Food waste is the wurst, especially when it comes to good meats! For those wondering how long can sausage sit out, we have the cure to all of your problems!
Generally speaking, uncooked and cooked sausage can sit out at room temperature for no longer than two hours. However, when exposed to temperatures greater than 90 degrees, this time frame will drop to one hour.
Conversely, for those who like hard or dry sausages, such as pepperoni, certain salami products, and Summer sausage, these products can remain at room temperature, when unopened, for up to six weeks.
Store these products in a cool, dry and dark location, like a pantry. When opened, the same two hour rule will apply.
- Sausage – Types, Proper Storage And Shelf Life
- Considerations For Sausage Storage Times – Meat Type Matters
- Freezer Storage Guidelines
- Defrosting Frozen Sausage – NEVER Let It Sit Out
- Cooking Frozen Sausage
- Final Thoughts
Sausage – Types, Proper Storage And Shelf Life
Sausage is a type of meat product that is made of either pork, beef, chicken, turkey or lamb. The meat is chopped up, seasoned and then either formed into a patty or encased into an edible packaging.
It is normally sold either fresh, cooked, or cured. Storage guidelines are based on this distinction. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “all sausages- except dry sausage – are perishable and therefore must be kept refrigerated or frozen.”
Fresh & Cooked Sausage – Do Not Let It Sit Out
No matter if you purchase fresh or ready-to-eat sausage products, these items can only remain out of refrigeration for two hours or less. This is the window of time that food experts have deemed safe.
However, if the temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, this time frame will drop to one hour. If you allow the foods to sit out past these designated marks, you run the risk of dangerous bacteria beginning to grow and thus the instance of foodborne illnesses.
Moreover, these types of products have a very short shelf life in refrigeration. Uncooked sausage will only stay fresh for two days before it goes bad. This will stretch to three to four days once cooked.
In contrast, pre-cooked and smoked sausage varieties will last until the ‘Best By’ date, if the seal remains unbroken. Otherwise, it will follow the same rules as the freshly cooked sausage.
Sausage Based Dishes Should Not Sit Out For Long Periods
Just as with plain sausage, it is important that consumers follow these same guidelines for dishes that include sausage as one of the main ingredients.
Therefore, if you make sausage balls, jambalaya, sausage gravy, sausage pizza, breakfast casseroles, or pasta dishes that include this delicious protein source, never let them sit out for more than two hours.
Cured Sausage – Safe To Sit Out In Certain Conditions
The word sausage comes from the Latin term ‘salsus’, which means salted. In ancient times, before refrigeration existed, salting and smoking meats were the main methods for preservation.
These practices continue to this day, which is why you continue to see some sausage products, like pepperoni, salami, and Summer sausage, kept at room temperature.
Referred to as hard or dry sausages, these staple charcuterie items “can be stored indefinitely in the refrigerator or for up to six weeks in the pantry. After opening, [you can safely] refrigerate for 3 weeks.”
However, just because these meats are specifically designed to handle Summer conditions does not mean that you should go out of your way to expedite the spoilage time frame.
Therefore, always keep these sausages in a cool, dark, and dry space, such as a pantry or cupboard. Additionally, once opened and sliced, it is imperative that you follow the same two-hour window that applies to all perishable foods.
Finally, unlike in the olden days, just smoking meat will not safely preserve it. Curing is always necessary for the extended storage window.
Considerations For Sausage Storage Times – Meat Type Matters
When it comes to storing your meats, it is also imperative that you consider the source of the meat. The American Meat Science Association notes that the greater the fat content and the higher the concentration of salt in the product, the faster spoilage due to oxidation will occur.
“This is why pork, which has more unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) than other meats, is more perishable than beef and lamb.”
Processed animal fats are less susceptible to this process, but fresh uncooked pork sausage is much more prone to rancidity. This means that you should always use these products within the lower end of the established time frame. (If the meat is generally good for three to four days, use it in three).
Freezer Storage Guidelines
The best method of preservation for meat is freezer storage. This simple step can stretch the shelf life from a few days to one to two months. However, in order to maintain the quality of the meat, you must prioritize the method of packaging.
Breakfast sausages, bratwursts, Mexican chorizo, and Italian sausages all normally come in raw form. These are the sausages that will have the shortest shelf life in the fridge. Thus, make sure to purchase these items right before you intend to cook them.
Pay Attention To Dates
Nonetheless, if you will not be able to prepare them in time, then it is important that you freeze before the “Best By’ date. While freezing will prevent bacteria growth and spoilage, it will not kill existing bacteria that have already infiltrated the meat.
For that reason, also never freeze sausage that has been allowed to sit out for too long.
Use Proper Packaging – Vacuum Seal Or Ziplock Bags
In order to prevent spoilage, food experts recommend packaging your raw sausage using a vacuum sealer machine. This will effectively cut off the supply of oxygen and moisture that could lead to freezer burn and other changes in the meat.
If you do not have this appliance available, then place the meat in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible and seal.
Next, no matter which plastic option you choose, apply a tight layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the top of the bag. Then, label the package with the date and place it on an open shelf in the freezer.
This will expedite the time it takes to freeze, further limiting changes in color, texture, and flavor.
Unlike the raw varieties that normally come packaged in styrofoam and a thin layer of plastic, most cooked sausages like hot dogs, frankfurters and wursts, come pre-vacuum sealed in thick plastic.
If the packaging remains unopened, you can simply apply a tight layer of aluminum foil over the original packaging, label, and place the meat directly in the freezer!
However, the same instructions for storing fresh sausage are necessary once you open the package. This is also the case for fresh sausage that has been cooked but will not get eaten in the safe refrigeration window.
Cured Sausage — Ideal To Sit Out, Not To Freeze
As mentioned, cured sausage is ‘hard’ or ‘dry’. Unfortunately, it has gone through a process to remove moisture. While this keeps the sausage safe at room temperature, it is not ideal for freezer storage.
Why? Cold temperatures cause dehydration. This will lead to further changes in the texture and consistency of the meat, making it less desirable to eat.
Therefore, it is best to consume these sausages within the recommended six weeks. If you do decide to freeze it, make a point to not keep it in cold storage for more than two months.
Defrosting Frozen Sausage – NEVER Let It Sit Out
When it comes to thawing out any type of meat, the ideal technique is to place the frozen product in the fridge 24 hours prior to intended consumption. This slow defrost will help the meat to return to its original state, limiting changes in flavor and consistency.
Nevertheless, we all find ourselves in a rush at times, so the alternative method is to fill a bowl with cold water and place the sealed bag of frozen sausage in it. Replace the water every thirty minutes. Continue until the meat has thawed.
Finally, it is imperative that you never let frozen sausage sit at room temperature to thaw. This can also lead to the introduction of dangerous bacteria into the meat. Lastly, once thawed, use uncooked sausage products within two days and cooked varieties within a week.
Cooking Frozen Sausage
If time is of the essence, you can always cook the meat from frozen. Just know that the exterior will cook faster and will be more likely to burn. Cooking the meat low and slow can help to prevent this issue. Careful monitoring of the food is also imperative.
Furthermore, some sausage products are made specifically to be cooked from frozen. For instance, you can bake or microwave frozen sausage kolaches! Always follow the cooking instructions dictated by the manufacturer for the best results.
Sausage is a popular, versatile, and simple ingredient that can spice up any recipe! However, because this product is chopped up and then reformed, oxidation and spoilage are much more likely when storage and handling guidelines are not properly followed.
Lastly, always make a point to look for signs that your sausage has gone bad before cooking or consuming. One of the main indications that this has occurred is changes in color. The meat will transition from the stereotypical pink to a greyish hue.
Moreover, it can take on a slimy texture and develop a sour smell. When in doubt, throw it out! Thankfully, if you make sure to not let your sausage sit out at room temperature for too long, it can stay safe and ready to eat!
Heidi is a wife, mother, Newfie owner, writer and Meteorologist. She was born and raised in Texas and has worked in the broadcast industry for over a decade.