How to Tell if Sausage is Bad? [7 Signs & Storage Tips]

How to Tell if Sausage is Bad

Sausage is a delicious and versatile meat product that can spoil quickly if not handled properly. Knowing how to identify signs of bad sausage is important to avoid foodborne illness. This article will cover indicators of fresh versus spoiled sausage, proper storage methods, what causes sausage to go bad, if moldy sausage can be safely eaten, and how long sausage lasts refrigerated or frozen. Using these guidelines can help ensure you are able to fully enjoy sausage before it deteriorates.

Signs of Fresh Sausage

Fresh Sausage

Here are some signs that sausage is fresh and safe to eat:

  • Bright coloration – Raw sausage has a uniform pink, brown, or red color depending on variety. No gray or dull spots.
  • Firm, springy texture – The meat is resilient when pressed. No stickiness or mushiness.
  • Mild meaty aroma – Fresh raw sausage has a subtle savory smell.
  • Intact packaging – Store-bought sausage has an undamaged, well-sealed package.
  • Use by date – Consume fresh sausage within 1-2 days of the printed use-by date at most.
  • Proper refrigeration – The sausage was stored chilled at 40°F or below continuously after purchase.

Sausage that is discolored, slimy, dried out or foul-smelling may be spoiled and unsafe.

What Causes Sausages to Go Bad?

There are a few reasons why sausage spoils quickly:

  • Bacteria growth – Raw meat and spices in sausage provide nutrients for bacteria to grow rapidly.
  • Oxygen exposure – Air contact speeds up microbial growth on the exposed sausage surfaces.
  • Temperature abuse – Heat accelerates bacteria proliferation, while cold temperatures slow it.
  • Age – Bacteria populations multiply over time, causing decay.
  • Recontamination – Introducing bacteria during handling, slicing, or cooking.
  • Packaging damage – Leaks or openings in packaging admits air and microbes.

Proper refrigeration inhibits bacteria and slows sausage spoilage. Freezing preserves freshness longer term.

Signs That Your Sausage Is Bad

Llike any perishable item, sausage can spoil if not handled and stored properly. There are clear signs you can look for to determine if your sausage has gone bad.

How to Tell If Sausage Has Gone Bad? Check sausage for these visible indicators of spoilage before eating:

Sausage Is Bad

1. Discoloration

Fresh sausage meat is vibrant pink or red. As it spoils, the color fades to grey, brown, or greenish shades.

Dull, unappetizing colors mean the meat is over the hill and potentially unsafe. Discard sausages with any discolored meat.

Key Point: The color changes from pink/red to grey, brown or green when sausage goes bad.

2. Slimy Texture

Good quality sausages feel firm and moist. Spoiled sausage develops a tacky, slimy texture on the meat.

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The sliminess comes from bacteria breaking down proteins and producing slime. Do not eat sausages with slimy spots or residue.

Key Point: Sausage develops a gummy, shiny, or slimy texture when contaminated with bacteria.

3. mold growth

Any mold growing on the sausage itself or the casing means it has gone bad. You may see fuzzy white, grey, green or black mold.

Discard moldy sausage – the mold can send invisible “roots” deep into the meat. Do not try to cut away moldy parts.

Key Point: Visible mold growing anywhere signals the sausage has spoiled.

4. Rancid Odor

Fresh sausage has a mild meaty smell. As it spoils, an increasingly strong, unpleasant rancid odor develops.

Some describe the stench as like sour milk or spoiled eggs. Trust your nose – a foul sausage smell means it has gone bad.

Key Point: There is a distinct rotten, “off” smell when sausage goes bad.

5. Yeasty Smell

A strong fermented, yeasty or beer-like smell means bacteria have multiplied and begun breaking down meat components.

This gives an unappetizing sour, acetous odor. If you detect this yeasty smell, the sausage has spoiled.

Key Point: A distinctly yeasty or winy odor indicates fermentation and spoilage.

6. Weird Spongy Texture

High microbial growth causes some spoiled sausages to get a strange spongy texture. Gas bubbles from bacteria get trapped in the ground meat, making it feel foamy and mushy.

Sponginess, mushiness, or bubbles in the meat mean the sausage is bad and should be immediately discarded.

Key Point: A unusual mushy, foamy or spongy texture indicates sausage spoilage.

7. Dry, Cracked Casing

Fresh sausage casing looks taut and plump. As sausage ages, the casing dries out and becomes wrinkled, cracked, or deflated.

A withered, deflated look to the skin shows the sausage is old and dried out. It lacks the snappy texture of fresh sausage.

Key Point: Dry, wrinkled, cracked casing signals sausage is past its prime.

How To Tell If Cooked Sausage Is Bad

Cooked sausages also have a limited shelf life. Check for the following signs of spoilage:

  • Unpleasant cheesy, sour or fishy smell
  • Soft, mushy texture instead of firm and sliceable
  • Dry, sticky or tacky appearance rather than moist sheen
  • Dull greyish color instead of pink or brown when cut

Discard cooked sausages at the first hint of spoilage, especially if you detect a rancid smell. Don’t take chances with cooked sausage left out too long.

How to Store Sausage?

Like any fresh or cooked meat, sausages are perishable and require diligent storage methods to maximize quality and prevent spoilage.

Follow these guidelines to retain sausage’s signature flavor, texture and safety through proper handling.

How Long Does Fresh Sausage Last?

Here are the duration fresh and cooked sausage remain safe if stored properly:

Sausage Type Refrigerator Freezer
Fresh sausage, unopened 1-2 days 1-2 months
Fresh sausage, opened 1-2 days 1-2 months
Cooked sausage 3-4 days 2-3 months
Kielbasa, cooked 7-10 days 3 months

Discard any sausage with off smells or appearance, even if within these timelines. Don’t rely on freezing to make spoiled sausage safe to eat again.

Refrigerating Fresh Raw Sausage

Fresh raw sausages require careful refrigeration:

  • Refrigerate or freeze sausages within 1-2 hours of purchase. Do not leave raw sausage out at room temperature.
  • Wrap opened packages tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Re-sealable freezer bags also work well.
  • Place sausages on a tray or plate to catch any drips and separate from other foods.
  • Raw sausages last just 1-2 days in the fridge before spoiling. Freeze for longer storage.
  • Cook sausages within 24 hours of refrigeration for best flavor and food safety.
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Like any raw ground meat, fresh sausage must be refrigerated promptly and kept cold to prevent bacterial growth.

Freezing Raw Sausage

For extended storage, raw sausages can be frozen:

  • Divide into portion sizes and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or freezer paper. Exclude air.
  • Place wrapped sausages in labeled freezer bags or airtight containers. Press out excess air.
  • Freeze raw sausages within 1-2 days of purchase for best quality.
  • Store frozen at 0°F or below. Follow freezer storage times based on type.
  • Use frozen sausage within recommended timelines for optimal texture and freshness.

Freezing prevents microbial growth for safe, long term storage of raw sausages. Maintain a constant freezer temperature.

Thawing Frozen Sausage

Always thaw frozen sausages gradually in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. Other safe thawing methods:

  • Place still-wrapped sausage on a rimmed plate or tray to catch drips. Thaw in refrigerator 1-2 days.
  • For faster thawing, place sausage bags or wraps under cold running water. Change water every 30 minutes until thawed. Cook immediately.
  • Microwave sausage on defrost setting 2-3 minutes per link or patty, until pliable. Cook right after thawing.
  • Can bake frozen sausages from frozen at 400°F for 15-25 minutes until heated to 165°F internally.

Improper thawing leads to ideal conditions for microbial growth. Cook thawed sausage soon for food safety.

Where to Store Sausage in the Fridge

Designate space for sausage storage on a lower shelf toward the back of the refrigerator. Keep sausage:

  • In original sealed packaging or rewrapped tightly in freezer bags
  • On a rimmed plate or tray to prevent leaks
  • Separated from other foods, especially ready-to-eat items
  • On a bottom shelf where temperature is coldest
  • Never in the refrigerator door, where temperature fluctuates

Proper air flow and isolation are important for safe raw and cooked sausage fridge storage.

How to Store Leftover Sausage

To safely store cooked sausage leftovers:

  • Refrigerate within 2 hours in shallow airtight containers. Do not leave out.
  • Use leftover cooked sausage within 3-4 days. Discard if moldy, slimy or smelly.
  • Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer bag or container for 2-3 months.
  • Thaw frozen sausage leftovers gradually in the refrigerator, never on the counter or at room temperature.
  • Reheat thawed sausage leftovers to 165°F until steaming hot before consuming.

Follow strict protocols for cooked meat storage, thawing and reheating. Never let cooked sausages sit at room temperature over 2 hours total.

How Long Do Sausages Last in the Freezer?

Frozen and stored at 0°F, sausages can safely be kept frozen for the following times:

  • Raw fresh sausage: 2-3 months
  • Cooked smoked sausage: 3-4 months
  • Hard cured sausage: 6 months or longer

For best quality, follow these freezing tips:

  • Freeze sausages by the “sell by” date for maximum freshness.
  • Portion sausage into usable amounts and wrap airtight before freezing.
  • Thaw frozen sausage overnight in the fridge before cooking.
  • Cook thawed raw sausage within 1-2 days. Do not refreeze raw sausage after thawing.

Freezing preserves freshness and extends sausage shelf life.

Can Eating Bad Sausage Make You Sick?

Yes, consuming sausage that has spoiled can potentially cause foodborne illness. Sausages prone to spoilage can harbor dangerous bacteria.

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Potential pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, Clostridium botulinum and Staphylococcus can multiply to risky levels in contaminated or temperature abused sausages.

If eaten, these bacteria may cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and weakness starting 12-36 hours after consumption.

Properly cooking sausages kills potentially present bacteria. However, it cannot undo toxins produced by microbes in spoiled meat. Only consuming sausages before deterioration and spoilage can prevent illness.

Key Point: Spoiled, raw sausage may contain dangerous pathogens if consumed. Cooking destroys bacteria but cannot remove toxins.

Can You Salvage Spoiled Sausage?

No, any sausage that shows clear signs of spoilage like off-colors, rancid odors, or slimy texture should be immediately discarded. There is no way to make spoiled sausage safe for consumption.

Do not attempt to rinse, trim, cook or re-freeze sausages that smell bad or appear grey/green. Potentially dangerous pathogens and toxins likely contaminate the meat.

Likewise, cooking and then eating spoiled sausage still runs a high risk of food poisoning. Re-freezing or “washing” cannot undo spoilage.

If your sausage has gone bad, play it safe and throw it out. Do not take risks with your health.

Key Point: Spoiled, bad sausage cannot be salvaged and should always be fully discarded. It remains unsafe to eat even if cooked.

Buying Fresh Sausage

Selecting optimally fresh sausage reduces the chances of premature spoilage. Look for:

  • Bright red color – Avoid sausage with an off-grey, green or brown hue.
  • Intact packaging – Pass on leaking packages or packages with tears.
  • Sell-by date – Choose sausage with the furthest expiry date for maximum home storage time.
  • Tightly sealed wrap – Loose wrapping indicates dried out, old sausage.
  • Mild meaty aroma – Strong unnatural odors suggest spoilage.

Getting the freshest sausage from a busy grocer minimizes early spoilage issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell when fully cooked sausage goes bad?

Signs include foul odors, sliminess, discoloration, or mold. If cooked sausage is left too long at unsafe temperatures, dangerous bacteria can grow.

What causes red slime on packaged raw sausage?

Red slime is from meat pigment oxidation when exposed to air. Unopened, it’s harmless if fully cooked. Discard opened, slimy packages.

Can you freeze and re-freeze raw sausage?

It’s not recommended. Freezing, thawing, and refreezing raw sausage allows bacteria to proliferate. Cook or discard thawed raw sausage within 1-2 days.

Is it safe to eat sausage after sell-by date?

It’s not advised to eat sausage more than 1-2 days past the printed sell-by date, even unopened. Check for off smells, colors, or textures. Discard if any signs of spoilage.

Does cooking make spoiled sausage safe to eat?

It’s unsafe to eat sausage you suspect has spoiled, even if cooked. Toxins can persist despite high cooking temperatures. Discard questionable sausage.

Final Takeaways

Identifying signs of spoiled versus fresh sausage can prevent foodborne illness. Look for changes in color, smell, texture, or mold that indicate bacteria growth. Refrigerate sausage after purchase and cook within recommended time frames. Freeze for longer storage. Discard expired, moldy, or smelly sausage. Follow proper chilling, freezing, and handling guidelines to safely maximize the shelf life of fresh sausage.

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