrated, which significantly lowers the concentration of androstenone in the meat. However, the European Union is considering a ban on castration due to animal welfare concerns. This could lead to higher concentrations of androstenone in pork from intact males, potentially making it unpalatable to those with the genetic sensitivity.

The science behind the smell of pork also involves the role of skatole, another compound that can cause an unpleasant odor in pork. Skatole is produced by the intestinal microbial breakdown of the amino acid tryptophan in both male and female pigs. Although less prevalent than androstenone, skatole can still be detected in pork from both genders.

Factors That Contribute To Pork’s Unpleasant Odor

There are several factors that can contribute to pork’s unpleasant odor when cooking. One of the main culprits is boar taint, which is caused by two naturally occurring compounds called androstenone and skatole. Androstenone is a pheromone produced in the testes of male pigs, and skatole is produced in the liver and large intestine. These two compounds can accumulate in the fat of male pigs that have not been castrated, and when heated up, they become more volatile, making them more detectable in cooked pork.

Another factor that can contribute to pork’s unpleasant odor is improper handling and storage. If pork is stored at an incorrect temperature or for too long, it can spoil and emit a sour or acidic smell when cooked. It’s important to store pork at a temperature below 40°F to prevent bacterial growth and spoilage.

In addition, some packaged pork may have a faint smell of ammonia due to the processing and packaging methods used. This smell may seem sour, but it’s not necessarily an indication that the meat has gone bad. However, it’s always important to check the expiration date and inspect the meat for any signs of spoilage before cooking.

Lastly, injuries to the pig can also contribute to an unpleasant odor in the meat. An unhealed injury can affect the muscle and parts around it, leading to bad meat. While butchers usually identify injured pigs and separate them, mistakes can happen.

How To Tell If Your Pork Is Spoiled

It’s important to know how to tell if your pork has gone bad before cooking it. Here are some signs to look out for:

1. Smell: Fresh pork should have no odor at all. If you detect a sour or ammonia-like smell, it’s a sign that the meat has spoiled and should be discarded.

2. Texture: Spoiled pork will often feel slimy to the touch. If the meat is soft and squishy, it has started to spoil.

3. Color: Healthy pork should have a pinkish hue, with white fat marbling. Dull or grayish color, as well as yellowish or greenish color, are signs that the pork may be going bad.

4. Packaging: If the packaging of your pork is puffed up or bloated, it’s likely that bad bacteria has produced gases and caused the packaging to appear that way. Open the package and use your sense of smell to confirm whether it’s bad before discarding.

It’s important to note that cooking bad pork will not make it safe. It will increase the unpleasant smell and taste of it and make you sick. Therefore, always make sure to check for these signs before cooking and consuming pork. Properly stored pork is good in the fridge for 2-4 days generally, but if you are in doubt about its freshness, it’s best to throw it away.

Proper Handling And Storage Of Pork

Proper handling and storage of pork is essential to prevent spoilage and ensure food safety. Bacteria that cause foodborne illness can grow rapidly in the temperature zone between 40°F and 140°F, so it’s crucial to keep pork out of this range.

When storing pork, it should be kept below 40°F. Store uncooked pork separately from cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination. Fresh pork should be refrigerated or frozen immediately after bringing it home, and never left in a hot car or at room temperature. Packaged whole cuts of fresh pork can be refrigerated in their original wrapping for up to four or five days, while ground pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.

When transporting uncooked or cooked pork to another location, it should be placed in an insulated container or ice chest until ready to cook or eat. Cooked pork should be refrigerated no longer than four days.

If you don’t plan to cook whole cuts of fresh pork within four days of purchase, they should be frozen. Wrap them separately in foil or freezer bags, and label them for easy selection. Be sure to press the air out of the package before freezing. If you plan to freeze pork in its original wrapping, overwrap the porous store plastic with a freezer bag or paper.

Before and after handling raw pork, wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water. To prevent cross-contamination, keep raw pork juices away from other foods and wash all utensils that came in contact with raw pork before using them on other foods.

When preparing a pork dish that won’t be eaten right away, use hot-holding equipment designed to keep food warm. Keep new food separate from old food and use a holding time and temperature log to track hot-holding temperatures. Hot-held food should stay above 135°F at all times.

By following these proper handling and storage guidelines, you can ensure that your pork is safe to eat and doesn’t emit an unpleasant odor when cooking.

Tips For Cooking Pork Without The Bad Smell

If you want to avoid the bad smell of pork when cooking, there are several things you can do:

1. Buy fresh pork: When buying pork, make sure to choose fresh cuts that have a mild, meaty smell. Avoid any meat that has a sour or acidic odor, as this is a sign that it has gone bad.

2. Store pork properly: To prevent pork from spoiling, store it in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below. Make sure to use the meat within 3-5 days of purchase.

3. Handle pork safely: When handling raw pork, be sure to wash your hands and any utensils or surfaces that come into contact with the meat. This will help prevent the spread of bacteria that can cause spoilage and bad odors.

4. Cook pork thoroughly: Cooking pork to the proper temperature (145°F for whole cuts and 160°F for ground pork) will help kill any bacteria that may be present and prevent spoilage.

5. Use marinades and seasonings: Adding marinades and seasonings to your pork can help mask any unpleasant odors and add flavor to the meat.

By following these tips, you can cook pork without the bad smell and enjoy delicious, safe meals.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Cooking Pork

Cooking pork can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when cooking pork:

1. Ignoring the Quality of Your Meat: It’s important to choose high-quality pork for the best flavor and texture. Well-raised, well-fed heritage pork is worth the extra money.

2. Buying Boneless: Bone-in pork chops are preferred as they slow down the cooking process and add flavor to the meat.

3. Under-Seasoning the Meat: Use plenty of salt and pepper to season your pork chops for a flavorful crust.

4. Cooking Them Directly from the Fridge: Let your pork chops sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking to ensure even cooking.

5. Cooking Over High Heat the Whole Time: Start with high heat to get a good sear, then reduce to medium heat to ensure even cooking.

6. Relying Blindly on a Recipe’s Cooking Time: Use a meat thermometer to ensure your pork is cooked to the proper temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Trimming the Fat: Instead of trimming the fat, render it in the pan for added flavor and texture.

8. Skipping the ‘Rest’ Stage: Let your pork chops rest for 10 minutes before cutting into them to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your pork chops turn out tender, juicy, and full of flavor.