With this article, not only will you find the answer to the question “Can hot dogs go bad?” but you will also learn everything about how to store hot dogs properly or when to discard them.
Hot dogs are considered a staple of American dishes, served anywhere from BBQ cookouts to the stadium. They have a rather lengthy shelf life, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t become spoiled. But don’t worry, this post can help prevent that from happening!
Table of Contents
- Revealing The Secret About Hot Dogs
- Do Hot Dogs Spoil Easily?
- Fascinating Facts About The Shelf-Life Of Hot Dogs
- The Spoilage Signs In Hot Dogs That You Might Not Know
- Amazing Tips For Storing Hot Dogs In The Refrigerator
- The Ultimate Guide To Freeze Hot Dogs
- 3 Easy Tips To Thaw Hot Dogs So They Won’t Go Bad
- Be Careful With Your Hot Dogs!
Revealing The Secret About Hot Dogs
As everybody already knows, commercial hot dogs are pre-cooked sausages (1). They can also be called frankfurters or wieners.
While there are countless hot dog kinds in the world, the main ingredients of American hot dogs are meat, fat, and water/ ice. The meat used is ground meat (or “meat trimmings”), skeletal muscle, or edible byproducts. Some hot dogs can also have extenders or non-meat binders (2).
Once all the meat and other ingredients go in a casing (usually made from animal intestines), they will be smoked or cured to add flavor and color to the product. This will also help preserve the hot dogs for an extended period of time.
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However, you’ll still need to cook hot dogs with methods like grilling, boiling, smoking, etc. My favorite one is boiling, as the procedure to boil hot dogs is quite straightforward. Also, the requisite time for boiling hot dogs is rather fast, making it the perfect choice for busy days.
For more knowledge about the ingredients of a hot dog, check this out!
Do Hot Dogs Spoil Easily?
As you’re preparing the leftover hot dogs to make a delicious meal with hot dogs left uneaten from the previous meal, a thought crosses your mind “Can hot dogs go bad?”. Indeed, it would be quite terrible if you get food poisoning because of the leftover hot dogs.
Like many other ready-to-eat meat products, including the top-tier smoked salmon, hot dogs contain Listeria monocytogenes (a bacteria that can cause listeriosis, leading to symptoms like fever, stomachache, headache, backache, or diarrhea).
This bacteria grows rather slowly at refrigerator temperature (40°F). But at room temperature, its growth becomes much more rapid.
So to answer the question: yes, hot dogs can go bad! Be sure to put your hot dogs in the fridge or freezer right after you come back from the supermarket. Letting them sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if it is above 90°F) will spoil them.
Fascinating Facts About The Shelf-Life Of Hot Dogs
As I mentioned earlier, leaving hot dogs at room temperature on the counter or dining table is not ideal. It doesn’t matter whether they are opened, unopened, or well-cooked, they will start to spoil after only 1-2 hours.
Therefore, you should store them in the refrigerator or freezer, where the temperature doesn’t exceed 40°F. Depending on the state of your hot dogs, their remaining lifespan will vary. Check out this shelf-life chart for details:
|Types||Refrigerator (40°F)||Freezer (0°F)|
|Fresh hot dogs (unopened)||2 weeks||Indefinitely (Best quality within the first 2 months)|
|Fresh hot dogs (opened)||1 week||Indefinitely (Best quality within the first 2 months)|
|Cooked hot dogs||4 days||4 months|
The Spoilage Signs In Hot Dogs That You Might Not Know
You can easily tell that your hot dogs are no longer good once you eat them. But this can mean the time length spent on smoking hot dogs has gone to waste. Not to mention that there are safer ways to test your hot dogs’ freshness. Here are some common spoilage signs to look for.
1. Their Texture
Utilize your sense of touch to check the outside of your hot dogs. If the skin is slimy and gooey, discard them right away.
Coincidentally, this is one of the most telltale signs of spoiled steak, fish, and other meat-based ingredients. Whenever you see a slimy coating on your food, it’s a sign that you need to throw it away immediately.
2. Their Smell
Now, on to your sense of smell. If the hot dogs begin to smell sour like vinegar, get rid of them at once. Hot dogs with a sour smell will have a sour taste.
3. Their Color
Like any other meat, the lovely pink color of hot dogs will fade and turn into brown or gray once they are no longer fresh.
4. The Freezer Burns
Freezing is the best way to prolong their shelf life. However, if you don’t store them properly, they will have freezer burns or icy patches on their flesh.
Some said you could cut off the freezer burnt area and eat them as usual. But the hot dogs will taste dry, watery, and tasteless. It is not hazardous to your health, but discarding them is still the best option.
5. The Liquid In The Package
If you refrigerate unopened hot dogs, there may be liquid in the package. If that liquid becomes milky, that might be bacterial overgrowth. However, fatty liquids also look milky, so this is not a foolproof way to tell the freshness of refrigerated hot dogs.
6. The Expiration Date
Indeed, you can still eat the hot dogs after the expiration date if they are correctly stored. However, according to the USDA, if you want to guarantee the best quality for your hot dogs, stick to the best-by date printed on the package.
Each hot dog brand has different ways to write dates on their package. Have a look at this list to see what they mean:
- Packaging Date: This shows the latest date of packaging.
- Sell-by Date: It tells the store how long they should display the items for sale.
- Best-by Date: This indicates when the items should be consumed to get the best quality. It is still safe to consume them after this date.
- Use-by Date: This date marks the last day recommended for use while the items are at peak quality. It is pretty similar to best-by date.
- Expiration Date: It is the last day that you can use the product safely. Afterward, it should be discarded unless the products are properly frozen.
Amazing Tips For Storing Hot Dogs In The Refrigerator
The easiest way to keep hot dogs fresh is by using a refrigerator. However, remember that they only last up to 2 weeks, so make sure to cook and eat them as quickly as you can for the best flavor and quality.
1. Unopened Hot Dogs
If your hot dogs are still in a package, you don’t really have to do much with it. Simply place the whole package in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Make sure you put them away as soon as you come home from the store, or they will go rancid in 2 hours.
2. Opened Hot Dogs
Once you have opened the package, you must store your hot dogs differently. Some said they would fold the package over and secure it with an elastic band. However, doing this won’t prevent cold air from entering the bag and contacting the hot dogs.
If the original hot dog package is resealable, then perfect! Just close the bag and put it back in the fridge, and you’re done. If not, you must put the hot dogs in an airtight container or sealable storage bag before storing them. Remember to seal the bag or close the lid tightly.
Remember to write the storage date on the container/ storage bag so you can eat them before they start to go bad.
3. Cooked Hot Dogs
The storing method for cooked hot dogs is not that different from the one for opened hot dogs. You should wait for the hot dogs to cool completely and place them in an airtight container or sealable bag. Place them in the refrigerator, and you’re good to go!
Again, you should label the storage date so you can remember when you store them and avoid spoilage.
The Ultimate Guide To Freeze Hot Dogs
But what if you have too many hot dogs and can’t consume them within 2 weeks? Well, at those times, you might wonder if there’s any chance to freeze hot dogs.
Storing hot dogs in the freezer can be quite troublesome. But if you do it right, they will last forever. However, to ensure the best quality, you should consume them all within the first 2 months.
1. Unopened Hot Dogs
Wrap a piece of aluminum foil or wax paper around the package. If you don’t have either of those and can’t think of a decent substitute for wax paper, you can place the whole package in a freezer bag. Doing so will protect the hot dogs from freezer burn and lengthen their shelf life.
Write the date on the freezer bag before freezing them. It will take roughly 24 hours for them to freeze.
Note:Note: Storing sausages this way will make them stick to each other. So when you want to cook them, you have to thaw a whole block of hot dogs. If this happens, you might need to look up whether it is possible to refreeze hot dogs.
2. Opened Hot Dogs
Drain the hot dogs if necessary. Then place each hot dog in a freezer bag or airtight container, keeping them apart by placing a layer of wax paper between them. You can also wrap them individually in wax paper.
After that, close or seal the container/ bag tightly so the cold air can’t contact the sausages. If not, they will have freezer burns, become watery and less flavorful.
Like before, it is advised to label your hot dogs to remember the freezing date.
3. Cooked Hot Dogs
That’s right, cooked hot dogs can be frozen as well. But they will only last about 4 months.
To avoid freezer burn, place the sausages in an airtight container or wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
Write the freezing date on the container/ wrap. This step is rather essential since cooked hot dogs won’t last as long as raw, uncooked ones.
Need to know more about freezing hot dogs? This can help you out!
3 Easy Tips To Thaw Hot Dogs So They Won’t Go Bad
Now that you have your frozen hot dogs, what should you do with them? Can you just throw them on the kitchen counter and wait until they are thawed? Absolutely not! Doing this will make the bacteria in the hot dogs grow and multiply, increasing the risk for food poisoning.
Not to mention that it can also affect the final cooking result. So even if, for example, you have the best technique to make hot dogs in toaster ovens, it might still result in an unappetizing dish should you fail to thaw hot dogs the right way.
There are other safer ways to thaw hot dogs. And in this section, I will give some helpful tips on how to do just that:
1. Place Them In The Refrigerator
This is the most effortless yet most time-consuming method. Just reposition the bag of hot dogs from the freezer to the fridge and wait until they become cool and flexible. It takes about 24 hours to thaw them completely.
2. Submerge Them In Cool Water
Place the package of hot dogs in a bowl of cool water for 30 minutes to thaw them. If your hot dogs are in a container, take them out and place them in a storage bag and seal it tightly. Do not use warm or hot water!
3. Microwave Them
If you want to make things quicker, give them a spin in the microwave. You should only microwave them for 30 seconds using the defrost setting. If they are still cold, microwave them again with the same heat and time.
In total, how long should you microwave the hot dogs? Depending on the length and thickness of your hot dogs and the size of your microwave, the answer may vary. But just keep repeating these steps and eventually, they will thaw.
For more information on this topic, have a look at the FAQs below. If your question hasn’t been addressed, please leave a comment below.
Be Careful With Your Hot Dogs!
Who doesn’t love a nice hot dog? Not only are they irresistible, but they are also accessible and inexpensive. But hot dogs can be pretty dangerous to your health if you don’t know how to preserve them, so follow the tips I provided carefully to protect yourself.
Do you find this post helpful? Please write a comment below and let me hear your thoughts. Also, don’t forget to like and share this article. Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you soon. Goodbye!
- Wikipedia, 2021. Hot dog.
- USDA, 2013. Hot Dogs & Food Safety.