When mince meat starts to turn brown your natural instinct is probably to throw it in the bin out of fear that it has gone off, but according to experts there is no need to ditch the product immediately.
Contrary to popular belief, the change in colour doesn’t mean the meat is old or stale and as long as it has been stored correctly in the refrigerator, it will still taste delicious in spaghetti or lasagne. So what does the brown colour mean and how does it occur?
Well, mince meat goes through a number of stages during its shelf life, transforming from the bright red colour seen on supermarket shelves to a tinged browny-grey colour. It may make you feel a little uneasy about using the product, but according to the New South Wales Food Authority, it’s a naturally occurring process and the meat is still perfectly fine to consume.
All meat contains a pigment called myoglobin which appears as a purple colour in freshly cut meat. When this pigment comes into contact with oxygen it forms oxymyoglobin, which produces the bright red colour of beef products, such as mince meat.
“After several hours or days of exposure, the oxymoyoglobin can convert to metmyoglobin, which has a brown-grey colour,” the NSW Food Authority states on its website.
When mince meat is packaged using clear film, oxygen is able to pass through keeping the product that vibrant red colour. This colour is usually seen on the top of the meat however, if you look at the bottom, where there is less exposure to oxygen, you’ll notice it probably already has that browny colour to it.
Over time you’ll notice the rest of the mince starts to turn brown. However, it will still be safe to eat as long as it’s been correctly refrigerated and consumed by the use-by date stated on the package.
Although, if the brown-grey colour has spread right through the product, it may be time to throw it out, especially if it has a sour smell and feels tacky to touch. To avoid having to chuck the product in the bin, grab mince last when doing your grocery shopping to reduce the time it’s away from a cold environment.
Make sure the one you select is tightly wrapped and if it has tears or punctures in the cling film, choose another. An excessive amount of liquid is also a sign that the mince hasn’t been kept in a cold enough environment or it has been on the shelves for a longer period, and hence will go off quicker.
When it comes to cooking the mince the bright red colour will turn to brown. However, if the mince has already started to turn brown before cooking, it may be difficult to know when it is cooked through.
To ensure it’s properly cooked, the NSW Food Authority advises cooking mince to a minimum of 71oC all the way through. If in doubt, check the temperature with a thermometer.