How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last

How long does smoked meat last? Typically, smoked meat lasts for about 4 days in the fridge if it is refrigerated within 2 hours after the smoking process is complete – however, there are a few but’s here.

For one, the above statement refers to hot smoked meats. It also doesn’t mention the fact that there are a few ways of prolonging its shelf life. But hey, that’s what introductions are for. Something has to draw you in and make you keep reading!

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?

Before we dive into the world of smoked meat, I’m assuming there are a few culinary newcomers out here. Thus, to avoid confusion, let’s first get the difference between hot-smoked and cold-smoked meat out of the way.

On the one hand, we have hot smoking – a cooking technique that involves slow-cooking raw meat at low temperatures for between 1 and 2 hours. Hot smoking is something you do for flavor, not preservation.

Conversely, cold smoking is a preservation process dating back to the times when a refrigerator wasn’t a household name. It goes hand in hand with the curing process and may take up to several months.

Now that we’ve made this distinction clear let’s get down to business.

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last in The Fridge?

If you’re asking this question, I’d say you’ve got a bit too much hot smoked meat on your hands. Don’t worry, you’re not going to have to eat it all in one sitting since refrigerating smoked meats is perfectly acceptable.

With this said, even refrigerated smoked meat has its expiration date. If stored properly, smoked meats should have a shelf life of 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last pin

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last in The Refrigerator?

The FDA advises packing and refrigerating hot smoked meat within 2 hours of finishing on the smoker – anything else would be considered improper food handling. Now the packing part has a few additional steps to it.

For one, either tightly wrap the meat in butcher paper or find the smallest container possible to store it. You could also consider vacuum packing it, as this ensures food safety and prevents food poisoning.

Just remember, no matter how good you’ve packed it, refrigerated smoked meat should be eaten in 3 to 4 days – anything longer runs the risk of going bad!

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last in The Freezer?

Although I don’t gladly recommend this, smoked meat can be placed in the freezer. If you freeze it properly, smoked meats may last up to three months. However, it needs to be stored properly.

This means packing it on a clean surface with freshly washed tools – if the meat has been contaminated before being placed in the freezer, the low temperature won’t kill bacteria that are already on it. Additionally, the packing process also involves tightly wrapping it in butcher paper before freezing. To be on the safe side, you could always wrap it in an additional layer of aluminum foil – a preventative measure to keep the juiciness and freshness intact.

Now, I’ve said that smoked meat can last up to three months in the freezer. However, it may technically last even longer, but most of its taste will have disappeared due to freezer burn by the time you take it out.

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last Unrefrigerated?

If, for some reason unknown to me, you wouldn’t prefer to refrigerate leftover smoked meat, there’s nothing much I can do for you – you’ll just have to eat it in the next 2 hours.

As both science and the FDA make clear, smoked meat left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours is unsafe to eat. This is because bacterial growth occurs after two hours. In other words, the bacteria that form on the meat may cause food poisoning.

Therefore, to save yourself an unnecessary trip to the hospital, you have two options – eating all those leftovers in the next few hours or following our simple guide to refrigeration above. It’s entirely your choice.

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last in The Wild?

If the smoking process went smoothly, then your meat should be good for about 2 to 3 months in the wild. However, as with any type of food, I’d strongly recommend you check if it’s gone bad before digging in – just because you’re in the wild doesn’t mean food poisoning can’t be avoided!

As a rule of thumb, one day of smoking can get up to a week of preservation. Two days can get you up to a month (as the meat will be very saturated with smoke). But you must smoke it properly, otherwise, it will spoil very quickly.

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last Outside?

This question could go two ways since you’re either asking me about the shelf life of smoked meat outside of the fridge or outside as in the wilderness. Either way, there’s a two-way answer depending on how you were smoking meat.

For one, a hot smoking method will leave you with meat that’s good for around 2 hours at room temperature. On the other hand, cold-smoked meats will last you a little longer – around a week, to be exact. If they’re store-bought and not opened, then all you’ll need is the expiration date on the packaging.

How Long Will Cold Smoked Meat Last?

Up till now, I’ve mostly dealt with hot smoked meats. However, they are most certainly not the only type of smoked meat out there, and unlike hot smoked meat, other kinds tend to last longer.

Cue the cold-smoked meat.

If you’ve never had the chance to try it, you probably don’t know what a grueling process cold smoking meat can be. It takes several months and a whole lot of patience. With that said, it does give you some amazing pieces of cold-smoked meat.

If properly smoked, cold-smoked meats can last up to three months. Since you have all that time to enjoy, just don’t waste all that meat in one sitting!

How Long Does Cured Smoked Meat Last?

I know, you’re minds probably about to blow – there’s cured smoked meat too? Don’t worry, cured smoked meat is just another way of referring to cold-smoked meats. Since the process of curing and cold smoking go hand in hand, this one was to be expected.

If properly cured, cured smoked meat can last up to 3 months! 

Does Smoked Meat Stay Good Longer?

Since this one’s a bit vague, I’d feel better if we covered all our bases, so let’s get started.

First of all, hot smoked meat lasts for around two hours at room temperature after smoking. If you’d like to prolong its shelf life, think about either freezing it or packing it up in the refrigerator – this should buy you a few months or days, depending on the method of choice.

On the other hand, cold-smoked meat does last longer – longer than both raw and hot-smoked meat. Since it’s been cured and cold-smoked, it is surely good for 2 to 3 months, even longer in the refrigerator or freezer!

How Long Do You Have to Smoke Meat to Preserve It?

As I’ve mentioned a few times in this article, cold smoking was and still is a preservation method for raw meat. It’s a delicate process, and it’s also a long one.

First up is the curing process – dehydrating raw meat with a salt mixture. This step creates an environment hostile to bacterial growth, keeping the meat fresh. Once cured, it’s time for the meat to dry. Depending on your preferences, the meat should dry for between 1 and 12 hours and always in an area with good airflow, as this allows the smoky flavors to stick. Since it’s dry, your last step is cooking the meat. This should always be under 90 degrees F.

Fair warning – although everything I just said might come off as simple, be sure that it’s not. Over time, people have come to perfect cold smoking to a tee, so don’t expect to nail it on the first go – it truly is an art form.

How Do You Know If Smoked Meat Is Bad?

We’ll start with the obvious – it’s out of date. If this is the case, don’t think twice, just throw it out.

Next stop – the visuals. If it’s discolored and has a slime over it, throw it out, best with your nose far away from it.

The third step and your last resort – smelling the meat. If it has a bad odor, it’s done and should be out of your apartment momentarily.


It’s safe to say we’ve covered everything, meaning that you now know how long smoked meat lasts. The next time someone tells you it lasts for 2 hours after the smoking process is complete, you’ll know exactly what they mean.

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