Freezing meat is a great way to preserve it for later use. Since products made from ground meat tend to spoil quickly, it’s great to have this option.
How long is frozen sausage good for, and how long can you expect it to last once it’s thawed? You’ll want to know the answers in advance, or the results could be disappointing. That’s where this guide comes in.
How Long is Frozen Sausage Good For?
Fresh raw sausage can be frozen for up to 6 months before the texture starts to deteriorate. If the sausages are cooked, they should be defrosted within 3 months. Once they’re thawed, try to cook and eat the sausages within the next day or two.
How Long Does Fresh Sausage Last in the Fridge?
Whether you’ve made your own fresh sausage or bought a package of the raw product from a reputable source, it should keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.
When you’re curing sausage, the mixture can sit in the fridge for up to 3 days before you cook it off. The preservatives will stave off bacterial growth, so you don’t have to worry as much about spoilage.
That said, it’s better to cook off fresh sausage as soon as possible. It will last longer once it’s cooked. You’ll have 3 to 4 days to either enjoy or freeze any leftover cooked sausage before it starts to exhibit signs of spoilage.
How Long Does Precooked Sausage Last in the Fridge?
What if you’ve purchased precooked sausage—like a package of hot dogs—from the store? As we mentioned, the cooking process will prolong the shelf life, but these products have often been treated with preservatives to help them last even longer.
Before you open the package, the sausages should maintain their freshness for up to 2 weeks. If you’ve already opened them, they’ll be exposed to the air, so they may not keep for longer than a week.
How Long is Frozen Sausage Good For?
In theory, once you freeze the sausage, it will keep indefinitely. The reality, however, is a bit different.
Food doesn’t spoil when it’s stored in the freezer because the subzero temperatures are inhospitable to bacteria. As long as you keep the sausages safely frozen, they won’t go bad.
The long exposure to freezing temperatures has an unfortunate side effect, though. If you keep the sausage in the freezer for longer than a few months, it will dry out and be prone to freezer burn.
Cooked leftovers are more likely to be unpleasantly dry after long stints in the freezer. That’s because meat loses moisture when it cooks. It’s better to freeze the sausages when they’re fresh.
For optimum results, thaw and cook frozen raw sausages within 6 months. When storing cooked sausages in the freezer, try to limit the storage period to 3 months.
How Long Does Sausage Keep After Thawing?
The answer to this query depends on a couple of factors.
For one, the total shelf life of the thawed product will be about the same whether the sausage was frozen or not. So if you keep it in the fridge for two days before freezing it, you should cook it as soon as possible after thawing.
On the other hand, if you froze the raw sausage immediately, you’ll have a couple of days to cook it off once it’s thawed. Because it was still fairly fresh when it went into the freezer, it will keep longer after defrosting.
If that doesn’t make sense, think about it in these terms: Freezing the sausage is like hitting the pause button on its shelf life. It doesn’t revert the product to its full freshness—it only ensures that no new bacterial growth takes place while it’s frozen.
The defrosting procedure is another consideration to keep in mind. If you thaw the sausage in the fridge, you can wait a day or two before cooking it as long as it remains fresh. That’s one of the reasons why we prefer to defrost meat in the refrigerator.
The one drawback to this technique is that it can take a while for the sausage to be ready. A package of frozen sausages could take up to 24 hours to fully defrost. If this is an issue, you might want to rethink your options.
When thawing meat in cold water (or the microwave), you need to cook it off immediately. That might not be an issue if you’re in a hurry, but it does put a strict time limit on things, so keep that in mind when selecting your thawing method.
When the meat is already cooked beforehand, you can reheat it from a frozen state. However, the texture will be better if you defrost it in the fridge for at least a few hours first.
More Tips on Storage and Handling
Always keep sausage refrigerated, whether it’s fresh or precooked. Some types of sausage can be safely kept at room temperature, but the truth is, they’ll last longer if you put them in the fridge instead.
The rule of thumb is to refrigerate all meat products within 2 hours, or 1 hour in hot weather. When they’re left out at room temperature for longer than that, the types of bacteria that cause food poisoning can breed rapidly.
Wrap any leftovers tightly, or store them in airtight containers. The key is to force as much air as possible out of the packages before sealing them. The more tightly packed the sausages are, the longer they’ll remain fresh.
Store meat products (cooked and raw) on the bottom shelf of the fridge, pushed toward the back. That allows them to stay nice and cold, which is another way to ensure that they’ll keep longer.
When freezing sausage, you might want to divide it into small portions. That way, you can defrost only as much as you think you’ll use at one time. Thawing more than one package is always an option, but you don’t want to defrost too much.
While we’re on the subject, it is possible to refreeze sausage even if you haven’t cooked it first. Just remember that it doesn’t have a very long shelf life in the first place, so the meat might not be at its best when you get around to defrosting it again.
How To Tell if Sausage is Spoiled
Even if you’ve followed the storage guidelines to the letter, there’s a chance that the sausage might go bad before you get a chance to eat it. Though this situation is rare, you should know what signs to watch out for.
First of all, fresh sausage shouldn’t have much of an odor. You might catch a whiff of herbs and spices, but that’s all. If it has a strong scent—sour, overly sweet, or similar to rotten eggs—it’s best to throw it out.
Also, look for any suspicious discoloration. If the meat has turned an unhealthy shade of brown or gray, or if there are any patches of mold, then it’s definitely spoiled.
Another telltale sign of spoilage is a slimy texture. This phenomenon comes about when bacteria begin to feed on the surface of the meat. The raw sausage should feel springy and slightly sticky, but not overly wet or slimy.
You can keep sausage in the freezer for as long as you need to, but bear in mind that it will start to dry out after a few months. Also, once it’s thawed, it will only retain its best qualities for a day or two, so don’t defrost it unless you plan to eat it soon.