Hot dogs are a year-round favorite and are also a quick and easy go-to delicious treat. This versatile food works for just about any occasion, and most people choose to stock up and keep them handy. But just how long do hot dogs last?
Like most foods, hot dogs come with a sell-by date, but this is not the only factor that affects how long you can (and should) keep hot dogs. Storage methods and preparation can also affect the shelf life of hot dogs. Read on to learn more.
Short Answer: How Long Do Hot Dogs Last?
Packaged hot dogs can last for 2 weeks in the refrigerator if you’re storing them unopened. Once the package is opened, you can keep hot dogs for up to a week in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or less.
It’s perfectly safe to freeze your hot dogs for up to 4 months. When frozen, the shelf life of hot dogs is much longer but if you want to preserve the quality and taste, it’s recommended you consume them within two months.
What Affects Hot Dog Shelf Life?
When buying hot dogs, you will notice a sell-by date printed on the package, which indicates the period within which you should consume the product. However, hot dogs can go bad even before the sell-by date if they’re stored improperly. Here are some factors that impact shelf life:
Hot dogs are precooked foods but this does not make them any less susceptible to germs and food-borne bacteria such as Listeria. Bacteria multiply rapidly in temperatures above 40 degrees F, which is why it’s important to always keep your hot dogs refrigerated.
If you’ve left your hot dogs out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it’s best to throw them out. Even cooked hot dogs that have been left out at room temperature for hours will go bad and need to be thrown away.
When storing food, it’s important to beware of moisture because it makes it easier for bacteria to proliferate. That’s why it’s recommended you put your hot dogs in air-tight containers or bags before you refrigerate them.
Moisture creates the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and mold to thrive, which significantly shortens the shelf life of hot dogs as well as other foods.
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Even under the best conditions, all foods eventually go bad. While you can freeze your hot dogs for months at a time, eventually they will lose quality if they are stored for too long.
Ideally, refrigerated hot dogs should be consumed within a week. Frozen hot dogs last longer but should be consumed within 2 months and no later than 4 months. Cooked hot dogs should not be stored for more than 4 days.
How to Properly Store Hot Dogs?
How you store your foods can have a big impact on how fast they go bad. When buying hot dogs, it’s important to ensure you put them in the refrigerator immediately.
Leaving hot dogs out at room temperature makes it easier for bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes to breed. To avoid the risk of food poisoning, do not leave your hot dogs at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
If you want to store a pack of unopened hot dogs, you can refrigerate it with the store packaging. Alternatively, you can put the hot dogs in an air-tight container that is free of moisture before popping them into the fridge.
If you want to store a pack of hot dogs that are already opened, always make sure you put them in an air-tight container or resealable bag before refrigerating. An opened pack of hot dogs can last up to a week in the fridge or a month or two in the freezer. If you do not store your hot dogs in an air-tight bag or container, they will go bad much faster.
In some cases, you may have already cooked your hot dogs and are wondering whether you can safely store the cooked leftovers. Cooked hot dogs can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator without going bad. All you need to do is place them in an air-tight container that is free of moisture then put them in the fridge.
You may also freeze them if you want them to keep for even longer. You can store cooked hot dogs in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Regardless of how long you store your hot dogs, always make sure you preheat or cook them before consuming them. Most hot dogs come pre-cooked or partially cooked, but it’s always recommended you cook them until steaming hot before serving. Heat destroys bacteria and helps ensure you don’t eat contaminated food.
Signs That Hot Dogs Have Gone Bad
If your hot dogs have been in the fridge for a while and you’re not quite sure whether they’re still safe to eat, here are a few tell-tale signs you can look for to know if your hot dogs are spoiled.
If you notice your hot dogs appear to be covered in white slime, they are no longer safe to eat. The slimy film on the hot dog is the bacteria or mold that grows on food once it goes bad. Never consume hot dogs with a slimy texture as it can cause food poisoning.
When you buy hot dogs, the color is usually a vibrant reddish-brown shade. However, once they start to go bad, you will notice the color change from reddish-brown to a dull brown or gray color. If you see this, just put those hot dogs right in the trash.
One of the easiest ways to detect food that has gone bad is if it has a nasty odor or just smells off. Hot dogs that have gone bad will have a sour smell that you will notice when you take them out of the package. The sour smell will be even more evident when you try heating the spoiled hot dogs.
Freezing can significantly increase the shelf life of hot dogs. However, if you freeze your hot dogs too long, they will develop freezer burn which manifests in the form of white patches. Throw away any hot dogs that have dull white patches as they are no longer safe for consumption.
Most foods will have a sell-by date printed on the package to indicate the period within which they are safe for consumption. On a hot dog package, there will be a sell-by date for freezing and for refrigerating.
Always check these dates because the freeze sell-by date is always longer. Frozen hot dogs can stay safe for consumption indefinitely, but the quality will deteriorate after the sell-by date. To be safe, it’s best to adhere to the dates indicated on the package.
Can You Store Cooked Hot Dogs?
There are plenty of ways to enjoy hot dogs, including as treats on their own or as part of another dish. Regardless of how you have prepared your hot dogs, you can store them in the fridge or freeze them.
On average, the shelf life of a cooked hot dog is much shorter so you can only keep it in the refrigerator for 4 days. You may also freeze cooked hot dogs for 2 to 4 months. When storing cooked hot dogs, always make sure they’re sealed in an air-tight container.
Tips To Preserve Quality When Storing Hot Dogs
- Keep any opened hotdog packs in a resealable bag or an airtight container
- Prevent freezer burn by overwrapping the store packaging with freezer paper
- Alternatively, you can place hot dogs in a heavy-duty freezer bag
- If hot dogs are thawed in a microwave or cold water, they should be cooked immediately
- Hot dogs defrosted in the fridge can keep for a day or two in the fridge before cooking
- Always reheat refrigerated food to reduce the risk of foodborne infections such as listeriosis
- When microwaving hot dogs, place them in a dish of water and cook for no less than 75 seconds on high, which ensures any contaminants are destroyed
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Deli meats like hot dogs are easy to prepare, delicious, and suitable for most occasions. However, since meat products are generally susceptible to bacterial contamination, it’s always important to store your hot dogs properly.
Whether you want to store them cooked or unopened, you can make your hot dogs last longer by following a few simple precautions. Just be sure to throw away any hot dogs that have gone bad to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
We hope this article answered the question of how long do hot dogs last. If you’re interested in other great articles about food and the kitchen, check out more content on our site.