Is Smoked Sausage Fully Cooked and Safe to Eat?

If you’re a fan of smoky, savory flavor, then you’re probably familiar with smoked sausage. But when it comes to serving it up, you may be wondering whether it needs to be cooked or if it’s safe to eat as is.

The answer is that it depends on how the sausage has been prepared. In general, if the sausage has been cured with salts like sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite, it is safe to eat without any further preparation. However, if it has been cold smoked, it should be cooked before eating.

In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of smoked sausage and how to prepare it safely.


Do You Need to Cook Smoked Sausage?

As we mentioned, it depends on the type of sausage and how it has been prepared. If the sausage has been cured, it is safe to eat without cooking. Charcuterie sausages like chorizo, summer sausage, salami, and prosciutto fall into this category.

On the other hand, if the sausage has been cold smoked, it must be cooked before eating. Cold smoking is a process where the sausage is smoked at a temperature below 85°F. This means that the meat hasn’t been brought to a high enough temperature to cook it, making it unsafe to eat without further cooking.

If you’re not sure whether the smoked sausage you’re planning to eat is cured or cold smoked, check the label. Look out for words like “Uncooked,” “Cook before eating,” or “Needs to be fully cooked.”

Is it Safe to Eat Undercooked Sausages?

No, it is not safe to eat undercooked sausages.

Although most smoked sausages are pre-cooked, it is essential to check the package to confirm that they are fully cooked. 

Consuming undercooked sausages can cause Trichinosis, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning.

Food poisoning symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle pain, among other symptoms. 

Certain groups of people, such as pregnant women, children under four, and the elderly, are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of food poisoning.

If you experience severe symptoms, you may need to seek medical attention. Therefore, ensure that sausages are fully cooked before consuming them to avoid the risk of food poisoning.

How to Cook Smoked Sausage

Assuming you have a cold smoked sausage or want to cook a cured sausage, what’s the best way to do it?

Grilling is one of the best ways to cook smoked sausage, as high heat renders the fat, making it juicy and moist. 

It usually takes around 10-15 minutes to grill sausages fully, depending on their thickness and the heat of the grill. To ensure consistent results and moist links, you can cover the sausages in aluminum foil while grilling them.

Pan-frying on your stovetop is another great way to cook smoked sausage, and a cast-iron skillet is the perfect tool for even charring. Slicing the sausage will speed up the cooking process, and adding sliced sausage to an omelet or meaty pasta is a great way to enjoy it.

Remember, you don’t need to add cooking oil to the sausage. Sausage already has plenty of fat and will release it as soon as it comes in contact with heat.

How to Tell if Smoked Sausage is Cooked

To ensure that smoked sausages are cooked properly and safe for consumption, using a meat thermometer is the best method. The target temperature to reach is 160°F at the center of the sausage, which ensures that it is in the safe zone and free from harmful bacteria.

For more delicate sausages like smoked turkey or chicken sausages, cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).

Grilled sausages usually take between 6 and 12 minutes if cooked on the grill’s ‘hot zone,’ while baked sausages may take between 20 and 25 minutes to cook.

You can also use your sight to tell if a sausage is cooked. The exterior should be slightly charred but not burned, and the inside should be steamy and pink when sliced open. 

However, never rely on your sight or sense of smell alone to ensure your food is fully cooked.

Most FAQs about Smoked Sausage

Do You Need to Refrigerate Smoked Sausage?

The answer to this question depends on whether the sausage is dry-cured or not. 

Dry-cured sausages, such as pepperoni or salami, can be stored at room temperature for up to six weeks if they are unopened. If opened, they should be refrigerated and can be kept for up to three weeks.

On the other hand, if the sausage isn’t dried, it is considered perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator at all times.

How Long Does Smoked Sausage Last in the Fridge?

As mentioned above, dry-cured sausage can be stored in the refrigerator indefinitely if it hasn’t been opened and for up to three weeks if it has been opened.

If the sausage is uncooked, raw, and stored in the fridge at 40°F or less, it should be cooked and consumed within one to two days. If the sausage has been cooked, it can be kept in the fridge for three to four days.

If you have hot dogs and other types of cooked sausages, it’s safe to store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks if they are unopened and up to one week if they have been opened. Additionally, all types of sausages can be frozen and stored for up to two months.

What About Smoked Sausage Sitting Out?

Dry-cured sausage can be stored in the pantry for up to six weeks, but all other types of sausages that need to be refrigerated should be discarded after two hours at room temperature or when kept in the ‘danger zone’ between 40-140°F, according to USDA guidelines.

Final Thoughts

Hot smoked sausages are fully cooked and can be eaten straight out of the package. However, cold smoked sausages are only cooked enough to infuse them with flavor, so they need to be cooked before consumption.

It is always advisable to check the package for the label “fully cooked” before consuming smoked sausages straight out of the package. This label ensures that the sausages have been cooked enough to be consumed safely.

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