How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?

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Nothing beats a fresh rack of ribs from the smoker, but completing a large piece of smoked meat may be a challenge, and the last thing you want is for your leftovers to go to waste.

The good news is that smoking your meat allows you to keep it for extended periods of time; in fact, people have been smoking meat since the paleolithic age for just this reason.

However, just because it’s smoked doesn’t guarantee the meat won’t go bad.

We’ll be breaking down just how long various varieties of smoked meat may be properly kept to help you prolong the life of your smoked meat and prevent becoming one of the 48 million Americans who become sick from foodborne infections each year.

So how long does smoke meat last for?

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?

Smoked meat may be preserved in the refrigerator for four days if chilled within two hours after being taken from the smoker. Smoked meat may be stored for up to three months if properly wrapped and frozen.

The lengthier answer is dependent on how you smoked your meat. The Food Safety and Inspection Service requirements (mentioned above) presume that you have hot smoked your meat.

  • Hot smoking involves raising the internal temperature of the meat to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit for raw beef, hog, lamb, and veal steaks, 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground meat, and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry.
  • These high temperatures aid in the destruction of any microorganisms in the meat.

Hot smoking, however, is not your only choice. Meat may also be cold-smoked, warm-smoked, or smoke-roasted.

Let’s go a bit more into the various smoking procedures to get a sense of what these names signify and how long the meat they create may be preserved for.

What are the different methods of smoking meat?

Isn’t smoking meat just cooking it over an open fire or with wood chips?

Well, not exactly.

varied smoking processes will provide varied outcomes, and since they employ different temperatures, your meat will need varying storage durations.

Hot smoking

The most prevalent kind of food smoking is hot smoking. The hot portion of the term refers to the smoker’s interior temperature, which typically ranges between 225 and 250F.

Even at these temperatures, hot smoking meat might take many hours. It may even take a whole day to cook a large brisket.

Because these temperatures are high enough to cook the meat, brining it is not essential, but many pitmasters do so to increase the flavor.

The goal of hot smoking is to flavor the food while it cooks rather than to preserve it better. As a result, despite being smoked, hot smoked food may only be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Warm smoking

Warm smoking is a kind of hot smoking that employs temperatures ranging from 77 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Warm smoking is used to maintain the texture of delicate foods such as fish. Warm smoked meats, such as bacon and sausage, are often used to both heat them up and add a smoky edge to their taste.

Warm smoking meat, such as pig or chicken, is a fantastic method to catch food poisoning since it involves leaving the meat in the Danger Zone (40F to 140F) for hours at a time.

Cold smoking

Cold-smoked food, unlike hot-smoked food, stays uncooked throughout the process.

Cold smoking is more akin to the method our forefathers would have employed to preserve food before refrigeration. The meat is first cured by dehydrating it with salt, producing a condition that prevents bacterial development.

After curing, the meat is hung for 1 to 12 hours in a location with sufficient ventilation to produce a pellicle. The pellicle is a dry, somewhat sticky covering on the meat that aids in the adhesion of those great smokey tastes.

Once the pellicle has formed, the meat is smoked at temperatures below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Many cold smokers employ an offset construction that creates smoke in a separate firebox and then transports it into the smoking chamber, exposing the meat to no heat from the fire.

Depending on the kind of meat and the size of the chop, cold smoking meat might take days.

Smoke roasting 

Smoke roasting combines classic roasting methods and recipes with a flavor boost from wood smoke.

This is sometimes possible in a traditional fan oven by using an attachment that retains smoldering wood chips or pellets, such as the A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker.

Smoke roasting does not significantly preserve the meat being roasted; it only adds another depth to the taste.

How long will hot-smoked meat last?

As previously stated, hot smoking is mostly used to provide a rich sour taste to food while it cooks low and slow.

While it is true that the aldehydes in the smoke leach moisture from the meat in a similar way to curing salt, they are not a substitute for the correct curing and drying process that is essential in cold smoking.

So, how can you preserve your hot smoked meat in peak condition for as long as possible?

Its all about bacterial control.

The first thing you must do is follow strict food safety guidelines:

  • Use clean utensils and chopping boards to avoid cross-contaminating your meat.
  • Ensure that the meat achieves the minimum acceptable temperature recommended by the Food Safety and Inspection Service.
  • Make sure the meat is chilled within two hours after being removed from the smoker so that it spends as little time as possible in the danger zone.
  • Make sure the meat is kept in the smallest feasible container or is completely covered in foil.
  • Use a vacuum sealer to decrease the quantity of oxygen your meat comes into contact with to extend its storage life.

Once you’ve checked off the items on the list above, you should be OK to store your smoked meat in the refrigerator for 4 days or the freezer for up to 3 months.

How long will cold-smoked meat last?

Cold smoked meat has a longer shelf life than hot smoked meat because the curing, airing, and smoking processes are meant to produce an environment inside the meat that is hostile to bacterial development.

Cold-smoked meat may be kept edible for months if properly cured and smoked.

The disadvantage of cold-smoking is that it may go horribly wrong if done incorrectly.

Because the meat is uncooked and then trapped in the danger zone throughout the smoking process, incorrect curing may result in the development of germs such as Clostridium botulinum and Listeria monocytogenes, both of which can cause serious illness.

The growing use of industrial farming has increased the likelihood that the meat you purchase contains these potentially lethal germs, and cold-smoking does not raise the temperature of the meat enough to destroy them.

Cold-smoked fish may potentially include parasites such as tapeworms, which are generally destroyed by cooking.

The elderly, very young, expectant women, the chronically sick, and those with impaired immune systems are especially sensitive to these germs and parasites and should avoid cold smoked meats, especially home-cured ones.

If you want to experiment with cold smoking, the best place to start is with items that provide less of a danger. Botulism may be avoided by cold smoking tofu, cheese, eggs, nuts, and even pre-cooked meats like bacon.

Wrapping it up

Hot-smoking meat is an excellent approach to enhance its taste. Cold-smoking food imparts the same flavor while also preserving the meat.

In all circumstances, knowing how to keep smoked meat securely is the best way to get the most out of it and make it last longer.

Before it becomes a concern, your hot-smoked meat may be refrigerated for 4 days or frozen for 3 months.

Cold-smoked meats may be kept for months, but there is an inherent danger that can lead to some terrible bacterial diseases. If you’re new to smoking and want to attempt cold-smoking food, it’s recommended to avoid meat until you’ve developed some skill.

Do you have a fantastic hot-smoked recipe to share with us? Do you have any advice on how to reduce the hazards of cold smoking? We’d appreciate it if you could tell us in the comments section below.


How long will meat last if you smoke it?

So, how long does smoked meat keep? Smoked meat may be preserved in the refrigerator for four days if chilled within two hours after being taken from the smoker. Smoked meat may be stored for up to three months if properly wrapped and frozen.

How long can you keep smoked meat in the refrigerator?

Refrigerate meat and poultry immediately after taking it from the smoker. Place the meat or poultry in shallow containers, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. Use it within four days or freeze it for later.

Does Smoking Meat preserve it?

Although many of the compounds included in wood smoke (e.g., formaldehyde and some alcohols) are natural preservatives, the drying effect of the smoke helps to preserve the meat. Smoking is one of the earliest ways of food preservation, having most likely evolved soon after the invention of fire cooking.

How long will smoked meat last unrefrigerated?

If you wish to keep your smoked meat, place it in the refrigerator as soon as it has cooled. Unrefrigerated food cannot be left unattended for longer than two hours. Even if kept properly in the refrigerator, it is not safe to ingest beyond 4 days.

Can meat spoil while smoking?

Because smoking cooks food at low temperatures, the meat will take too long to thaw in the smoker, enabling it to stay in the “Danger Zone” (temperatures between 40 and 140 °F), where hazardous germs may develop.

How do you smoke meat for long term storage?

COLD SMOKING: Cold smoking occurs at lower temperatures for a longer length of time. The purpose of this approach is long-term storage, which requires more drying than cooking. The smoker should not get hot enough to cook the food. Temperatures below 100 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal.

How long does salt cured meat last?

Most complete cured meats, according to The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), may be sealed and kept fresh for several months. If you have opened the packaging, it is best to eat it within a week.

Does smoking preserve food?

Drying and smoking are two of the oldest ways of food preservation. Removing moisture from food aids in the prevention of bacterial and fungal development, which would otherwise destroy preserved items.

Can you smoke meat then finish later?

You may smoke your favorite piece of meat twice, but be cautious not to burn or overcook it. To keep the meat moist and tender throughout the smoking process, we suggest adding some more fat to the previously smoked meat.

What type of wood should you never smoke meat with?

EASTERN CEDAR, CYPRESS, ELM, EUCALYPTUS, SASSAFRAS, LIQUID AMBER, PINE, REDWOOD, FIR, SPRUCE, or SYCAMORE should never be used to smoke meats or other sorts of food.

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