Hot dogs are a trendy food in America, consumed anywhere from backyard barbeques to packed stadiums. This iconic food is made by adding a sausage — made from various meats — to a bun, but the term hot dog can also refer to the sausage on its own. Hot dog meat is processed with preservatives, which may create the misconception that this food can last a long time.
Hotdogs last for up to two weeks in the fridge if the package is unopened. The storage time decreases to one week when the package is opened and kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
The signs that a hot dog has gone bad include a slimy or gooey casing, brown or grayish color, vinegary or sour smell, and milky liquid if the meat is water-packed.
Hot Dog Shelf Life
Although hot dogs contain preservatives, they have a short shelf life because the meat has been pre-cooked. Even though hot dogs are already cooked, they should be heated again before being eaten to avoid food poisoning.
The shelf life of all types of hot dogs — Vienna, Wiener, and Frankfurter — is the same and depends on the preparation method and how the food is stored. It’s recommended to consume hot dogs within the expiration date on the package. The expiration date defines the meat’s shelf life if kept in a sealed package or container. Not all hot dog packages have the same shelf life.
The shelf life of hot dogs is dramatically shortened when they’re kept out of the fridge, and the shelf life increases when food is stored in a freezer.
If the hot dog’s expiration date is not printed on the package, follow general guidelines based on the type of hot dog. Always check for signs that the hot dog has gone bad before eating it, whether the expiration date is shown or not.
How Long Do Hot Dogs Last?
Hot dogs last for up to two weeks in the fridge when left unopened in their original packaging. When opened, hot dogs last up to a week in the refrigerator when resealed in a packet or container.
These products last indefinitely when stored in the freezer. To enjoy the sausage’s optimal quality, only keep them in the freezer for up to two months. When storing hot dogs in the freezer, seal them in an airtight packet or container to avoid freezer burn and meat spoilage.
Hot dogs left out of the fridge — opened, unopened, or cooked — are only safe to eat within two hours, after which they should be thrown away. Reduce this shelf life to one hour when the temperature is above 90°F.
When hot dogs are stored correctly, they are safe to eat for a short time after the best-by or sell-by date. However, always check for signs that the hot dog might have spoiled before eating it. Throw away sausages that have passed their expiration date.
Do Hot Dogs Go Bad?
Hot dogs go bad despite containing preservatives because the sausages are moist and stored in plastic. Spoiled hot dogs taste unpleasant and can carry bacteria, called Listeria monocytogenes, which cause listeriosis if the hot dogs are eaten.
How to Tell if Hot Dogs Are Bad
While it’s easy to tell when the sausage has gone bad by its flavor, there are also several other signs that you should look for before preparing the sausage:
- An unpleasant smell is a common sign of a sausage that has gone bad. You will notice a strong vinegar or sour smell
- A change in texture, such as a slimy casing and mold growth, also indicates an off hot dog
- The color of the meat changes from a pink color to a dull brown or gray color
- A hot dog is bad if any liquid in the sausage packaging looks milky
- A sausage kept in the freezer may develop freezer burn, which is indicated by icy spots on the meat. The freezer burn isn’t dangerous, but the meat will be unpleasant to eat
How to Freeze Hot Dogs
Freezing hot dogs is the most effective method to prolong their shelf life indefinitely — if the sausages are packaged and stored correctly.
Store unopened hot dogs in the freezer in their original packaging, and wrap the whole package in plastic wrap, wax paper, or aluminum foil.
Before storing hot dogs that have been opened, drain the liquid from opened hot dog package, wrap each sausage in wax paper and seal the sausages tightly in an airtight package or container. Store cooked hot dogs in the same manner, wrapped in wax paper or plastic wrap, and stored for up to four months.
To thaw hot dogs quickly, remove them from the package and defrost them in the microwave for 30 seconds or until thawed. Or, leave them sealed in the fridge for 24 hours or place the sealed sausages in a bowl of cool water for 30 minutes.
Keep these tips in mind when freezing hot dogs:
- Label the packaging with the date to keep track of how long the sausages are kept, especially when freezing cooked hot dogs
- Open and store sausages in small batches to defrost the amount required for meals. The sausages will stick together when together frozen in a large package, so they’ll need to be thawed before being separated
- Don’t thaw sausages by leaving them out on the counter or in hot water — these environments are danger zones that can encourage bacteria growth
FAQs About Hot Dog Shelf Life
For more information on storing hot dogs, look at the common questions below about the shelf life of hot dogs.
Do Hot Dogs Go Bad in the Fridge?
Hots dogs go bad in the fridge after two weeks if left unopened, and after one week if opened. Correctly storing the sausages in a sealed packet or container will prolong the shelf life by a few days. A bad smell, slimy texture, or dull color indicates that the meat is rotten and should be thrown away.
How Long Are Hot Dogs Good for After Opening?
Hot dogs are good for up to one week when opened and stored correctly in a resealable packet or container in the fridge. Once opened, hot dogs keep in the freezer indefinitely when placed in an airtight container or package, and they’re best eaten within two months.
How Long Do Hot Dogs Last After Expiration Date?
Throw hot dogs away after the expiration date because this date indicates when the food is no longer safe to consume. Hot dogs last for up to two weeks past the best-before or sell-by date. Always test whether the sausage smells or tastes sour or is slimy because these signs indicate that the meat has gone bad.