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Nothing tastes better than a rack of ribs with friends in your backyard over the weekend. However, finishing a big chunk of meat is not an easy task, and you do not want the leftovers to go to waste.
Luckily, smoked meat can be stored for long; in fact, humans started smoking meat in the Paleolithic era for preservation purposes. Smoked meat can be stored for a few days, but this does not mean it can’t go bad. To help you understand the answer to the question “How long does smoked meat last?” we took the time to prepare this guide and offer you all the information you require.
It’s odd how something intangible like smoke from fire helps food stay good longer. The smoking process has been used as a food preservation method that has been used for longer than historic records. Thin pieces of meat or fish that have been dried over low fire remain edible for weeks if they are safely stored. Larger pieces, on the other hand, require extended drying periods or salts to keep it for much time though the smoke added flavor prevents surface spoilage and bacteria. Modern smoke-treated meats storage life varies from one type to another something we will look at in this guide
Keeping for a few days
It is important to note that unless you cure or dry the meat, the maximum it can keep for 3-4 days. The truth is that smoking meat can make it keep for about 3-4 days if you store it in a refrigerator after cooking. However, if the meat is wrapped properly in airtight foil, it can go for 1-2 months without going bad. For this to happen, you have to put the meat in a freezer. Don’t consume the meat after these periods because it does not remain safe past that.
Safety since cooking
Food safety of meat is essential to avoid suffering from various health issues like most people do. The first step to keeping your meat safe is through cooking it. Smoking meat is a slow process that utilizes low temperature from the burning charcoal or smoke. To be sure your meat is safe after cooking; people use wireless smoke thermometers to ensure the right internal temperature is achieved.
Techniques/Tips to Improve
The ultimate goal of smoking meat is to come up with delicious and safe dishes. Achieving this is not as simple as it sounds, and most people fail at it. We understand the struggle and that why is why we came up with tips to ensure safe smoking and storage of meat.
Cleaning is essential to make meat keep longer. Make sure you frequently hand wash food utensils to reduce bacteria transfer. Additionally, your work surfaces should also be maintained clean and dry throughout. We also urge you to rinse the meat thermometer before reusing it to avoid bacteria contamination which reduces the meat’s shelf life.
How long does smoked meat last? This depends on how well you prevent any form of contamination. Make sure you segregate raw meat from other food items as this is a major cause of contamination. Additionally, avoid cross-contamination by avoiding contact between raw and cooked meat.
Make sure you use the proper cooking temperature when smoking meat. To be sure your meat is fully cooked, make sure you have a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove guesswork when cooking through a good instant-read meat thermometer.
Always make sure any leftover meat is refrigerated within two hours of serving. This slows down the growth of bacteria which is a major cause of food poisoning.
Correcting Common Problems
Make sure you properly refrigerate the meat to be sure it’s safe to be consumed. Modern smoked meats have different storage life and to best understand how much time meat lasts after smoking, we have prepared a breakdown of different types of meat for better understanding;
Beginners smoke meat over gentle heat using a smoked-filled chamber to attain the smoke-cooked meat. The southern pulled pork and Texas-style brisket are the best examples of this type of meat. This BBQ smoking method only adds flavor to your meat and has nothing to do with extending its storage life. At room temperature, the meat is discarded after 5-6 hours, but in temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat can keep for a day.
Wet-cured smoked meat
Smoke is made of a complex chemical compound that prevents the meat surface from oxidizing and developing spoilage bacteria. However, smoke does little for the interior, and this is why smoke cooked meat does not last.
If you want your meat to stay good for a few days, make sure you cure it with a salt-based mixture. Modern meats should be cured before smoking using wet brine of salt, flavoring, and nitrates, which hinder bacterial growth. Wet-cured smoked meats lack enough salt to remain safe after refrigeration and can be made salty enough by being stored in barrels of brine. Once you plan to consume the meat, soak it in water to remove the excess salt. This type of smoked meat can remain edible for months and still be safe to consume.
Dry-Cured Smoked meats
Dry curing smoked meat is another alternative you can use to increase meat’s shelf life. Meat spoilage becomes impossible considering bacteria can’t reproduce without moistness. The process is simple to carry out as you first require curing the meat in a salt mixture, smoking it, and hanging it to dry. The drying process should be carried out in a controlled environment with monitored humidity and temperature.
The best example of dry-cured smoked meats is American-style country hams and Italian prosciutto commonly prepared by professional grillers. This type of meat can be stored in for years if it remains compact. However, strips of homemade jerky tend to be less durable as they absorb moisture from the atmosphere and only remain good for a month or two.
Commercially smoked meats
Commercially smoked meat refers to meat offered on sale in your local supermarket or butcher shop. Most are wet-cured, but there are a few brands that are specially prepared to remain safe at room temperature. Smoked sausages and fish require to be refrigerated unless they have been dried. Dried versions can be stored for weeks or even months in a well-ventilated location. However, if they begin to develop molds or unpleasant odors; they should be discarded right away.
Analysis of best practices in the industry
There is more to smoking meat than cooking over an open fire or using some wood chips. There are different techniques people use for the best results.
Hot smoking is among the common forms of food smoking, and the internal temperature of the smoker should be between 225° and 250°F. Note that even though the temperature is high, it can take a few hours to hot smoke your meat or even a day for a big brisket. Hot smoking aims to flavor the meat and not preserve it. Bearing this in mind, you should have a refrigerator to store the meat for a few days.
Another common practice used before storing meat is warm smoking. This is a variation of hot smoking that uses temperatures of between 77° and 104°F. Warm smoking is a bit more complicated than hot smoking. This practice is best for pork and poultry meat and a great way to get rid of food poisoning. Once you are done with warm smoking, you are supposed to cook the meat and later store it in a refrigerator.
Unlike hot and warm smoking, here the meat remains raw throughout the process. Cold smoking is best for preserving meat as the meat is cured first using salt. Salt dehydrates the meat creating an environment bacteria cannot grow in. Cold smoking can take days, depending on the type of meat. The method preserves meat close to a week or two.
Proper food safety guidelines
To keep your meat in good condition for the longest time, you have to find a way to control bacteria. You can easily do so by observing the following food safety guidelines:
- Avoid cross-contaminating your meat with dirty utensils like chopping boards
- Make sure your meat is stored in an airtight container or wrapped with foil
- To maximize the storage life, use vacuum sealers
- Ensure your meat is refrigerated within two hours of being taken out of the smoker
- Make sure your food reaches maximum temperature
Tools You Can Use
Below are tools you can use to preserve smoked meat in the best condition for prolonged periods:
- A refrigerator
- Accurate meat thermometer
- A grill brush
- Brine of salt
- Well ventilated room
Frequently Asked Questions
Does smoked meat go bad?
Yes, it goes bad after some time depending on how well it was cured and preserved.
How long does cured smoked meat last?
Cured smoked meat can remain good for weeks if properly refrigerated.
How long can smoked chicken last in the refrigerator?
Smoked chicken can remain edible in the refrigerator for 3 days.
How long does smoked fish last?
Smoked fish can be kept for 2 days if properly cured.
How long does smoked ham last in the fridge?
In a normal circumstance, smoked ham can be kept for three days. However, you have to make sure it’s properly cured and does not get contaminated in any way.
How long does smoked fish last without refrigeration?
Smoked fish will be edible for a day without refrigeration.
How much time can vacuum sealed smoked turkey remain fresh?
Vacuum sealed smoked turkey can remain good to eat for a week if placed in a freezer.
We all agree that smoked meat is irresistible. The smoking process has been used as a food preservation method for ages. Smoking can be done in various ways but irrespective of the technique, it’s both an art and a science. To preserve meat for an extended time, you should make sure to cure it before smoking and store it in a refrigerator after the process.
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