How Long Does Smoked Meat Last? The Meaty Truth You Need to Know

Who doesn't love the delicious smell and flavorful taste of smoked meat? This ancient tradition of preserving meat continues despite the modern techniques available. Why?

Because it is exquisitely delicious! Efforts and dedication are required to smoke various types of meat and to store them properly. Now, the question is, how long does smoked meat last? Read on to find out!

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What Are Smoked Meats?

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Smoked meats are achieved by placing meat over a smoker or fire. Traditionally, the cuts are slowly cooked using indirect heat which arises from burning wood or charcoal in an enclosed container. This process allows the aldehydes in the smoke to act as salts which leech the moisture present in the meat.

Through the years, smoked meats have kept the tradition alive when it comes to its mouthwatering taste. Several trials and errors have been made to determine the best ways to elevate this old practice on par with other cooking techniques.

Together with drying, the smoking technique helps preserve meat by preventing bacterial contamination. It uses high-temperature, which is necessary to kill harmful bacteria, thus, extending the shelf life for a safer and more enjoyable consumption without worrying about spoilage.

Smoking requires skills which date back thousands of years to ensure proper preparation and safe storage of your most precious meat cuts. 

The Best Meat to Smoke

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Any cuts of meat can be smoked however, the perfect chunk should be something that benefits the slow-cooking process. Never be afraid to use cuts with numerous connective tissue and fat, also known as "marbling" as they will give more heavenly and delicious smoked meat dishes.

You can never go wrong with beef brisket, ribs, and pork shoulders - these meats tend to lend themselves to smoking. Steaks can also be smoked, but keep in mind that bigger cuts give the best outcomes. Try using lesser-known cuts of meat such as chuck eye and tri-tip for more versatile options. 

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?

Smoked meat kept in smokehouses in the house or farm tends to have a limited shelf life before spoilage. Now, the question is, how long do they last before they spoil or go bad?

When not properly handled and stored, smoked meat can immediately end up in bins or may cause food poisoning. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that a large number of people get sick, become hospitalized, and even die due to foodborne diseases. This is a serious matter but can be prevented easily.

Conversely, smoked meat can last for about three to four days when kept in the refrigerator after cooking. The meat can last for up to three months when adequately wrapped and stored in the freezer.

In any case, the smoked meat should not be kept or used beyond the recommended periods. There is a likelihood that they will no longer be safe for human and pet consumption.

The Four Steps Towards Safe Smoking of Meat

Ultimately, the goal in smoking technique is to come up with delicious and safe dishes. You can achieve this by using these four practical steps

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1. Clean

Cleaning involves the frequent hand washing of food handlers to reduce bacterial transfer. The work surfaces should be maintained to be clean and dry at all times. Be sure to rinse the meat thermometer before reusing.

Remember that improper food handling reduces the smoked meat's shelf life due to bacterial contamination. 

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2. Separate

The process of separation refers to the proper segregation of raw meat from other food items. It will significantly prevent any cross-contamination.

The cross-contamination occurs when raw meat is laid down on the same surface as cooked meat. 


3. Cook

The proper cooking temperatures should be used when smoking meat. This typically requires a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which is measured by a good quality meat thermometer


4. Chill

Leftover smoked meat should be refrigerated within two hours of serving. This final step will slow down the growth of bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. 

Refrigeration Is the Key

To ensure safe consumption, refrigeration is the key. Remember that a broad spectrum of bacteria grows between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, the refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to ensure the protection of food.

However, it should be noted that refrigeration, even chilling, won't keep the smoked meat safe and edible forever.

When Is Smoked Meat Unsafe for Consumption?

Once smoked meat starts to feel slimy or smell differently, then it's time to dump it! Never consume this meat, and it is best if you cook a new and fresh batch.

Doubtful of the meat's quality? Don't take a bite to make sure whether it’s good or not. Instead, you should reheat the meat to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before tasting a small portion.

Final Thoughts

Smoked meat is irresistible. Smoking is an ancient food preservation method dated back before chemicals and refrigerators were invented. Despite the different styles and processes involved, smoking has been an impressive technique that consists of both art and science.

In line with humanity's attempt to improve the smoking techniques, the shelf life of this food has also been a rage of discussion. Knowing how long does smoked meat last is deemed necessary to prevent the occurrence of any foodborne related diseases.

I bet, if given a chance, you are more than willing to prolong the shelf life of these delectable goodies. Here are some tips to help you with achieving this:

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  • Keep it low and slow!
  • Wrap and store your smoked meat properly in the refrigerator within two hours after cooking.
  • Consume the refrigerated meat within four days.
  • Avoid keeping smoked meat in the freezer for more than three months.
  • Use the smallest possible container to prevent air. 
  • Seal bags using vacuum packing for optimum preservation.

With these in mind, it is best to follow every measure religiously to ensure safety at all times.

What are you waiting for? Get the best cut of meat and start preparing for a delectably smoked meat dish!

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