Smoked sausage is a classic ingredient that is still increasing in popularity on a daily basis.
Today, these sausages are extremely accessible and you can even make your very own at home! You can use them in casseroles, charcuterie or cheese boards, stews, or pasta.
How long is smoked sausage good for in the fridge? When stored properly inside an airtight container in a fridge with stable temperatures, your smoked sausage will last anywhere between 1-3 weeks. This entirely depends on the moisture content of your smoked sausage.
In today’s smoking hot article, pun intended, we will be looking at exactly what smoked sausage is and what will affect the shelf life.
Then, we will also discuss the best ways to store smoked sausage so you can ensure yours lasts as long as it possibly can!
What Is Smoked Sausage?
So, first things first, smoked sausage isn’t really a specific type of dish or ingredient.
It more refers to a broad category of items (specifically sausages) that have been smoked. These sausages are made from various kinds of coarsely ground flavored meat stuffed in casings.
The “smoking” part comes in when the sausages are wood smoked. During this flavor-adding process, the smoking also simultaneously performs some other very interesting and surprising functions.
Arguably the primary function of smoking food and meat is to add a unique flavor. Meat is usually smoked with smoking woods.
This includes wood types like oak, cherry, apple, and cedar, to name a few. Each of these woods has unique burning characteristics and of course, flavors that they infuse.
For example, applewood will add a sweet and fruity flavor, whereas oak adds a heavier and more bitter flavor to the meat.
But, what makes smoking great is that you aren’t limited to only wood. You can essentially use any smoking ingredient, like dried herbs for example. You can even smoke-dried fruits and vegetables for a more sweet and earthy flavor.
Smoking is an opportunity to create a more complex flavor profile. It has the potential to add hints of woodiness, earthiness, nuttiness, and fruitiness to your meat.
Furthermore, you can even cold smoke or hot smoke the sausages.
These two different methods basically come down to whether or not you are cooking the sausage while adding the flavor. Cold smoking only adds flavor while hot smoking cooks the sausage to a certain extent.
Naturally, the longer you smoke the sausage, the more flavor you add. When using some types of wood (or a smoking ingredient), it can be beneficial to the flavor profile, while others may completely ruin it.
Just as a side note, more often than not smoked sausages have been cured with salt and dried during the smoking process. When sausages have been cold smoked they aren’t really referred to as smoked sausage.
Smoked sausages can refer to both raw and cooked sausages, although smoked sausages are more commonly cured and dried (cooked).
Raw smoked sausages are infused with flavor using cold smoking techniques, where heat wasn’t applied. These types of sausages still have a high moisture content and therefore a shorter shelf life.
However, when hot smoking techniques are used, it does cook the meat to varying degrees.
The longer the meat is smoked, the lower the moisture content will be, and the drier the sausage will be (more cooked). These sausages are preserved and will have a longer shelf life.
Obviously, the type of technique used, the type of wood, the time of smoking, and a ton of other smaller factors all contribute to creating unique smoked sausages.
Smoking is an ancient type of preservation method used. When heat is applied through smoking, it lowers the moisture content in the sausage.
As you may already know, moisture is what aids bacterial growth. So, by lowering the moisture content, you are reducing the potential for bacteria to grow.
And, the longer you smoke an item, the lower the moisture levels will be. Smoking could potentially help preserve sausages for a couple of months!
Now, it is also worth mentioning that when sausages are preserved with smoking, they have also usually been dry or wet cured.
Curing is another type of preservation method that creates an extremely salty or acidic environment that kills bacteria.
What Affects The Shelf Life Of Smoked Sausage?
There are essentially three main factors that affect the shelf life of smoked sausage. These are moisture, oxygen, and heat.
Moisture is essential for all living things. So, the more moisture present in an item, the easier it will be for living things (in this case, bacteria and mold) to grow.
But, by removing the moisture from the item (when cooking or drying it), you are creating an inhospitable environment for these organisms.
Then, you have oxygen. Just like water, oxygen is essential for living beings to exist and thrive.
So, when properly storing smoked sausage, you will be able to reduce the amount of oxygen it is exposed to. This is why you will often see meat or meat products being vacuum-sealed—to reduce the contact with oxygen.
And finally, heat! There is a temperature danger zone ranging between 40-140°F. This temperature range allows bacteria and micro-organisms to rapidly grow.
Outside of this range, the environment becomes too unfavorable and will kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria.
So, by keeping smoked sausage in a cool dry place, inside of the fridge, or even the freezer, you can eliminate the potential growing bacteria. Or at the very least, make it much harder for them to reproduce.
How Long Does Smoked Sausage Last?
The shelf life of smoked sausage mainly depends on two things: how dried the sausage is (the moisture content) and other ingredients inside.
Again, the higher the moisture content of the sausage is, the shorter the shelf life will be. That is why raw un-smoked sausages only last about a week, whereas dried and smoked sausages will last a couple of months.
Then, other accompanying ingredients will also affect the shelf life of the smoked sausage.
For example, any fresh ingredients inserted, like raw nuts, fresh herbs, and fresh fruits or vegetables. All of these ingredients are perishable and will go off.
This could potentially shorten the shelf life of your smoked sausage considerably!
So, to answer the question, on average, once your package has been opened, the smoked sausage will last between 2-3 weeks inside of a fridge.
However, if you have cured and dried smoked sausage, it could last for a month or two if stored properly.
At room temperature, the shelf life will drastically shorten depending on the type of smoked sausage you have.
But, you won’t be able to leave it out for long. If the sausage has been cured, dried, and smoked, it will last about a week at room temperature.
And finally, in the freezer, your smoked sausage will be able to easily last up to 6 months without drastically changing.
How To Tell If Smoked Sausage Has Gone Bad
Trust us when we say, spoilt smoked sausage is extremely easy to notice. It’s actually harder to miss it than to notice it!
The first sign will be the smell. Spoilt meat has a very rotten and rancid smell. This smell could even potentially appear before any visual signs of spoilage.
For visual signs, you may notice some discoloration, a slimy film forming, or even actual mold growing on the sausage.
Furthermore, you could also notice a drastic change in texture, where the meat becomes very soft, mushy, and doesn’t hold shape at all.
How To Correctly Store Smoked Sausage
We do not recommend storing smoked sausage at room temperature, even if it has been cured and dried. You are still shortening the shelf life drastically and increasing the risk of spoilage.
The best place to store your smoked sausage is inside the fridge or freezer.
When storing it in the fridge, you are removing it from the temperature danger zone, reducing the contact with oxygen, and reducing the moisture levels of the surrounding air.
You can place the smoked sausage inside of an airtight container to prevent it from becoming stale and unpleasantly dry.
Then, as we have mentioned, you can also store smoked sausage inside of the freezer. This will extend the shelf life considerably!
Freezing is an additional preserving method that will create an environment that completely inhibits any bacterial functioning.
When freezing smokes sausage, just make sure to store the sausage inside an airtight bag or container. This will help prevent freezer burn and protect the meat from damaging in any way.
How To Thaw Smoked Sausage
The best way to thaw frozen smoked sausage is to do so slowly inside of the fridge. Place the meat inside a bowl or on a place and allow it to defrost overnight.
If you are in a hurry, you can thaw it at room temperature for a couple of hours. However, never under any circumstances thaw meat in a microwave or oven. This will allow bacteria to instantly re-activate and is potentially hazardous.