Hot dogs, sausages and frankfurters are such a popular food, and even offer up a quick snack when eaten cold out the fridge. However, as popular as hot dogs are, is it safe to eat them cold?
The answer to this is somewhat varied. There are so many different types of sausages out there, with some being fully cooked already, and others needing a warm-up before consumption.
Some hot dogs are safe to eat cold, while others are not. Here is everything you need to know on whether or not eating cold hot dogs is okay!
Check the Label
The best way to know more about your hot dog or sausage is to check the label on the packaging they are sold in. If the hot dogs are fully cooked when sold, they are fine to eat cold.
The labeling will also give you good information about other factors – such as safe handling, the cooking instructions, and the ingredients and nutrient contents. Most handling requires the hot dogs to be kept cold in the fridge, even if the sausages are fully cooked, partially cooked, or raw.
If the labeling says the hot dogs or sausages are partially cooked or raw, you should avoid eating them cold. They might contain bacteria and other nasties that could cause food poisoning and other illnesses. These should always be cooked before consumption and be eaten straight away.
Listeria is one of the main concerns when eating hot dogs cold. It is a bacteria that lives in soil, dust, animal waste, water, and many other substances. If a person eats food with traces of listeria, they can become sick and experience food poisoning.
Healthy people who come into contact with listeria will feel sick for a few days, but for others, the infection can be serious and even life-threatening, especially to pregnant women, babies and the elderly.
Listeria can grow at cold temperatures, such as inside a refrigerator, and is commonly found in deli meats, such as hot dogs, which have not been processed properly. Because of this, many people choose to heat their hot dogs, instead of eating them cold.
The basic symptoms of listeria include diarrhea, nausea, fevers, and achy muscles. If these symptoms are experienced, it is best to seek out medical attention.
Types of Sausages
There are so many different types of sausages to choose from, so it can become quite confusing which are fine to eat cold, and which need some cooking beforehand.
Sausages can be made from red meat such as beef, pork, lamb or veal, or made from poultry such as turkey or chicken.
To prevent food sickness, all uncooked sausages which contain ground beef, lamb, pork or veal should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Those which contain ground chicken or turkey should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sausages that are sold as ready-to-eat are either dry, semi-dry or cooked. These can be smoked, unsmoked or cooked. Semi-dry sausages are usually fully cooked by being heated in the smokehouse, and then partially dried. Cooked sausages are fully cooked before packaging and can also be smoked.
Which Sausages You Can Eat Cold
Sausages that are cooked or smoked are fine to eat cold unless stated on the label. These are made of one or more types of ground or chopped meats that have been seasoned and smoked or cooked.
Some sausages which fall into this category are:
- Hot dogs
- Cooked bratwurst
- Cooked salami
- Cooked Thuringer
- Dried kielbasa
These sausages are commonly found in the deli section and can be kept in the fridge for up to a week before being eaten, but once again, it is important to check the label for safe handling and storage.
Which Sausages Should Be Cooked
Fresh sausages always need to be cooked before being eaten. These sausages are made from meat food products which have been reduced to mince or finely chopped and can contain different meat by-products such as hearts, kidneys or livers.
Fresh sausages are often seasoned, cured and may contain binders to keep them in shape. These sausages need to be kept thoroughly refrigerated and cooked properly before eating.
Sausages that fall into this category include:
- Fresh pork sausages
- Fresh beef sausages
- Breakfast sausages
- Whole hog sausage
- Italian sausage products
- White kielbasa
Safe Storage for Sausages
One of the best ways to ensure that sausages are safe to eat is by practicing safe storage. As there are so many different variants of sausages, there will be different storage guidelines.
You should always adhere to the different dates on the labeling, and understand their different meanings:
- The ‘sell-by’ date is for the store to know how long they can store the product for on sale. The product should be bought before the date expires.
- The ‘best if used by’ date is the date given for the product to be used before to ensure the best flavor and quality, it is not a purchase or food safety date, but rather a guideline on the best time to consume the product.
- The ‘use-by’ date is a really important one. The product should not be consumed after the used-by date to ensure that it is at peak quality, and has no chance of being off.
How to Store Sausages
- Fresh uncooked sausages – These sausages can remain in the refrigerator opened or unopened for up to 2 days, and can be kept in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Fresh sausage after home cooking – Sausages which are cooked at home can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, and can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Dry sausages – Dry sausages can be kept for up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator, and 3 weeks after being opened. They are fine to be frozen for up to 2 months.
- Hot dogs (cooked sausages) – Cooked sausages can be kept in the fridge unopened for up to 2 weeks. Once opened, the hot dogs should be consumed in 7 days, and can be left in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Semi-dry sausages – Semi-dry sausages can last up to 3 months unopened in the fridge, and 3 weeks after opening. They are also fine to be frozen for up to 2 months.
Can You Reheat Hot Dogs?
If you have had a family gathering or overcooked for lunch, you might find yourself with some leftover hot dogs. It can be confusing whether or not it is safe to reheat hot dogs the next day, but if stored correctly, reheating hot dogs is perfectly fine.
Here are some safe ways to reheat hot dogs:
Microwave – Wrap the hot dog in a paper towel and heat it for 30 seconds on high in the microwave. Test for temperature, and heat more if needed. If the hot dog is split at the edges, it has been overcooked.
Oven – Reheating hot dogs in the microwave is a good method if you have quite a few hot dogs to heat up. Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the hot dogs in a single layer and cover them with aluminum, this prevents overcooking. Bake the hot dogs for five minutes, until they are warm and have a slight change in color.
Eating Cold Hot Dogs
The key to knowing whether or not a hot dog is fine to eat cold is by reading the label. If the label says pre-cooked or smoked, you know it will be safe to be eaten as is.
However, if it says partially cooked or raw, you should cook them thoroughly before eating. By not doing so, you could come into contact with listeria, or other bacteria that could cause illness.
Hot dogs are the perfect on-the-go snack or family lunchtime meal. Just make sure you are storing and preparing them properly and you will be safe!
Can Frozen Hot Dogs Go Bad?
It is best to keep hot dogs frozen for up to 2 months. This is the period where the quality and taste of the hot dogs will be best. However, hot dogs kept frozen longer than this time will be fine to eat, they will just not have the same taste and quality as fresher hot dogs.
Can I Freeze Cooked Hot Dogs?
If stored properly, cooked hot dogs can remain in the fridge for 3 days. If you want to further extend the shelf life of the hot dogs, you can freeze them in freezer bags or airtight containers. These will be fine to freeze for up to 2 months, and just need to be thawed and reheated before being eaten.
What Is the Best Way to Cook a Hot Dog?
There are so many different ways to cook hot dogs, but the best way to cook a hot dog to ensure it has the best flavor and quality is to heat it on a skillet. Add a small amount of water to the skillet and heat until the water starts to boil off. Add in the hot dogs and cook until they are ready.