After you’ve bought a package of hot dogs, how long can you expect them to last? What about once the package is opened? And if you make your own hot dogs at home, will they have a longer or shorter shelf life? This guide will tell you all you need to know.
How Long Do Hot Dogs Last in the Fridge?
Store-bought hot dogs that have been precooked should keep for 2 weeks when kept in the fridge. Opening the package shortens the shelf life to 1 week, but you can help preserve them by encasing them tightly in plastic wrap. Once you’ve reheated the hot dogs, they should still be good for 3 or 4 days.
Are Hot Dogs Precooked?
Hot dogs are made from ground meat, usually pork or beef. Raw ground meat products only keep for about a day or two before they start to go bad.
The truth is, though, that prepackaged hot dogs are usually cooked to a safe temperature beforehand. This is done for convenience as well as longevity.
If you aren’t sure whether the hot dogs you’ve purchased are raw or precooked, check the label. That should provide you with the information you need.
Otherwise, it’s easy to tell whether you’re dealing with raw sausage by testing the texture. Once it’s cooked, sausage will lose its squishy texture and firm up. The appearance of the meat will change also as it shifts from translucent to opaque.
How Long Do Hot Dogs Last in the Fridge?
A package of precooked store-bought hot dogs should last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks before it’s opened. Checking the sell-by date on the package should give you an idea of how long the product has been available for sale, which is a big help.
When you open the package, the hot dogs are exposed to the air. That speeds up bacterial growth and cuts the shelf life in half. Once opened, the hot dogs will start to deteriorate after about a week.
What if you’ve grilled the hot dogs and have some left over? In this state, they’ll keep about as long as any other cooked meat, about 3 to 4 days. Try to eat them as soon as possible, though, because they’ll start to dry out after the first couple of days.
How Long Do Homemade Hot Dogs Last in the Fridge?
Those of you who’ve experimented with making sausage from scratch will be familiar with the superiority of the results. Homemade hot dogs are no different. Though it doesn’t occur to many home chefs to take this step, the process is relatively simple.
Hot dogs are usually seasoned with garlic and paprika, though other spices may be included. You can experiment with whatever ingredients you’d like. Making sausage from scratch also allows you to control the salt content and the meat-to-fat ratio.
You’ll need a meat grinder with a fine grinding plate to replicate the smooth texture of preprocessed hot dogs. A food processor won’t yield the results you’re looking for. Remember to keep your ingredients and equipment very cold when making homemade sausage.
If you keep the sausage links in their raw form, they’ll only keep for a day or two (unless you’re using a curing salt). Most recipes for homemade hot dogs call for parboiling, which prolongs the shelf life. They’ll keep for up to a week in this case.
How Long Do Hot Dogs Last in the Freezer?
When your plans change and you won’t be able to cook the hot dogs within a reasonable time frame, it’s fine to freeze them instead. Doing so will ensure that they remain fresh until you’re ready to host your next cookout.
You can freeze an unopened package of hot dogs without taking any other steps. For best results, thaw them within 3 to 6 months. They won’t spoil while they’re in the freezer, but long exposure to subzero temperatures will have an adverse affect on the texture.
If the package was opened, be sure to wrap the remaining hot dogs in plastic wrap, then add a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Label the package with the contents and the date so you’ll know how long the meat has been in the freezer.
It’s also permissible to freeze hot dogs after you’ve cooked or reheated them. However, the cooking process will have sapped the meat of some of its moisture, so they’re even more prone to drying out. Thaw and reheat cooked leftover hot dogs within 2 months.
Do You Have To Reheat Hot Dogs?
If the hot dogs are precooked, you don’t have to reheat them. They were already heated to a safe temperature before they were packaged for sale.
On the other hand, it’s better to do so for several reasons. For one thing, cold hot dogs don’t taste very good. Reheating them brings out their flavor and fills them with savory juices. When they’re grilled, it creates a wonderful interplay of textures.
Also, it’s possible that bacteria were introduced at some point before the hot dogs were packaged. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to reheat them just to be on the safe side.
Do Hot Dogs Go Bad?
Though hot dogs last longer than many meat products, they can spoil if you keep them around long enough. Here’s how to tell whether they’ve gone bad or not.
For one thing, spoiled meat often gains a wet or slimy texture due to the bacteria that have begun feeding on the surface. Hot dogs that have been treated with a brine solution might feel damp to the touch and still be fresh. If they’re overly slimy or gooey, though, it’s best to throw them out.
White or gray spots on meat are another common red flag to watch out for. Some prepackaged hot dogs, however, often have discolored patches because the links overlapped during processing or packaging.
That’s not to say that all discolored spots should be ignored. If the hot dogs have turned green or black, or if the pale color is widespread, then you’re better off discarding them.
Fortunately, meat that’s gone bad will often let you know by giving off a distinctly foul odor. It might smell sour, overly sweet, or remind you of sulfur or rotten eggs. Always perform the smell test when testing meat for freshness.
Other Storage and Handling Tips
—After you’ve opened a package of hot dogs, wrap any remaining ones tightly using plastic wrap. Don’t rely on the original packaging alone. Otherwise, the links will dry out and spoil more quickly as they’re exposed to the air.
—Store hot dogs in the refrigerator, away from the door. It’s also best to minimize their exposure to light to avoid discoloration. Make sure the fridge is set to a temperature between 33 and 39 degrees.
—Refrigerate all meat products within 2 hours, or 1 hour when the weather is especially hot. This rule applies whether you’ve cooked the hot dogs yet or not.
—If the hot dogs weren’t precooked, or if you aren’t sure whether they were, make sure to heat them to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. You can remove them from the heat when they’ve cooked to 160 and allow carryover cooking to take care of the rest.
—Letting the hot dogs rest for a few minutes before serving them will help the juices redistribute. You can take this time to toast the buns lightly on the grill, if desired.
Since store-bought hot dogs are a processed meat product, they last for a relatively long time. That’s one of the qualities that makes them so popular with amateur grillers. The others, of course, are that they’re simple to make and a lot of fun to eat.