Even though it’s precooked, most smoked sausage should be stored in the refrigerator. Cured sausages, such as summer sausage, might be stable at room temperature, but they’ll have a longer shelf life if you keep them in the fridge.
So how long does smoked sausage last in the fridge before you have to start getting worried? Keep reading to find out the answer.
How Long Does Smoked Sausage Last in the Fridge?
The shelf life of smoked sausage varies depending on the conditions, as well as the type of sausage. Homemade smoked sausage should be consumed within 4 days, but an unopened package of store-bought sausage can last for a few weeks. Once opened, the prepackaged variety should keep for up to 1 week.
Smoked Sausage 101
Sausage consists of meat that’s been finely ground and mixed with seasonings. Often, it’s stuffed into casings to help it hold its shape. If you’re dealing with smoked sausage, there’s a better-than-average chance that casings are holding it together.
Smoked sausage has been exposed to low temperatures and wood smoke in order to boost its flavor. You can smoke sausage yourself if you have the proper tools, but commercially prepared smoked sausage is easy to come by.
Many types of smoked sausages are cured beforehand, meaning they’ve been treated with special salt blends to lengthen their shelf life. Some types, like summer sausage, can even be stored at room temperature without going bad.
How Long Does Smoked Sausage Last in the Fridge?
While fresh ground meat products only keep for a day or two, smoked sausage has a longer shelf life.
Cooking the meat will stave off spoilage. Homemade smoked sausage should keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Smoking sausage is a time-consuming process, but the results are worth it. We would suggest setting the smoker to a low temperature—about 200 degrees—and allowing it to smoke for 2 to 3 hours.
You’ll know your smoked sausage is ready to come off the heat when it’s cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, you can remove it from the smoker and set it aside to rest. The internal temperature should rise another 5 degrees while the juices redistribute.
It’s important not to overcook sausage because it will lose too much fat, giving it a dry and unpleasant texture. On the other hand, you don’t want to undercook it, as it could still be harboring dangerous bacteria if it doesn’t heat to at least 160 degrees.
If you’ve purchased smoked sausage from the store, it’s likely been treated with preservatives that will make it last even longer. Most will be fine to eat after 2 to 3 weeks, and cured dry sausages like salami can last for months.
Know that the shelf life depends on the type of sausage, the storage conditions, and whether or not the package is opened. While unopened hard salami might keep for several months, it will go bad more quickly once it’s opened, especially if you slice it.
How Long is Smoked Sausage Good Once It’s Opened?
Unopened packages will preserve the meat for longer periods. Once you’ve opened the wrapper, expect the sausage to retain its freshness for up to 7 days.
Some types of sausage might still be good after more than a week has passed. Most manufacturers recommend using the 7-day guideline, but you can rely on your senses to determine whether the meat is still suitable for consumption.
For details on how to check meat for spoilage, see the section below.
How To Tell if Smoked Sausage is Bad
The guidelines for testing smoked sausage for spoilage are similar to those for any other type of cooked meat. In case you’re unfamiliar with those, we’ll go over them now.
The first test you should perform is the smell test. Spoiled meat has a distinctive odor, caused by the bacteria that have set up camp there. If you notice a sour or overly sweet odor—or anything that overpowers the smoky scent—that’s a big red flag.
Let’s assume the sausage still smells fine. What does it look like? Is it the same color it was when you originally stored it, or has the color changed? Any unusual discoloration or patches of mold indicate that the sausage is no longer fresh.
You should also run your finger along the sausage to test the texture. When the meat feels slimy to the touch, it usually means that bacteria have begun to feed there. It might just be wet from the packaging, but you’ll have to use your judgment.
When it comes to testing meat for spoilage, trust your instincts. If you think the meat has outlasted its best days, then you’re better off throwing it away.
How Long Does Smoked Sausage Last in the Freezer?
The point of freezing meat is to preserve it until you’re ready to cook it—or reheat it, in the case of smoked sausage.
In theory, the freezing temperatures will allow the sausage to keep indefinitely. While it’s true that the subzero temps will halt bacterial growth, there’s another side to the story.
Meat that’s been stored in the freezer for longer than a few months will be susceptible to freezer burn. Even if it avoids this phenomenon, the long storage period will cause the meat to dry out.
This is true especially when the meat is cooked, since it’s lost moisture already through the exposure to heat. It’s best not to store smoked sausage in the freezer for longer than 2 months.
Once you’ve thawed the sausage, try to use it within 3 days. If that’s not a feasible timeline, it might be better to leave it in the freezer a bit longer before defrosting it.
How To Store Smoked Sausage
Don’t open packaged sausage unless you’re planning on eating at least some of it right away. The product will stay fresh longer if it’s still in the original wrapper.
Once you’ve opened the package, wrap the sausage tightly in plastic wrap, or store it in a tightly sealed container or zip-top bag. Do the same for any sausage you’ve smoked yourself.
Be sure to press as much excess air out of the package as you can. When meat is exposed to air, it attracts more bacteria, thereby hastening spoilage.
Check your refrigerator temperature. Is it set between 34 and 38 degrees? If it’s any warmer, there’s a chance the meat will spoil more quickly. But if you set it at 33 degrees or lower, your food might freeze.
Finally, keep all meat products as far away from the door as possible. The best place to keep sausage is in the back of the fridge, on a low shelf. If that’s not an option, keep it in a drawer to protect it from the warm air that enters the fridge when it’s opened.
The Bottom Line
Keep your smoked sausage in the fridge to help it stay fresh longer, even if it’s been cured.
Though the store-bought variety will last longer, we would recommend smoking fresh sausages yourself. They’re so delicious, you might not have to worry about their shelf life—they’ll be gone in no time.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!