How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?

Written in 2024
by Adam

    Smoked meat is a traditional food that has been around for centuries. The origin of smoking meat can be traced back to the ancient civilizations in China, India, and Egypt. These three cultures were among the first to smoke meat in order to preserve it. This technique was revolutionary at the time because no one had figured out how to keep meats fresh without refrigeration before them! Today people smoke meats for many reasons including convenience, flavour, hobby and tradition. In this blog post we will cover everything you want to know about smoked meat, from what it is and why people do it, how long does smoked meat last inside or outside the fridge? And more!

    What Is Smoked Meat?

    Smoked meat is meat that has been dried or salted, then slowly cooked in smoke using a smoker. Check out this CosmoGrill Outdoor XL Smoker. Smoking meat is a preservation technique that has been used for centuries to keep food from spoiling. The smoke and salt in the process preserve the meat by drawing out moisture, inhibiting bacterial growth, and slowing down rancidity. Different types of smoked meats last differently; these ranges will vary depending on your personal preferences as well as how you store or prepare them before storing.

    There are different types of wood such as mesquite, applewood, cherrywood, hickory, oak etc... The smoking process gives the meat its distinct smokey flavour while also preserving it. This is why most people will never eat smoked meat that has gone bad!

    Why People Love Smoking Meat

    Smoking meat is a process that was initially used to preserve meats as there were no other methods available. Although now we have many alternatives such as freezing and canning, smoking meat remains a popular choice today because people enjoy the flavouring of smoked meats.

    Foods like beef jerky, bacon and salmon are great examples of smoked meats!

    Smoking also helps remove some strong odours from different types of meats such as fish.

    How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?

    So how long does smoked meat last? You may be thinking why this matters but it actually plays a very important role in your food safety plan! The first thing you must know is whether you are storing your meats inside or outside the fridge.

    Note these time estimates focus on smoked fresh meats only as it is the most common type of smoked meat made in most homes. Nowadays, not many people proceed to the additional process of drying or curing in brine to make it last longer like ancient times.

    If you have leftovers, make sure to store them 2 hours after cooking. Beyond that, the meat's internal temperature drops to a dangerously low zone of 4-60 °C (40-140 °F) where harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli start to form and multiply every 4-20 minutes. It only takes small amounts of E. coli or salmonella to cause serious food poisoning.

    The average time most smoked fresh meats will last in the fridge is 4 days. To make it last longer you can freeze it and depend on the type of meat it will last between 3- 6 months.

    How Long Different Types Of Smoked Meat Last

    Smoked meats come in many cuts and forms. Depending on what type of smoked meat and the stage the meat is in you will need to follow different rules about how long they last.

    The rule of thumb is that dried smoked meats last longer than fresh smoked meats because all the moisture was removed during the smoking process. Therefore, harmful bacteria growth is slowed down.

    Smoked Chicken

    Chicken is a bit tricky to determine how long it will last as it depends on whether you have cooked or uncooked chicken. Uncooked smoked chicken can last 3 days whereas cooked smoked chicken that has been refrigerated will only last up to 2 days. To extend the shelf like vacuum seal it and it will go for 7 days in the fridge and if frozen it will last 1 month. 

    Smoked Ground Beef/Pork

    Smoked ground beef lasts for about 2 days before it needs to be used or frozen. If you vacuum seal the meat after cooking it will last up to 7 days whereas frozen will last up to 3 months

    Smoked Salmon

    Salmon is a fantastic type of meat that remains popular among many people. Smoked fresh salmon can last for 2-3 days in the fridge, when dried it will last for 21 days and if frozen will last up to 3 months.

    Smoked Bacon

    Smoked bacon is an example of meat that is often preserved with nitrates. Uncooked smoked bacon lasts for 1-2 weeks whereas cooked bacon will only last up to 5 days. Vacuum sealed it can last for up to 3 months and frozen between 2-9 months in the freezer.

    Smoked Sausage and Hot Dogs

    Smoked Sausages and hot dogs are other examples of meats that don't last very long in the fridge. Studies show that they can only last for 1-2 days whereas vacuum-sealed sausages will only last up to 3 months. Whereas frozen it will last up to 2 months

    Smoked Ham

    The shelf life of smoked ham depends on whether you have cooked or uncooked meats. Uncooked smoked ham can last up to 1 week whereas cooked it will only last for 4 days in the fridge. Vacuum sealed it will last 7 days and frozen between 3-6 months.

    Beef Jerky

    Beef jerky is an example of dried meat that will last for weeks when in the fridge. If vacuum sealed it can be frozen and last between 3-6 months in the freezer whereas in the fridge it will only last for 1-2 weeks.

    Smoked Beef Brisket

    Smoked beef brisket is a popular type of smoked meat used in many homes across the world. Cooked smoked briskets last up to 4 days whereas raw ones will only last 1-2 days. To make them last longer some companies opt to sell them dried , such types last for up to 2 weeks.

    When storing in the freezer make sure to vacuum seal them and they will go for 2-3 months.

    How To Store Your Smoked Meat

    If you are done with your preserved meat, then here are some guidelines on how to store it.

    Vacuum sealing is one of the best storage methods for keeping smoked meats. Not only does it prolong their shelf life, but it also helps minimize freezer burn. To vacuum seal, place the meat in a food-safe bag and remove as much air as possible by either hand or with a vacuum sealer . One of the best vacuum sealers is Homeasy Vacuum Sealer. Once finished, place the bags in the freezer.

    Keep your fridge temperatures at 0.5-2.2 °C (33-36 °F) because higher temperatures are just perfect for bacteria to grow.

    If you want to keep smoked meats in a conventional freezer, use an airtight container or heavy-duty foil and place it on a flat surface so they freeze evenly. Make sure to place your meat at the back of the freezer where it's coldest.

    How To Make Smoked Meat Last Longer

    Using our new knowledge on how long does smoked meat last, we need to know the best way to store it in order to extend its shelf life! 

    Store in original package, don't open until ready to use Store in airtight freezer bags

    Whichever container or bag you choose is airtight either by vacuum sealing or using a step process of first wrapping the meat in a waxed freezer bag or plastic wrap, then the second step is to wrap the meat with heavy-duty aluminium foil to seal in the juices.

    You can cook them further by roasting, steaming, or frying them to kill any bacteria or moulds.

    Cut the smoked meat into strips and soak them in a salt solution made of 2 cups water and 1/4 cup salt for 15 minutes. A process called curing.

    Some companies prefer to place their smoked meat in the oven at 160 °C (320 °F) for 30-45 minutes to kill off any bacteria present. Some even prefer to do this with already cooked smoked meats.

    Stick your smoked meats in the fridge for 24 hours before you freeze them. This will help them last longer

    Freeze liquids before solidifying meats because water expands when it turns to ice and this may cause the container to break apart from the pressure.

    If you plan to store your smoked meats in the freezer, make sure you freeze them for no more than 3 months because prolonged exposure will make them lose their taste and quality.

    When smoking meat always use hardwood rather than softwoods because they contain higher amounts of lignin which gives the meat its storability.

    Safely Handling Smoked Meat

    Smoked meat like any meat needs to be handled with care to ensure cross-contamination does not occur because this also will have an effect on the overall shelf life.

    Also, note freezing contaminated smoked meat does not kill the bacteria, it will still be there when the meat thaws.

    Let's look at a few helpful tips for safely handling smoked meat:

    When storing cooked smoked meats, make sure to label it with the date of cooking.

    To prevent cross-contamination, never place cooked meat beside raw meat to avoid any risk of contamination that may occur if their juices mix together. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and cooked meat.

    Ensure smoked meats are well-cooked before consuming them because this kills off any bacteria present.

    When smoking the meat, make sure it has reached the maximum recommended internal temperature to kill off any bacteria. Smoked meat is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 72 °C (160 °F) for 15 seconds minimum.

    Has Your Smoked Meat Gone Bad...

    If your smoked meat has gone it will have yellow and green spots instead of being brown and crispy.

    Another thing to check is the smell, smoked meat should have a strong, smoky smell.

    The texture will change to hard, waxy or in extreme spoilage it will be slimy

    Not everything is lost when your smoked meat has gone bad! It may not be fit for eating but it sure is useful if you're feeling creative. Some people throw them in the garden to act as fertilizer!

    Final Thoughts ...

    Smoking meat is one of the best methods of preserving meat because it not only kills bacteria but also gives them a desirable taste.

    If you follow the rules and tips mentioned above to safely handle smoked meat, you will have a much longer shelf life.

    Another good point is that smoked meats freeze well, so that's another plus!

    Hopefully, this article on how long does smoked meat last has been helpful. Remember, check out the different types of smoked meats for more information about each type.

    Possible FAQs

    How Long Can Smoked Meat Last Without Refrigeration?

    Smoked meat if fresh lasts for about 2 hours at room temperature after cooking.

    Is vacuum your smoked meat sealing worth it?

    Vacuum sealing is one of the best modern techniques of extending preservation. It works by reducing oxidation, which is the process of removing all oxygen traces that cause smoked meat to go bad. Additionally, it helps prevent freezer burn, which makes the meat lose its flavour and quality.

    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

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