Hot dogs are a convenient option for the grill—unless you open the package to find that the links are slimy to the touch. Do you need to discard slimy hot dogs, or are they still safe to cook? Read on to find out the answer.
Slimy Hot Dogs
When meat gains a slimy or filmy texture, it’s usually because the meat is spoiled. That’s often the case with hot dogs, too. You may notice moistness on the surface of the links if they’ve been packaged in a brine solution, but they shouldn’t be sticky, gooey, or slimy. If they are, or if the meat smells off, throw them out.
What’s In a Hot Dog?
However, hot dogs are highly processed, which means they play by a slightly different set of rules. We’ll talk more about that in the following section.
Hot dogs are a type of sausage that’s usually made from pork or beef. They may also consist of a combination of these two meats. It’s not unheard of for the mixture to contain chicken, either, though you won’t see this advertised all that often.
In order to make hot dogs, manufacturers will grind the meat finely and add simple seasonings. Salt, garlic, and paprika are standard. The flavor of hot dogs is relatively mild when compared to other popular sausages such as bratwurst and kielbasa.
Hot dogs are usually fully cooked before they’re packaged for sale. That’s another quality that distinguishes them from other types of sausage, which are often available either raw or precooked. It’s rare to find hot dogs sold raw, but it’s not impossible.
Because hot dogs don’t have a strong flavor on their own, they hold up well to creative toppings. The classic combination is grilled onion, yellow mustard, and dill pickle relish. Other popular toppings include ketchup, chili, shredded cheese, and sauerkraut.
Slimy Hot Dogs: Are They Spoiled?
When you open a package of hot dogs and notice that they’re coated in a layer of slime, what does that mean? Is the meat spoiled, or are they supposed to feel like that?
Some prepackaged luncheon meats, such as turkey, will have a slimy texture as soon as you open them, even if they’re still fresh. This happens when certain additives in the meat begin to break down, so it doesn’t indicate spoilage.
You might be tempted to think the same when you open a package of slimy hot dogs. However, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between normal moisture and the presence of spoilage bacteria.
If the hot dogs are slightly damp to the touch, that’s one thing. The manufacturer likely included a brine solution to help improve the shelf life of the product. This is harmless, especially if the unopened package was still several days from its sell-by date.
But if the texture is overly slimy or gooey, that’s a sign that bacteria has been feeding on the meat for some time. Your only recourse in this situation is to throw the hot dogs away.
We’ll point out that this type of bacteria won’t necessarily make you sick if you go ahead and eat the hot dogs anyway. However, the risk is still there. It’s also unpleasant to eat a hot dog that has a slimy texture, especially if the flavor has been affected.
You may also notice other signs of spoilage. These include a foul odor, unusual discoloration, or spots of mold on the hot dogs. Needless to say, you should discard them if any of these red flags are present.
Avoiding the Problem
About those sell-by dates: Most of the time, we don’t advocate using them as a measuring stick when it comes to freshness. They’re only there to let the retailers know how long the product should be displayed for sale. It might still be fine for several days more.
Since precooked hot dogs have a longer shelf life than fresh meats, though, the sell-by date can come in handy. If the date on the package is only a couple of days away, the hot dogs are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria.
Unless you’re planning on cooking off the hot dogs within a day or two (see below), try to select a package that has a later sell-by date. That way, you can leave them in the fridge without worrying as much about spoilage.
How Long Do Hot Dogs Last?
In general, an unopened package of precooked hot dogs should last for 2 weeks in the fridge. Once you open the package, you’ll have about a week to cook them off before they start to go bad.
Feel free to freeze the remaining hot dogs if you aren’t going to eat them again anytime soon. They won’t go bad in the freezer, but they will start to deteriorate after a couple of months, so be sure to label the package before you put it in there.
Prepared hot dogs will keep for about 3 to 4 days under the right conditions. That means keeping leftovers properly refrigerated at temperatures between 33 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also freeze the leftovers, but the texture may not be ideal when you thaw them.
While we’re on the subject, remember not to leave the hot dogs out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. This applies whether you’ve cooked them or not. In fact, if the weather outside is particularly hot, you should refrigerate them after just 1 hour.
Is the sliminess due to spoilage or a preservation technique? With some processed meats, it can be hard to tell.
We’ve found, however, that slimy hot dogs are past their prime more often than not. Pay close attention to the texture, and throw them out if they’re sticky or gooey instead of just plain moist.