How Long Does Smoked Meat Last

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last?

Smoking food is an age-old way of preserving meat and fish, although the curing process can actually begin without smoking by brining or adding salt. Smoking adds flavor to the meat and causes chemical reactions that make it last longer.

The length of time that smoked meats will keep depends on a few factors including whether or not it has been cured before smoking, how much salt was used in the brine for cooking, and how hot you smoke them. In this article, we will take a look at how to smoke meat and how long smoked meat last.

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last

What is smoked meat?

Smoked meat is food that has been cured and then smoked. The original purpose of smoking was not to “cook” the meat, but rather to preserve it. Over time, as people learned that foods could taste better after being smoked, they began cooking them at lower temperatures for shorter periods of time in order to both cook the meat and impart a smoky flavor.

There are two main types of smoking styles: cold smoking and hot smoking.

Cold smoking – Cold smoking is the process of infusing smoke and flavor into food without raising its internal temperature above 140° F (60° C). This does not cook the food, so bacteria and pathogens are still alive, which means that cold smoked foods must be cooked or cured before eating. Cold smoking requires less attention than hot smoking, but it also allows for less control over the finished product.

Hot smoking – Hot smoking heats up meat to about 170° F (77° C), killing off any harmful bacteria and making it safe to eat without cooking or curing first. As with cold smoking, great care must be taken when heating meat this way because you risk drying out the meat if you raise it too high or cook it for too long.

How long does smoked meat last?

The length of time that smoked foods will last depends on whether they were cured beforehand and how hot you smoke them. One thing we know about smoking is that it does not “cook” the meat in the traditional sense of heating it up. It is more accurately a combination of cooking, curing, and drying.

Cold smoked meats lose most of their moisture during smoking which means they can be dried for storage purposes or cooked later on to re-hydrate them. Cold smoked foods hang out around 100˚F (37˚C) long enough to get that smoky flavor without actually cooking them. This makes cold smoked meats safe to eat raw but also allows you to cook them afterward if you like. Since cold smoked meats are usually brined in saltwater before smoking, they will last several weeks at refrigeration temperatures until they spoil.

Hot smoked foods, however, are another story. Meats that have been hot smoked actually cook during the smoking process due to their proximity to the fire. You can tell if a piece of meat or fish has been cooked by its color and texture, not to mention it will probably be cooked all the way through if you cut into it. Whether it’s chicken, beef, pork, any type of food that has been both cured and smoked is going to need to be heated before serving.

Cold smoked meats last several weeks under refrigeration while meats that have been cooked go bad in about two days at normal room temperature. This means you should always eat your cold smoked meat within a week or freeze it for later consumption instead of leaving it out on the counter for three days.

Cold smoked meats should never be frozen because it causes moisture loss which can destroy the texture. They should always be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator to prevent dryness, mold growth, and oxidation (which turns them brown).

Hot smoked foods, on the other hand, are safe to freeze if they have been completely cooked through. To do this, remove all of the meat from its packaging and place it inside a zip-top bag instead. Squeeze out as much of the air as possible before sealing it shut and placing it inside another zip-top bag with no holes poked into either one. Label it with both dates, then pop it into your freezer for up to six months. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw it out in your refrigerator overnight before bringing it back to room temperature.

Smoked one way or the other, smoked meat will be safe to eat for up to two weeks if stored properly in your fridge at less than 40˚F (4˚C). If you are worried about food poisoning because someone ate spoiled smoked meat, take comfort in knowing that there have been no reported cases of this happening in modern times. Still, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution when you can so keep any leftovers under refrigeration just to be safe!

What are the benefits of smoked meat?

Smoking meat is a type of cooking that helps improve its nutritional value by adding moisture while enhancing its natural flavors at the same time which in turn allows you to preserve it for longer periods of time by removing excess water without worrying about bacterial contamination since it’s slow-cooked at a low temperature before being served.

Comparing smoked meat to traditional grills, smoking can be done with anything from ribs or pork chops to chicken or even beef, but it also works great when making salmon fillets or even cheeses thanks to their high-fat content and neutral flavor before being seasoned; plus smoking can help add more complex layers of taste that include smoky bacon and even spicy chipotle flavors.

In other words, if you want to enjoy tender, juicy meats with all those tasty flavors concentrated in every bite instead of drying them out as they would on a regular grill, smoking your favorite cuts is definitely the best way to bring out their full potential.

How does smoking meat work?

To understand how long smoked foods last, we need to know what happens when they’re being cooked. When you smoke a piece of meat or fish at low temperatures, the proteins in it begin to break down and turn into a gelled texture that traps moisture inside the food’s cells. This makes the cell walls thicker and harder for microbes to get through and cause spoilage. The salt also draws juices out of the muscle fibers, making them less watery which contributes to this effect. Moisture loss is also prevented by the fact that any fat left on the food renders out during smoking, reducing the amount of moisture in the meat.

Smoke also contains phenols which are antioxidants that prevent spoilage caused by oxidation. At high temperatures, these phenols begin to break down which means it is important to keep smoked meats below 130˚F (54˚C) for quality purposes. Cubes of suet or vegetable shortening can be added to meats being cooked at low temperatures to maintain their moisture content if this is a concern.  

Types of wood used for smoking meat

Alder – Very flavorful with a hint of sweetness. Most commonly used in smoking salmon, although it can also be used to flavor pork and beef.

Apple – A mild fruitwood that is perfect for poultry dishes as well as ham and cheese.

Fruitwoods – Your choice depends on the type of fruit from which they are derived; peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries make a good addition to your meats and vegetables. 

Hickory – The king of hardwoods! Great for beef and pork dishes like ribs or pulled pork because hickory has an abundant amount of flavor that permeates meat very well.

Mesquite – It is probably the most popular choice for grilling because it burns hotter than most other woods. A little goes a long way with mesquite because it’s so powerful, but if you’re smoking something delicate like fish then it works best when combined with milder fruitwoods.

Oak – Can be bitter if used by itself, but is usually sweetened up with another wood to balance the flavor since oak logs are very dense and burn for a long time. 

Pecan – Similar to hickory in both strength and flavor profile, pecan also imparts its unique taste on whatever meat or vegetables it comes into contact with. Try combining these two types of wood for an unforgettable smoked chicken dinner!

Walnut – A bit stronger than pecan, similar to oak but not as strong as hickory. Walnut is another great choice for poultry, as well as cheese and hearty root vegetables.

How Long Does Smoked Meat Last

What types of meat are good for smoking?

Tender meats like chicken, turkey, and pork are great for smoking because they have a tendency to dry out if cooked incorrectly. When you’re going to smoke meat, it’s important to always cook it at a lower temperature than normal so that the inside is thoroughly cooked before the outside begins to burn or become too dry.

Smoked beef can be tricky because it tends to get stringy very easily, which is why brisket and short ribs are ideal choices. Brisket requires low heat over an extended period of time whereas short ribs can afford periods of direct flame since their marbling will allow them to remain tender even when overcooked slightly. The best way to accomplish this with both types is by brining them first.

Game meats like elk and venison also benefit from being smoked because it tenderizes them so well since they are leaner than beef. However, the secret to smoking game meat is marinating it for a full day before putting it on your smoker. All you need to do is place the meat in either a ziptop bag or covered dish with enough apple juice, red wine, or buttermilk to cover it completely. The acidity of the liquids will break down the tough fibers over time without making the meat too mushy, which makes all of your preparations worth it in the end!

If you’re smoking pork then good cuts include ribs, loin chops, and other fatty parts are both easy to cook yet take to flavor very well. Just make sure not to overcook any of these types of pork by accident because it will render the fat unusable when you separate it from the meat in post-smoking preparation.

How to smoke meat? a step by step guide:

  1. Preparation:

The first thing you’re going to do is prepare the meats that you want to smoke by removing any and all excess fat, bones, and skin; then cutting them into small chunks or strips that’ll fit inside of your cooking surface. For chicken and other poultry, it’s best to brine them overnight in order to make sure they remain tender throughout the entire process while also holding onto as much moisture as possible so they don’t dry out. On the other hand, pork sausages like kielbasa take really well to smoking without having been pre-prepared since their high level of salt will help keep them moist even if there is a period of direct flame exposure when placed onto the grill or smoker.

  1. Prepare your wood chips:

The next step is to soak your wood chips in water for at least half an hour before you’re ready to put them on top of your lit charcoal so that they don’t burn immediately when placed over the open flame. If you do not have hardwood chips on hand then you can use other types of chopped up pieces like coconut shells, corn cobs, or even banana leaves which are available at most Asian markets since they produce similar results without burning too quickly while releasing their own specific flavors into whatever it is that you’re smoking, although the latter two choices will require more effort on your part to keep them burning throughout.

  1. Apply cooking spray or olive oil to your grill or smoker:

The next thing you’re going to do is prepare the cooking surface of your grill by applying a generous layer of either nonstick cooking spray, olive oil, or any other type of vegetable oil that can handle high heat. This will keep it from sticking while also producing a nice smoked flavor when exposed to the very hot temperatures on top of your charcoal for too long.

  1. Prepare your meats:

Next, you’ll want to place all of your meats onto the grill and cover it with its lid in order to cook them properly while also allowing all sides of each piece to absorb as much smoke as possible during the whole process. If you prefer a more charred appearance then leave some between pieces so that they become exposed briefly, but be careful since this can affect the taste if left on for too long.

  1. Check your meats:

The last step is to check up on your meats every once in a while by removing their lid or opening it partially so that you can peek inside and make sure they aren’t cooking too quickly or burning from the top down where it’s impossible to reach them without disturbing the rest of the meat which would cause it to fall apart during moving since its structure has been weakened at that area. Also, be sure to go ahead and baste any liquids onto them completely over their surface using a clean brush or spray bottle filled with marinade after about an hour into smoking since this will help produce a slightly crispier texture, lock-in and intensify all of their flavors.

  1. Serve:

Once you’re done checking up on your meats for the last time, they should be ready to serve after anywhere from 2 or 3 hours depending on how much meat you have piled onto the grill and what kind of cooking surface you used which determines both its thickness and heat distribution at a given level. Just remember that whatever marinade you use for basting won’t taste very good if not allowed to cook into whatever it is that you’re smoking since it’ll most likely burn away completely if left on top too long without any coverage; but if this happens then simply scrape off any charred particles using a knife or spatula before serving warm chunks or strips over rice, salad, or even a simple baked potato.

What equipment do I need to smoke meat?

Smoking meat is a tasty way to cook it, but you also need the right equipment if you want to be able to do it properly, so here are its main components:

Food smoker or grill – Meat should be exposed to direct heat for only brief periods of time so that it can absorb smoke during smoking while being slowly cooked from the top down without burning. This means that regular grills will not work because their surfaces are too small and temperature control is limited, but there are other alternatives like electric smokers, propane gas smokers, pellet smokers, or charcoal water smoker combos.

Wood chip tray – The chips will need to soak in water for at least 30 minutes before they’re ready to give off flavor while also maintaining low temperatures without burning the meat.

Smoke generator – This is what helps produce smoke instead of using dry chips alone which would take too long to absorb moisture for smoking without burning. It can be either automated or manually filled with woodchips that are then lit before being left to burn on their own, producing a steady flow of smoke during the whole process.

Steel grill – The cooking surface should be large enough to expose all sides of your meats by hanging them from specially designed hooks over indirect heat during smoking at least one time so that they become tender and evenly cooked throughout while absorbing all of its flavors.

Heat resistant gloves, oven mitts, towels… – there are many helpful accessories that insulate against so that you don’t have to handle the grill (and its contents) with your bare hands which is both time-consuming and dangerous when dealing with high temperatures.

Smoke flavor – Aromatic wood chips can be used to enhance meat with flavors that imitate traditional BBQ smokers while also helping it retain moisture by producing gelatin when inserted into the center of cuts during smoking so that they don’t dry out too quickly when exposed to heat for prolonged periods.

The best way to preserve their natural juices is to use a digital meat thermometer in order to monitor each piece’s internal temperature at all times in order to remove them just before they’re completely done cooking since no matter what kind of smoker you decide on, nothing beats evenly cooked meats without burning even if they do end up tasting slightly over/underdone before being served.

Tips for smoking meat

– If you are cooking meat with a water smoker, make sure that the chips are always wet before putting them on the fire otherwise they will burn up and create too much smoke, which can actually ruin your food.

– When smoking thicker cuts of meat, the larger ones should be placed at the center while smaller pieces should be put closer to your heat source so that everything cooks through evenly.

– Experiment with adding different kinds of spices and marinades to your meats if you want them to come out tasting great! Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to how smoked meats taste so go ahead and try something new if you’re tired of doing things in the same old way.

– Remember that different kinds of wood generate different kinds of smoke that can alter the taste of any meat you are smoking!

– Remember to ‘burp’ your smoker if you are using a vertical water smoker because these smokers tend to build up too much pressure inside when they reach the right temperature, which could result in an explosion if it isn’t released. By opening up the firebox or chimney, you’ll allow steam and heat to escape properly.

– You shouldn’t start cooking until the wood chips begin producing smoke because this is what tells you that the ingredients have started smoldering within your smoker – this should give off a smell that’s similar to campfire smoke.

How to properly store smoked meat?

After smoking meat, it’s important that you know how to properly store it so that it doesn’t spoil if kept for cooking later which is why many people just don’t bother making more than what they can eat within a single week.

Smoked meat should be stored inside air-tight containers in the fridge at all times after being prepared, allowing them to cool down before putting them back where they were originally kept since this will make sure that no flavors are lost along with moisture by absorbing other food odors or tastes too easily without careful preparation.

Once cooled completely, smoked meats can be refrigerated anywhere from 2 days to 3 months depending on what kind of cuts you’re using and how much smoking time was involved since overcooking them can cause a change in the texture while reducing their shelf life to a matter of days instead.

After being stored for some time, smoked meats can also be frozen since it’s not recommended that you try keeping them for too long at room temperature or else risk bacterial growth which will leave them tasting sour or acidic when cooked so if you plan on using any kind of pre-smoked meat, always make sure that it was previously vacuum-sealed and/or packaged inside an airtight container before reusing for best results.

Once thawed completely, they’ll need to be left overnight in the fridge where they came from before being eaten or prepared by adding more smoking flavor into their surface and cooking slowly either overheat for longer periods of time or over indirect heat for shorter periods just like when they were being smoked in the first place.

Whether it’s done using a propane or charcoal BBQ, smoking meats is still an art that should only be mastered by practice which is why you can’t expect to get great results without careful preparation so keep these tips in mind if you plan on trying this method out for yourself since there are many ways to go about it but following them carefully will help you become better at making tasty smoked meats every single time!

When is smoked meat bad to eat?

If kept for too long, smoked meats can lose their texture along with being exposed to smoke odors which are absorbed by the other food inside the fridge where they are stored which is why it’s important that you know how to properly store them so that they don’t spoil before being eaten.

Depending on what kind of cut was used, smoking meat can take up anywhere from 2 days to several months but if kept for more than a few weeks without careful preparation since there are many factors such as size and thickness involved in determining optimal smoking time per pound so unless you’re using marinated cuts meant specifically for longer smoking times, the best way to ensure good results is to monitor their internal temperature and remove them just before they’re completely done cooking.

If you plan on using pre-smoked meat, make sure that it was previously vacuum-sealed and/or packaged inside an airtight container before using them in order to prevent any kind of bacterial growth at room temperature or else risk them tasting sour or acidic which makes it hard to cook with without practice since nothing beats evenly cooked meats when they’re done properly!.


Can you smoke vegetables?

Absolutely! You can smoke virtually any type of vegetable, although some are more difficult to prepare than others. Carrots, parsnips, and other root vegetables take really well to being smoked because they are robust enough for even the smokiest of wood choices without becoming bitter or otherwise unpleasant-tasting when cooked properly.

Bell peppers are also a great addition if you want to have a kick with your smoked foods because they absorb flavors so easily especially when given ample time (preferably overnight) for marinating.

Zucchini and summer squash are another great choice for smoking because they do well when exposed to the direct flame of a grill or smoker, although they can quickly become slimy in moist climates so it’s important not to let them sit in any liquids overnight.

What types of meat shouldn’t you smoke?

Lean meats like flank steak, beef tenderloin, and other similar cuts are best left to grilling or pan-frying instead of smoking because they have almost no fat. This means that the meat will cook much more quickly than you might be expecting which can lead to overcooking if you’re not careful.

Since seafood has so little fat as well, it’s important to know how to prevent it from becoming dry during the smoking process. To do this successfully, brine your seafood before putting it on your smoker so that the salt seeps into the flesh and helps break down some of its proteins over time. Seafood is also best cooked at a lower temperature than most meats for this same reason!

Can you use salt to smoke meat?

Yes, but there is no reason to do so unless you’re trying to impart additional flavors into whatever piece of meat you’re using for your Smoking project (bacon or otherwise) since plain old table salt isn’t usually ideal for preparing meat that you plan on cooking.

All of the spices that are usually used in BBQ rubs are more than welcome to be added to your salt before applying it onto whatever cuts you want to smoke, thus helping to add some flair and nice flavor while making sure that nothing goes wrong during this process!

What spices should you add to salt when smoking meat?

You can add whatever spices that you like best, but some of the most commonly used spices that go into BBQ rubs and the like include:

– Black pepper

– Allspice (ground)

– Cayenne pepper (ground)

– Garlic (minced or flakes)

– Onion (minced or flakes)  etc. etc.!

Since there are so many different possibilities out there, it’s important to experiment with new flavors if you get tired of the usual ones until you find a recipe that works for your taste preferences in a way that’s just right!.

Can you smoke meat to preserve it?

Smoking meat for preservation purposes is a bit of a misnomer, although it’s true that the process can be used this way under certain circumstances.

This is because smoking meat actually increases its chances for spoilage on account of the chemical compound known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are found in wood smoke and increase with temperature rise due to direct contact with heat sources like smokers and grills.

Although there are several different ways to help reduce the amount of PAHs produced (such as soaking wood chips before use or cooking at lower temperatures), you should always consult official food safety guidelines if you’re not sure of what to do when working with raw meat!

How long do you have to smoke meat to preserve it?

As long as it takes to break down the proteins without overcooking them is just about all that you need in order to preserve your meats to eat at a later time, although how much longer it can be preserved depends on what types of wood you used and how strong they taste when exposed to the heat.

How do you preserve smoked meat without refrigeration?

If you want to preserve your meats without refrigeration, then the ones that are most commonly used for this purpose are salted or brined after being smoked in order to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Most people don’t have access to canners so preserving meat in this way is usually done at home.

What type of meat needs brining before smoking?

In general, any kind of meat that you plan on using for your Smoking project will need to be brined beforehand with salt if you want it to come out tasting just right!  This isn’t always necessary but many people opt for this approach all the same when they’re not sure if their meat cut will turn out right otherwise.

Is basting meat with butter before smoking it good?

In general, basting your meats with butter or any other type of oil will help keep them from drying out too much while they’re being smoked, but this isn’t necessary if you’re using a water smoker because the heat and steam produced by these smokers are more than enough to prevent any kinds of meat from drying out prematurely.

What are the common mistakes when smoking meat?

– Attempting to barbecue meats directly over an open flame: this causes the fats and oils in the meat to drip into the fire, causing it to flare up and creating a bad smell that can’t be removed from your smoker or grill afterward.

– Leaving the lid off of your smoker while cooking: this exposes your food to heat fluctuations which can result in tough pieces of meat that don’t taste very good at all!

– Not using enough fuel when starting out with a new charcoal or wood fire: if you do this, then it could take a long time for the heat within your smoker to become consistent enough in order to cook properly.  This is why many people recommend using a propane gas starter in conjunction with your smoker in order to get it going fast!

– Cooking meat before the internal temperature has been reached: this is why using a digital probe thermometer is important when smoking meat because you want to avoid overcooking them no matter what.  You can even use a wireless remote digital meat probe thermometer from Thermoworks if you want the freedom of being able to do other stuff around your grill or smoker without opening it up and letting heat escape!

– Cooking leaner meats that naturally have less fat: this can cause them to dry out quickly while they’re being smoked because of the lack of fat, so it’s best to opt for fattier cuts when you want properly preserved meat. Some people like using pork or duck when smoking their meats!

Where can I buy a meat smoker?

There are many shops online and offline that sell all kinds of smokers ranging from large ones designed for commercial use to small portable ones that you can take camping!  You should be able to find one that suits your needs pretty easily, but it’s important to do your research in advance before making any purchases.

What temperature is best for smoking meat?

In general, smoking meat at a lower temperature is better than cooking them at a higher one because this prevents them from drying out and becoming tough through overcooking. For beef, it’s recommended to go with a temperature in the range of 175 degrees in order to preserve the tenderness of the meat while avoiding tough pieces which might be prone to cause sickness when eaten. Keep in mind that these temperatures are only guidelines, so you should use your best judgment when cooking too!

How long does it take to smoke meat?

– Beef will usually take around 5 hours depending on the thickness of your cut. If you’re using a digital remote thermometer, then this is just about the right time for medium-rare meat that’s fully cooked but won’t dry out either.

– Pork can typically be smoked for 4 hours at a temperature ranging between 225 degrees and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is enough time for it to become looser too, making it very easy to shred apart after being finished with its cooking process. Just make sure not to take it or else you might end up with a dry piece of pork when all is said and done!

– Chicken can be smoked for around 3 hours at a temperature ranging from 200 degrees to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.  At this point, the meat will become tender enough that you won’t have any problems when it comes to shredding it apart after being cooked through completely. However, you’ll definitely want to avoid overcooking so the meat doesn’t get tough instead!


Smoking meats is a lot easier than most people realize which is precisely why summertime is a great time to practice it! With a few simple supplies and a little patience, you’ll be able to smoke any type of cut that tickles your fancy in no time whatsoever without having to worry about anything going wrong or being undercooked so long as you follow the general guidelines listed above.

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