There is no doubt that smoked meat is one of the most delicious and irresistible treats. However, often prepared for special occasions, you may find unexpected leftovers.
In that case, should you store your smoked meat in a refrigerator for as long as you want? Or is there any other way to keep all smoked meats fresh for a long time? But the most important burning question is how long does smoked meat last before you can waste it?
If properly taken care of, smoked meat can last up to 4 days in the refrigerator or 2-3 months in the freezer. The most important part of understanding how long does smoked meat lasts is knowing how to take care of it after it’s been smoked.
Read this article to get all the guidance on how long smoked meat last. Besides, find valuable tips to successfully store your leftover smoked meat for quick consumption whenever you want to.
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How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?
If you didn’t know already, smoking meat has always been an efficient way to preserve food. In the olden days, when there were no refrigerators, people smoked the meat to increase its life. But, unfortunately, this process was risky, cumbersome, and never guaranteed safe results.
However, today with the help of refrigerators, this task has become relatively easy and straightforward. But that doesn’t mean that refrigerated smoked meat can never go wrong. On the contrary, smoked meat, poultry, and fish can go bad if their limited life is over and you have failed to preserve it properly.
So, how long does smoked meat last? If not taken care of, it can go bad within hours, and it can even cause harmful food poisoning, which might become a significant threat to your life.
However, if properly refrigerated, smoked meat can last for a maximum of 4 days. In addition, if you wrap it properly, it can stay fresh and healthy for up to 3 months in a freezer.
To increase the life of smoked meats, you should pay attention to food safety procedures. Improper food handling can ruin your meat without any warning, and this goes for every category of meat.
Here are a few tips to follow:
- Don’t place your cooked meat on the same surface where you placed raw meat.
- If you want to save your food, refrigerate it within two hours after it has been cooked.
- Always store the cooked meat in airtight bags or containers.
- Use plastic wrap or foil to wrap the cooked meat and increase its shelf life.
- Mention the date of refrigeration on the bag and label each meat.
- In case of extended power failure, throw your food instead of eating the thawed meat.
- Use vacuum-seal bags to keep your frozen cooked meat.
- Throw the food as soon as you detect any foul smell coming out of it.
- Wash your hands while handling both cooked and raw meat.
- Don’t consume meat after its fixed shelf life is over.
How Long Does Smoked Meat Last Without Refrigerator?
If you can’t refrigerate your meat, you will have to cut it into small thin strips before adding it to a pre-prepared salt mixture. This food preservation method isn’t ideal, but you can use this technique in preserving meat for a maximum of one month.
However, it is imperative to mention that this technique doesn’t stop bacterial growth and can lead to dangerous digestive issues. So, your best bet is to arrange a refrigerator to keep all your smoked meat.
How Long Does Smoked Meat Last In a Fridge?
Smoked meat will last 4 days in the refrigerator if properly packaged in an air-tight container. If you want to save your smoked meat, store it in a fridge as soon as it’s cooled down. You can’t leave unrefrigerated food unattended for more than two hours. And even if it’s ideally stored in a fridge, it is not safe to consume it after 4 days.
Does Vacuum Sealed Smoked Meat Last for Long?
Vacuum-sealed smoked meat can last for as long as five days in the fridge and 2-3 months in the freezer. Vacuum sealing your meat is a great way to save the already cooked meat for another day. Vacuum-sealing also makes it easy to re-heat your smoked heat. Just boil some water, add the meat (still in the package) to the hot water, and warm up the meat.
What is the Shelf Life of Smoked Meat that You Have Roasted Too?
Roasted and smoked meat can last for 4 days in a refrigerator. If frozen, you can use the meat for a maximum of 3 months. However, these procedures demand proper food safety guidelines to make this possible.
You should make sure that your smoked meat is appropriately packed in airtight plastic bags and you haven’t faced any electricity shortage during this time.
How Long Can Hot Smoked Meat Last?
Do you know what hot smoking is? It is one of the most common smoking meat methods used worldwide. In hot smoking, the smoker’s internal temperature stays between 225° and 250°F. But, unfortunately, this temperature is not enough even enough to prepare a big brisket.
So, what is the objective of hot smoking? It aims to add flavor to your food while you cook it. But, sadly, the hot smoking method doesn’t help to preserve food for a long time.
Therefore, don’t use hot smoked meat for more than 4 days. And if you want to freeze it, do so but use it within 3 months only after following all the food safety guidelines.
How Long Does Warm Smoked Meat Last?
Hot and warm smoking are pretty similar, and the latter is a variation of the former. This method is ideal for delicate meat such as smoked fish as it utilizes a temperature of between 77 and 104°F.
Warm smoking helps to preserve the meat’s texture and is often used for smoked sausages as well. However, unfortunately, warm smoking food such as poultry and pork can cause food poisoning. This is because the process demands you to leave the meat for hours at a set temperature-also called the danger zone- for many hours.
How Long Does Cold Smoked Meat Stay Fresh?
On the other hand, cold smoking is a process in which the meat stays raw during the whole smoking process. This method involves using a salt mix on the meat, so it doesn’t face any bacterial growth.
After this step, the cold-smoked meats are hung for almost 10 to 12 hours in an area with excellent airflow. This process helps to develop the meat’s pellicle. And once the pellicle appears, the meat is smoked at a temperature below 90°F.
Preparing cold-smoked meat can be a long process and can vary according to the cut and size of the meat. However, it is safe to say that cold smoking meat lasts more than hot smoked meat. If handled properly, you can consume it for a long time.
However, if the curing process has any fault, your meat may experience parasite and bacterial growth.
Shelf Life of Different Smoked Meats
Here is a list of popular meats and their lives:
Smoked Turkey Shelf LIfe
If properly wrapped, smoked turkey can stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to 4 days. To maintain its storage life, make sure that the meat is covered in butcher paper and tin foil before you store it.
Smoked Chicken Shelf Life
Unattended smoked chicken under room temperature isn’t safe to consume and can cause food poisoning. However, if stored in a refrigerator, it stays edible for up to 48 hours. Moreover, if properly wrapped in a foil, it can last for as long as seven days.
Smoked chicken can easily make you sick, so make sure you throw it away if it doesn’t look or smell fine.
Smoked Beef Shelf Life
You need to refrigerate smoked beef within two hours after its cooking process. If you do, it can last for 4 days straight. Besides, smoked beef can last for more than 3 months in a freezer when adequately wrapped and sealed.
What Happens if Your Smoked Meat Goes Bad?
If you have failed to avoid cross-contamination and haven’t followed guidelines to store meat safely, your smoked meat may go bad within hours. Here are a few signs that you will most probably notice:
- Yellow or green spots on the meat’s surface
- Unbearable scent
- Waxy or extreme hard texture
- Dry spots
So, if your smoked meat shows the above signs, it is not safe to consume it. In that case, throw it away in a bag, so it doesn’t even come across any street animal.
As long as you have wrapped your smoked meat in aluminum foil and stored it in an airtight container in a cold freezer environment, it can stay safe for human consumption for as long as 3 months. However, if you do not have a freezer but have a refrigerator, your stored meat will only last for up to 4 days.
That said, the storage life of all smoking foods varies. Their cuts, sizes, and smoking methods play a significant role in their overall lives. For instance, hot smoking meat has a shorter shelf life than cold smoking meat.
So, even if you own commercially smoked meat or have some leftovers after a bbq party, make sure to handle the meat with care and pack it properly to prevent bacterial growth.