How To Tell if Beef Liver is Bad [Definitive Guide]

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For generations, consuming beef liver has been a great source of vitamins, minerals, protein, and a host of other nutrients.

Even today, many cultural comfort foods will include this wholesome and affordable ingredient, but do you know how to tell if your beef liver is bad?

This article will cover all the signs to tell if beef liver is bad and other common questions around storage and alternatives if it has spoiled.

How to Tell if Beef Liver is Bad

Any type of offal will have a very short shelf life, typically 1-2 days on the shelf is fine, 3-5 is pushing it, and 6+ is asking for trouble if it’s intended for human consumption.

Always check for a ‘Use-By’ or ‘Best-Before’ date on any packaging, or speak to your butcher if you have any concerns. When all else fails, use the adage; when in doubt, don’t.


Continuing from what a good beef liver looks like, what do we mean by mistreatment? Well, there shouldn’t be any blemishes; white, grey, green, or yellowish spots or large areas of deep purple from bruising, as these can be caused by poor animal health or improper treatment by the butcher.

You also don’t want to see any chunks missing out of it, as this could indicate the removal of bruising or blemishes to attempt to disguise mistreatment.

A fresh piece of beef liver shouldn’t be flat or dull in the shine department, so hold it up to the light, and if you don’t see any gleam; it’s literally not looking good.

Any of these signs could indicate that the liver has been poorly removed, or is of inferior quality, and can indicate that the beef liver is going bad.

Beef livers that have turned pale in colour, have uneven colouring, look dull, or have heavy amounts of bruising are definite indicators that the beef liver has gone bad.


The thing about offal is that, when it’s in prime condition, it shouldn’t smell of anything other than meat.

So, take a good sniff, if you notice any hits of sourness, rotten eggs/sulphur, or something you just can’t quite place but that makes you feel uneasy, it’s wise to move on, as that beef liver could have gone bad.


Uncooked beef liver is rather firm, like most raw meats, so despite its unusual appearance as the world’s weirdest jelly, there shouldn’t be too much jiggle.

You also shouldn’t see any slime or weird film sticking to the surface, look for signs of any overly glossy or shiny bits, as these indicate the breakdown of the proteins, and there shouldn’t be any lumps or rough patches either anywhere in the liver.

Any signs of a greasy residue, or thickening of fat, should be easy to identify, and although not signs of spoilage, they are indicators that the beef liver is of poor or low quality.


Again, eating uncooked beef liver is a very bad idea, as it can cause serious illness and long-term health issues. But once it’s cooked; you still need to know if your beef liver is good to eat.

Beef liver is the meatiest meat you’ll ever eat; beef liver is intensely flavoured with a really strong iron taste to it. It’s well known that this can be overly powerful for some consumers, but that doesn’t mean the liver is bad.

However, a beef liver that is going bad, or has gone bad will taste disgusting. The flavours you really want to watch out for are of sourness or a sort of rotten ‘off’ taste, and usually, both of these flavours will give off a similar pungent odour.

If you detect any ‘sour’ or ‘off’ taste; do not swallow it. The liver may well be already spoiled, and eating it can cause severe stomachaches and discomfort, or hospitalisation in the worst case.

How Long Does Beef Liver Last

Whether you want it for the timeless classics ‘liver and onion’ or ‘liver and bacon’, or some other culinary delight, do you know how much time you have to keep your beef liver before it goes bad? The answers may surprise you.

How Long Does Beef Liver Last in the Fridge

Whilst fresh is always best, and that’s definitely how you want to buy it, you can safely store your beef liver in the fridge for 1-2 days. But, after this point, you must thoroughly inspect the liver in case it has begun to go bad.

How Long Does Beef Liver Last in the Freezer

If stored properly, your beef liver will keep quite well at its optimal quality for at least 3-4 months. After this point, it will start to lose some of its vitamins and minerals, but is likely to still be edible for another couple of months. After 6 months it may be damaged by freezer burn.

Once thawed, your fresh-again liver will last for 1-2 days at most.

How Long Does Beef Liver Last on the Countertop

Due to the high protein content, beef liver should not be left out for more than an hour or so, and certainly not exposed directly to air.

Bacteria will grow rapidly if the beef liver is exposed to ambient temperatures. If it has been left out for more than 2 hours, it should be discarded immediately.

How To Store Beef Liver

Storing your beef liver properly is the best way to ensure the longest shelf life, and the best quality, here’s some quick and easy tips on how to do this:

How To Store Beef Liver in the Fridge

Leave it in the vac-pack bag from your supermarket until you’re ready to cook with it. If purchasing from a butcher, place it in an airtight plastic bag, and be sure to use it within 2 days.

Keep the liver in the coolest spot in your fridge until you’re ready to use it, and if you don’t use it all, freeze the remainder.

How To Store Beef Liver in the Freezer

This is the best option if you’re not sure when you want to cook your beef liver, and it’s easy to do:

  •   Wrap it tightly in a couple of layers of thick plastic or aluminium, this will help keep it frozen, but also help prevent freezer burn.
  •   Keep it deep within your freezer, where temperature fluctuations are limited.

How To Store Beef Liver on the Countertop

Only in an airtight or vac-sealed container until ready to use.

What Can I Use Instead of Beef Liver?

If your beef liver has gone bad, you might need to think about substitutes you can use in your dish instead.

There are various types of liver that can be used instead, but common alternatives for beef liver include calf liver, pork liver and chicken liver.

Calf Liver

Both types of liver come from the same animal and nutritionally they are the same. However, the taste and texture change as the cow grows up.

The cow’s lifespan diet and living conditions can also affect this. For the most part, beef liver is stronger earthy, nutty flavour. 

If you haven’t eaten liver before, calf liver is probably a better option to begin with so you grow accustomed to the taste of liver. However, calf liver is usually a bit more expensive than beef.

Pork Liver

Both pork and beef liver are nutritionally and texturally similar, but pork has a lighter color.

In terms of taste, pork liver is strong with some sweet aftertaste, whereas beef liver is earthier with absolutely no sweetness to it.

Pork livers do have a lot more fat than beef liver. This means that you should be extra cautious not to cook them for too long. Cooking liver rare to medium-rare results in a creamy texture whereas overcooked liver is grainy and tough.

Chicken Liver

Chicken liver is generally more popular than beef liver. Chicken liver is usually easier to prepare, as it can be slightly overcooked whilst staying retaining it’s juiciness. Beef liver becomes very chewy and hard if cooked for too long.

In terms of their nutrient content, beef liver is far more nutrient dense than chicken liver and is higher in most nutrients, particularly vitamin A. However, chicken liver is higher in vitamins and minerals such as selenium, iron and Vitamin C.

To Sum Up

Beef liver is an old school favourite that is healthy and tasty, it should be eaten fresh within 1-2 days of purchase, or freeze it for later enjoyment.

Frozen it will last for 3-4 months at best. A beef liver that has gone bad will smell ‘off’, and have grey-white discolouration.