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How Long Do Smoked Meat Last?

Brian Lejeune
How Long Do Smoked Meat Last?

Smoking meat is an excellent way to make it taste delicious. Yes, it takes a little bit of time to smoke different meats. However, most of that time is hands-off. This means you can do something else, while the meat is cooking.

All that downtime means many people smoke large quantities of meat at once. That poses the question, “How long does smoked meat last?”.

Today, we are going to share the answer to that question. We will also cover different smoking methods, how to store smoked meat, and recipes that use leftover smoked meat.

What is Smoked Meat?

Smoking meats has been a process used for centuries. It was a common way to preserve fresh meat and fish before modern refrigeration and freezers were in everyone’s home.

 Smoking meat is as easy as starting a fire using hardwoods, or wood chips, in a smokehouse. Once the fire is smoldering, you can add the meat. The smoke from the hardwoods, or wood chips, is what cooks and preserves the meat. It also adds a unique flavoring.

Different Smoking Methods 

Hot Smoking

Hot smoking completely cooks the meat, while infusing the smoky flavor into the meat. The smoked meat can be served immediately or it can be reheated for a meal later.

 During the hot smoking process, the temperatures reach way above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It is common to see temperatures between 190 degrees and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooking time is dependent on the size of the meat being smoked. Most of the time it will take between a few hours to a day to hot smoke meat.

Warm Smoking

Warm smoking is a process that is between hot and cold smoking. The temperatures for warm smoking normally reach between 73 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. You can plan on warm smoking meats between 4 and 48 hours. It is all dependent on the size of the meat and the humidity levels.

Any meat cooked during the warm smoking process is dry on the outside, but raw on the inside. This is an excellent option for preserving meat. However, the meat will need to be cooked one last time to ensure it is safe to eat.

Cold Smoking

Cold smoking is the option you will want when you want your meat to have a smoky flavor without being cooked. Once the smoke has infused your meat, you can put the cold-smoked meat into the oven to roast or bake. You could even place it on top of the grill.

The temperatures used for cold smoking meat are normally below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of smoking takes between a few hours and a few days. It is all dependent on the type of meat you are smoking.

Smoke Roasting

Authentic barbecue experts rely on smoke roasting. This process slow cooks foods like chicken and ribs at really low temperatures. The cooking process takes quite a while, because you are using indirect heat. .

Does Smoking Preserve Meat?

smoking meat to preserve it

If you truly want to preserve your meat, you must utilize the cold smoking method. This method uses a salt cure. The curing process will inhibit bacteria from growing. During cold smoking, moisture is removed from the meat. Bacteria need that moisture to survive and thrive. So, by removing the moisture, you are removing the breeding ground for bacteria.

Other smoking methods will not preserve meat for any length of time. You would need to place those meats in the freezer or eat them within a short period of time to prevent the growth of bacteria.

How Long Does Smoked Brisket Last?

Smoked brisket is a tougher and fattier meat, which makes it more resistant to spoilage. Properly stored smoked brisket can last for several weeks in the refrigerator.

You can also freeze smoked brisket to extend the storage life. While it could last quite a long time, it is best to consume it within 2 months. 

Related read: How To Trim a Brisket For Smoking

Does Smoked Meat Go Bad?

smoked salmon

Smoked meat can go bad if it is not stored properly or if it is left out at room temperature for an extended period of time. Properly stored smoked meat can last for several weeks or even months, depending on the type of meat and the storage conditions. For example, leaner meats such as salmon is only good for a few days once opened, but meats such as brisket, is tougher and fattier so it lasts longer.

To store smoked meat properly, keep it in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below - it will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge once opened.


How to Tell if Smoked Meat is Bad?

It is fairly simple to tell if smoked meat is bad. If the meat looks brown and crispy, it is still safe to eat. If there are any green, yellow, or other colored spots on the meat, it could be spoiled.

Smelling your smoked meat is another way to tell if it has gone bad. If your meat is still good, it should give off a smoky flavor. Any other scent usually means the meat has spoiled.

If you happen to notice any dry spots, or leaks, double check your meat before consuming. Bacteria may have started to grow on the surface of the meat.

How to Store Smoked Meat?

Storing smoked meat is not much different than storing any other kind of cooked meats. 

Once your meat is smoked, you must remove any excess moisture or exposed fat. This will prevent bacteria from finding a way to grow.

vacuum sealing some meats for storage

Then wrap your smoked cooked meat tightly in either plastic wrap or foil. Then place your packages inside the refrigerator. Your meat will last for about 4 days before going bad.

If you really want to extend the shelf lives of your smoked meats, use a vacuum sealer to remove excess air. We recommend adding an oxygen absorber to the inside of the packaging before removing the air. This will give even more protection from bacterial growth. The last thing you want is food poisoning from not storing your meat the right way.

Tips for Freezing Your Smoked Meat Stash

If you smoke large quantities of meat, you can place it in the freezer in an airtight container or freezer bags. The freezer is also the best place for any leftover cooked smoked meat.

Smoked meat can last in the freezer for between 3 months, and sometimes up to 6 months although flavor starts to deteriorate after 3. Freezer burn can start after that time. While freezer burn won’t hurt your foods, it may affect the flavor or texture. Vacuum sealing can help prevent freezer burn.

What to Serve with Smoked Meat?

cooked collard greens in a white bowl cooked southern style

There are endless options of what to serve with smoked meat. You can do a southern theme with cornbread, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. Or you can choose mashed potatoes, baked beans, and green beans. Potato salad and coleslaw are other options.

How to Reheat Pulled Pork - Keeping It Moist and Delicious

There is a trick to reheating pulled pork to keep it moist and delicious. We have found using the oven is the best method. Simply heat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

pulled pork sandwich with french fries in background

Place the pulled pork into an oven-safe dish. Pour a ¼ cup of water, barbecue sauce, apple juice, or apple cider vinegar into the dish. Cover with two layers of aluminum foil.

Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of your pulled pork.

If you want a little crunch on your leftover pulled pork, pull the foil off and cook for 5 more minutes.

Final Words

You will never need to wonder how long does smoked meat last again. Especially since you now know all the options for storing and eating those leftover smoked meats before they go bad. There is no reason to let the smoked meat you make go bad in your house. Simply utilize one of the options we shared today and eat up, or store, all that smoked meat before it needs to be tossed.


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View our entire collection of dark wood walnut cutting boards - there are many shapes and sizes to choose from. Find your perfect board for your next smoked meat project!

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