As someone who loves to cook, I often find myself freezing sausages to have on hand for quick and easy meals. However, knowing how long sausage can safely stay in the fridge after defrosting is important to prevent foodborne illness. In this article, I’ll discuss the proper methods for defrosting sausage links or patties, recommended fridge time after thawing, and cooking sausages safely.
Why Proper Defrosting is Crucial for Sausage
Sausage is highly perishable and requires careful defrosting methods to keep it safe to eat. Defrosting helps thaw frozen sausages gradually to prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria. If sausages are left at room temperature or defrosted improperly, bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella can rapidly multiply, leading to food poisoning when the raw meat is consumed.
Thawing sausage in the refrigerator is the best way to keep it out of the temperature danger zone between 40°F and 140°F where bacteria flourishes. Slow defrosting in the fridge, rather than quicker methods like the microwave, help ensure the meat thaws evenly throughout. This prevents partially thawed centers which could remain frozen while the outer areas start growing bacteria.
How to Safely Defrost Sausage
No matter which defrosting method you choose, it’s important to cook raw sausage promptly after thawing and avoid letting it sit at room temperature. Here are some safe ways to defrost sausage before cooking:
For slow, even thawing, thawing sausage in the refrigerator is best. Here’s how to do it right:
- Place the frozen sausage in its original airtight packaging on a plate or tray to catch any drips.
- Put the sausage on a shelf in the back of the fridge, which tends to be the coldest area.
- Allow 24 hours for a 1-pound package to fully defrost. Larger packages may take longer like 48 hours for 3 pounds of sausage.
- Check occasionally and return to the fridge until thawed completely before cooking.
Cold Water Thawing
For faster defrosting, you can submerge sausage links or patties in cold water:
- Place the frozen sausage in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container.
- Submerge the bag or container in a bowl of cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
- Sausage generally defrosts in 30 minutes to 1 hour once fully submerged.
- Cook immediately after thawing or return to fridge if needed.
Microwaving is the fastest way to defrost sausage, but can lead to uneven heating. Follow these tips:
- Unwrap sausage and place on a microwavable plate.
- Microwave at 50% power in 1-minute intervals, flipping occasionally.
- Cook sausage immediately after microwaving since some areas may begin to cook.
How Long Does Defrosted Sausage Last in the Fridge?
Once thawed, raw sausage needs to be cooked promptly to prevent bacterial growth in the perishable meat. Here is how long defrosted sausage will last refrigerated:
- 1-2 days for raw sausage patties or links after fridge thawing.
- Only 1-2 days for sausage thawed by the cold water method as bacteria multiply rapidly.
- Immediately cook sausage thawed in the microwave to 90°F.
For best quality, sausage that was thawed in the refrigerator should be cooked within 1 to 2 days. If kept longer, the meat can start deteriorating and the texture and flavor will decline.
Cooking Sausage Safely After Defrosting
Raw sausage that has been thawed must reach a safe minimum internal temperature during cooking. Follow these guidelines:
- Cook raw pork, turkey, or chicken sausage patties or links to 160°F.
- Cook raw beef, veal, lamb, or goat sausage to 160°F.
- Boiling sausage after defrosting until 160°F is safest.
- Frying, grilling, or baking thawed sausage to safe temperature also works.
I like to boil sausage briefly until cooked through after thawing to eliminate bacteria. Then I may toss the pre-cooked sausage links or patties in a favorite marinade or spices and grill to add flavor and browning.
Can You Refreeze Thawed Sausage?
Refreezing raw sausage after it has been defrosted is risky due to food safety issues. The USDA recommends only refreezing meat if:
- It was thawed in the refrigerator and has not reached temperatures above 40°F.
- It was cooked to a safe internal temperature first before refreezing.
Even when these guidelines are met, the texture and moisture content will decline with each freeze-thaw cycle. For best quality, cook sausage completely after defrosting and consume it within the recommended 1-2 days.
Freezing and Thawing Precooked Sausage
Fully cooked sausage that has been frozen and thawed has a slightly longer fridge shelf life than raw thawed sausage. Here are some tips for handling precooked frozen sausage:
- Freeze cooked sausage within 2 hours of cooking.
- Store airtight in freezer for 2-3 months maximum.
- Thaw cooked sausage in the refrigerator overnight before use.
- Refrigerate thawed, cooked sausage for 3-4 days maximum.
- Reheat thawed precooked sausage to 165°F before serving.
Precooked sausage that has been properly frozen and defrosted in the fridge will keep for 3-4 days. Reheating it thoroughly before eating is important for safety and quality.
Signs Sausage Has Spoiled
Regardless of preparation method, cooked or raw sausage that has been sitting in the fridge too long can show signs of spoilage. Look for these indications your thawed or cooked sausage has gone bad:
- Slimy texture and dull or grey color
- Unpleasant sour or ammonia-like odor
- Mold growth on the exterior
- Discoloration inside when cut or cooked
Sausage that exhibits any of these changes should be thrown away. Consuming spoiled sausage can potentially cause illness.
Storing Sausage Safely
Proper storage is key to keeping sausages fresh and preventing bacterial growth after defrosting. Here are my top tips for sausage storage:
- Wrap raw sausages tightly and store in coldest part of the fridge for 1-2 days max.
- Cook thawed sausage right away and refrigerate leftovers for 3-4 days.
- Label cooked sausage with date it was prepared or freeze within 2 hours of cooking.
- Divide large packages of raw sausage into smaller portions for quick defrosting as needed.
- Don’t refreeze raw sausage after it has thawed.
Key Takeaways on Defrosting Sausage
Handling sausage properly after defrosting ensures it stays fresh and safe to eat. Follow these key tips:
- Defrost using the refrigerator method for even, gradual thawing.
- Cook raw sausage within 1-2 days max after fridge thawing.
- Boil or fry thawed raw sausage to 160°F minimum internal temperature.
- Avoid letting raw sausage thaw at room temperature as bacteria multiply rapidly.
- Refrigerate cooked sausage for 3-4 days and reheat to 165°F before eating.
- Do not refreeze raw sausage after it has thawed.
With proper defrosting, storage, and cooking, sausage can be safely enjoyed in a variety of delicious dishes. Using fresh, high-quality sausage and handling it carefully after thawing minimizes the risk of foodborne pathogens.