How Long Do Hot Dogs Last In The Fridge

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You may find yourself asking the question “Do hot dogs go bad?” as you look over the refrigerated section of your local grocery store. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, you’ve got about two weeks to cook or properly store an unopened package of hotdogs after taking them home. If you’re wondering how…

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How Long Do Hot Dogs Last in the Fridge?

You may find yourself asking the question “Do hot dogs go bad?” as you look over the refrigerated section of your local grocery store. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, you’ve got about two weeks to cook or properly store an unopened package of hotdogs after taking them home. If you’re wondering how long are hot dogs good for after opening, the USDA says you’ve got about a week before they go bad. 

So what determines how long hot dogs last in the refrigerator? We’ll cover that, the ways to extend the life of your hot dogs, and how to tell if hot dogs are bad. Read on!

What’s The Shelf Life Of Hot Dogs In The Fridge?

So the USDA states that an unopened package of hot dogs is good for up to two weeks in your fridge. During cookout season, that’s plenty of time to do your shopping early and not worry about your hot dogs spoiling. 

If you grabbed a particularly large package of hot dogs and you aren’t going to cook them all at once, the opened package of hot dogs is good for up to one week in the fridge for use or proper longer-term storage. 

If you can’t remember when you purchased that package of hot dogs or even when you opened it, you should know the signs that your hot dogs have gone bad.

Yes, Hot Dogs Can Go Bad So Check Your Label And  Expiration Date

Bad Hot Dog

You may be tempted to think that between the preservatives and curing process, hot dogs may last forever. However, that’s just not the case, especially in the case of all-natural hot dogs. Despite all the work that goes into preserving hot dogs, nasty bacteria can still be present. So make sure you’re keeping an eye on that use-by date.

Yes, Bad Hot Dogs Can Give You Food Poisoning

The most common type of bacteria you’ll find in hot dogs according to the USDA is listeria monocytogenes which is also found in a number of cold cuts and other meats you’d find at the deli counter among other things. You can also encounter salmonella or staphylococcus aureus in spoiled hot dogs. All of these different types of bacteria can cause fevers, diarrhea,  headaches, nausea, stomach pains, and other symptoms. Some of the most at-risk people are pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and anyone with weak or compromised immune systems. 

That means you need to ensure your hot dogs are fully heated before serving, especially if you fit the profile of an at-risk person or anyone who you’re serving.

With that in mind, you want to know how to tell if that listeria bacteria has run wild in your hot dogs. Just like we’ve talked about with fish, steak, bacon, and pulled pork, the best way to tell if your hot dogs have gone bad is by using your senses (other than your sense of taste, of course!) 

Visual Inspection Of Unopened Hot Dogs

Most hot dogs will be some shade of pink when they’re in the package. If you check the package and the hot dogs show some form of discoloration, like turning shades of brown or gray, that can be a sign that they’ve spoiled. Now some brands of hot dogs might be darker at first. So the most important thing to do is figure out if the look of the hot dogs has changed drastically since you purchased them.

For cooked hot dogs, you want to see if there’s been drastic color changes or even mold growth from when you put them in the fridge.

Sense Of Smell

Bad Smelling Sausage
Young woman with spoiled sausage near open refrigerator in kitchen

You can see through the packaging to tell if the hot dogs have gone bad. However, if you aren’t sure, the next step is to open the package. When you do so, take a sniff. You know the smell of a hot dog. It’s a bit savory, maybe even a bit smoky.

What you shouldn’t smell is a sour smell or vinegar aroma. If you do, chances are bacteria like listeria have begun to take over and spoiled your hot dogs. That same smell can come from spoiled cooked hot dogs as well.

Slimy (But Definitely Not Satisfying)

Most meat out of the package should not be slimy. Hot dogs certainly have some liquid in the package and might be slippery. However, there should not be any slimy film on the hot dogs. 

Cooked hot dogs lose that moist feeling typically. So if you reach into your fridge and pull out a slimy cooked hot dog, it’s gone bad.

Milky Liquid

Speaking of the liquid in the hot dog packaging, it’s normally the consistency of water and slightly pink. If it’s looking more like milk, then chances are bacteria have ruined your hot dogs.

If In Doubt, Throw It Out

Safety is always king. Whether that’s at your grill or smoker, or it’s with food in the fridge, you should always prioritize being safe and keeping others safe. If you aren’t certain about the smell, sight, or feel of your package of hot dogs, just throw it away. You don’t want to deal with those listeria symptoms and you sure don’t want to cause others to deal with them either.

How Long Do Cooked Hot Dogs Last In The Fridge?

Cooked Hot Dogs

Since we mentioned the signs of spoiled cooked hot dogs, we should discuss how long you can keep cooked hot dogs in the fridge. The time frame can vary depending on storage, but you can keep cooked hot dogs for up to four days safely with an outside shot at a week. However, you want to carefully review the signs of a spoiled hot dog from above the closer you get to a week.

How Can I Make My Hot Dogs Last Longer?

The best way to store your hot dogs for longer than a week or two is to properly freeze them. As long as you freeze them properly, you can keep them in the freezer indefinitely. For best results, you’ll want to keep your unopened or uncooked hot dogs in the freezer for up to two months before thawing and cooking them. For hot dogs you’ve cooked, you’ll want to thaw and reheat them within a month or so for the best taste.

How To Properly Freeze An Unopened Package Of Hot Dogs

How To Properly Freeze Hot Dogs

Most packaging is airtight and tight to the hot dogs, so you can simply put a package of hot dogs in your freezer. If you’re concerned, place the package inside a freezer-safe bag to provide a little extra protection.

How To Properly Freeze An Open Package Of Hot Dogs

You can keep the hot dogs wrapped tightly in the open package of hot dogs as the first layer of protection, then place the package inside a freezer-safe bag. You also can remove the hot dogs from the package and then double-bag them or wrap them in plastic wrap and then  aluminum foil to ensure their safety. You want to make sure you squeeze all the air out of the bag(s) as possible before putting the hot dogs in the freezer.

The most critical part of freezing hot dogs or any other meat properly is preventing direct exposure to the cold dry air in the freezer. If that air can come in direct contact with the hot dog, it can cause freezer burn. While that does not spoil the hot dog, it can damage both the texture and taste. Taking the extra precaution of a second bag or some type of freezer-safe airtight container can help reduce the chances of freezer burn.

Freezer Burn Meat
Example of Freezer Burn with Sausage

How To Properly Freeze Cooked Hot Dogs

The procedure is identical to how you freeze an opened package of hot dogs if you choose to discard the original package. Place the cooked hot dogs in a freezer-safe bag, then squeeze the air out. Place the first bag into a second freezer bag and squeeze the air out as well. The two layers of bags help prevent damage from moving the bags around in the freezer and minimize leaks.

Wrapping It Up

Hot dogs are an icon of summer cookouts. Whether you’re grilling them over charcoal or gas, it’s a quintessential summer food. Just remember, you’ve got up to two weeks from when you buy a package to cook them or freeze them. If you open a package, you’ve got up to a week to cook the remaining hot dogs or freeze them.

If you’ve got leftover hot dogs, eat them within four days (a week tops) or throw them in freezer bags and stick them in the freezer. Just remember, whether your hot dogs are cooked or uncooked, use your senses other than taste to check to see if they are good to go.

Are you a beef hot dog fan? What about turkey, ham, or chicken? Did you come from an area where people call them wieners or frankfurters? And are ketchup or mustard acceptable condiments? 

What’s your favorite way to cook up hot dogs? Got any favorite ways to use them other than on a bun? Let us know in the comments, especially if you’ve tried hot dog burnt ends!

Jeremy Pike

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