How Long Can Smoked Meat Sit Out? (Different Types & Best Storage Method)

You’ve wanted a smoker for a long time and finally treated yourself to one. After pulling the brisket out and setting it on the buffet for your guests, you lost track of time and are wondering if you should put that brisket in the fridge.

Food safety is essential, and you’re curious, how long can smoked meat sit out before going bad?

According to the US Department of Agriculture, smoked meat can sit out for no longer than 2 hours. After 2 hours, the meat will move into the Danger Zone, which sits between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140˚F.

When food sits in the Danger Zone, it can be infested with harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning. 

What Is The Best Way To Store Smoked Meat?

If your brisket falls under the 2-hour mark, get it into the fridge. Food that sits out at room temperature is at high risk of bacterial infection, which is why it needs to be kept in the fridge.

Refrigerators are always kept under 40˚F, which is just under that Danger Zone area we discussed earlier. 

smoked meat

When storing your smoked meat in the fridge, be sure to keep it in an airtight container. Things still go bad in the refrigerator if they aren’t appropriately covered.

What If I Want To Keep My Smoked Meat On The Table?

Sometimes parties last longer than 2 hours, and you’d like to keep your smoked meat on the table longer.

You can keep the brisket out safely if you keep it in a heated dish or slow cooker.

These devices will keep the meat temperature over the 140˚F mark that signifies the end of the danger zone. 

Keep an eye on your meat to make sure it doesn’t go under 140˚F. If it does, raise the heat in your chafing dish or crockpot until it reaches 140˚F. 

Tip: Pocket meat thermometers are a fantastic investment for moments like this. You can stick it in the meat to check the temperature every hour, so it’s safe. Be sure to do this every hour, so the meat never gets below 140˚F for two hours.

How Long Can Smoked Meat Last In The Fridge?

Now that your Texas-style brisket is safe in the fridge and stored correctly, you have four days to eat your remaining roast.

Otherwise, it can contain toxins that cause food poisoning. While refrigerator temperatures are kept below 40˚F, which is out of the Danger Zone, bacteria still grows over time. 

Colder temperatures don’t stop the growth of bacteria. It just slows down their multiplication.

By the fourth day, it’s time to get rid of any leftovers you have. We all hate wasting food, but food poisoning isn’t fun and can lead to a stay in the hospital. Your health and the well-being of those you love aren’t worth the risk. 

Tip: Date your leftover with a sticker or Post-It note. Or keep a calendar in the kitchen so you remember when you put the smoked meat away. That way, there will be no questions or wondering. Once you’ve passed the fourth day, throw it away. 

Note: The practice of dating your food will likely prompt you to waste less and save you money in the long run. 

How Long Can Smoked Meat Stay Out?

If you don’t have a warming plate or method to keep the smoked meat over the 140˚F mark, you can only leave it out for 2 hours.

Otherwise, the surface of the meat may become a breeding ground for the types of pathogens that can cause serious illness—proper food handling requires keeping food at safe temperatures. 

You can warm smoking meat quickly in a slow cooker or on the stove. Microwaves warm smoking meats, but they don’t heat food evenly, leaving part of it in that Danger Zone temperature set by USDA Food Safety regulations. 

Can you eat smoked meat that was left out overnight?

It is not advisable to eat smoked meat that was left out overnight. The maximum amount of time that smoked meat can sit out is 2 hours.

If left out any longer than that, it is no longer a safe temperature and is not good to eat.

How Long Can Smoked Meat Be Refrigerated?

To prevent spoilage and bacterial growth, put your smoked meat into a tightly sealed container and leave it in the fridge as soon as the meal is over.

Different types of bacteria like to grow in the Danger Zone, so it’s always best to be safe. 

Paying attention to the time you serve those American-style country hams at the cookout is a great way to avoid bacterial growth. 

How Long Can Smoked Meats Last?

Smoked meats will last out of the refrigerator for 2 hours if it’s sitting at room temperature.

If you keep it in a warmer of some kind, it will last for a long time, as long as the internal temperature stays above 140˚F.

Inside the refrigerator, your smoked meats, and other foods, will last four days maximum.

If you know you put those larger pieces of ham in the fridge on Monday evening, if you haven’t eaten them by Saturday morning, it’s best to throw it away.

How Long Can Smoked Meat Rest In A Cooler?

One of the most critical steps in smoking meats like brisket is the resting period. If you serve it too soon after smoking, you could ruin the brisket.

Experts say that it should rest for a minimum of one hour on the counter, which is under the 2-hour rule set by the USDA. 

Some cooks let their brisket rest in a sealed cooler for four hours as long as you keep the temp of that meat at 140˚F.

Four hours far surpasses the room temperature rule set by the inspection services at the health department. 

Yet, experts say if you keep an eye on the thermometer, wrap it tightly in foil, and be sure that the cooler has a tight seal, your brisket can surpass that 2-hour time limit.

Tricks like keeping meat warm in a cooler in handy when your brisket is ready to serve, but your guests aren’t prepared to eat. Timing meals is essential but not always easy to do.

But pulling a brisket out of the smoker is an excellent way to wow your guests, so skipping the cooler and timing it closer to your meal is the best way to go. 

Do I have to refrigerate smoked meat?

Generally speaking, you have to refrigerate smoked meat. If smoked meat is sitting out without refrigeration for more than 2 hours, the temperature is not considered safe to eat.

If the temperature doesn’t stay in the safe range, the meat is no longer good and should be thrown away.

How Long Can Smoked Meat Stay In The Fridge?

Once your meat is in the fridge, it can stay there for four days. After that time, there is an excellent chance bacteria have grown on the surface, and you may contract food poisoning. When in doubt, throw it out. 

How Long Can Smoked Meat Stay In A Cooler?

When resting, as we mentioned above, smoked meat may be able to make it four hours. But be warned that it is moving past the 2-hour time limit set by the FDA.

The good news is that if you keep that meat’s temperature at 140˚F, it will be fine. 

When food moves under that temperature, it goes into the Danger Zone. That’s where toxins that can make you sick multiply.

If your meat is still showing an internal temp of 140˚F, it’s okay, no matter how long it’s been sitting out. 

If you put cold meat into a cooler for a picnic or day at the beach, it needs to stay under 40˚F to stay out of the Danger Zone.

You can create a controlled environment in the cooler simply by adding ice when required. 

How Long Can Smoked Meat Stay At Room Temperature?

When food sits out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, it moves into the Danger Zone set by experts. This rule applies to smoked meat as well.

smoked meat

If you can’t keep it above 140˚F or under 40˚F, it should be moved into the fridge. If you have meat food items sitting out for longer than 2 hours, dispose of them.

What Are The Different Types Of Smoked Meats?

Now that we’ve covered all the best options for food storage, like keeping your remaining roast in the refrigerator, we can touch on the different cuts of meat you can smoke. 

  • Lamb’s shoulder
  • Lamb’s leg
  • Beef ribs
  • Pork ribs
  • Spare ribs
  • Country ribs 
  • Pork butt
  • Pork shoulder
  • Beef brisket
  • Hotlinks
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Cornish hens
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Whiting
  • Other fish or seafood
  • cheeses

When you think about the process of smoking meat, you can likely smoke any cut of meat you want.

The biggest mistake people make is not knowing what kind of smoking they want to do.

You will get different results with different processes, and that’s okay. There is no correct answer when it comes to taste. It’s all about what you like. 

Here are the most common methods for smoking meats. 

What Is Hot Smoking?

Hot smoking is when meat is cooked at an increasing temperature while smoke permeates the smoker and contents.

When you are hot smoking your meat, sausages, or fish, you cook your food and add flavor simultaneously.

A smoker will do all this while in the safe temperature zone of 225˚F and 250˚F. 

What Is Cold Smoking?

Cold smoking is a method used for items like salami, cheese, and other foods. It doesn’t cook the meat but flavors it.

This method is more of a curing process with gentle heat, which is why it’s important to know what you’re doing before attempting cold-smoking meats. 

This method requires food to enter that Danger Zone, which can be harmful and cause food poisoning. While this method is risky, some people have done it at home.

They say the most important thing is knowing the risk and educating yourself thoroughly on the subject before trying it. Otherwise, you could make yourself or someone else ill. 

Should I Get An Electric Smoker?

If you are interested in smoking meats and not sure how to do it, an electric smoker is a fantastic option.

An electric smoker uses rods that heat chips without charcoal. This machine offers modern smoked meats to replace the charcoal method of yesterday. 

Tip: A backyard get-together is a great reason to show off your new electric smoker.

Sous Vide And How It Applies To Smoking Meats

Before we go into smoking, sous vide is a French term that means “under vacuum.” It’s a popular method in restaurants because the results are perfect every time.

It involves vacuum-sealing the meat and bathing it at a specific temperature. 

Some cooks like to use the sous vide method before smoking to make the meat more tender going into the smoker. 


Smoking is a drying process that brings flavor to tons of foods. It’s particularly excellent for a thick cut of meat.

The storage life of our smoked meats is vital because making them is time-consuming.

We’d hate to see all that hard work go to waste. 

Safe food storage is essential because some bacterias can lead to serious foodborne illnesses. 

While you might want to try the different smoking techniques, the last thing you want to do is risk anyone’s health. So watch out for that Danger Zone. 

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