It’s a common question many home cooks have – can you still eat sausages or other frozen meats that have been in the freezer for a long time? With proper freezing methods, sausages can usually last in the freezer for up to 1 year before quality starts to decline. However, sausages frozen for 2 years may still be safe to eat, though the quality will not be as good.
How Long Do Sausages Last in the Freezer?
Properly stored sausages can last up to 4 months in the freezer. If the freezer maintains a constant temperature of 0°F or below and the sausages are vacuum sealed or tightly wrapped, they can last 6 to 12 months before quality starts to diminish. Here are some general guidelines for how long different types of sausages can last in the freezer:
|Freezer Storage Time
|Fresh pork sausage, uncooked
|Fresh turkey or chicken sausage, uncooked
|Pre-cooked smoked sausage, sealed
|Dry or hard sausage like salami, whole
|Cooked bratwurst, vacuum sealed
These timelines assume the sausages were fresh when frozen. The clock starts ticking as soon as they go into the freezer. Make sure your freezer is maintaining a constant 0°F or below to maximize the shelf life.
Signs Sausages May Be Bad After Extended Freezing
While sausages can technically last up to 2 years frozen, the quality will deteriorate over time. Here are some signs that sausages may have been frozen too long and should be discarded:
- Noticeable freezer burn on the sausage surface
- Discoloration or grayish hue
- Dry, shriveled texture
- Off smells when thawed or cooked
- Mold growth anywhere on the sausage
- Slime formation on the surface
- Weird tasting sausages when cooked
Freezer burn happens when air reaches the sausage surface and causes dehydration and oxidation. It appears as grayish-brown leathery spots. As sausages sit in the freezer longer, the fats can become rancid which leads to off tastes and smells.
Are Sausages Safe to Eat After 2 Years?
Most frozen sausages remain technically safe to eat even after being frozen for 2 years, though the taste, texture, and quality are likely to suffer. This is what food scientists and safety experts say about very long frozen storage times:
- According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), sausages that have been continuously frozen at 0°F or below will remain safe indefinitely. However, quality will diminish over time.
- Food safety experts at Eat By Date recommend using sausages within 1-2 years for best quality. They note that sausages lasting 2 years frozen may not make you sick, but will be noticeably drier in texture.
- StillTasty.com says that while frozen sausages remain technically safe after 2 years, the flavor and texture quality will become progressively worse. They don’t recommend freezing sausages for longer than 1 year.
So while 2 year old frozen sausages may not pose safety issues if they have been stored properly, they likely won’t taste very good. It’s best to try and use up frozen sausages within a year.
Should Cooked Sausages Be Discarded Sooner?
Cooked sausages don’t last as long in the freezer compared to raw sausages. This is because the cooking process starts breaking down the proteins and fats. Here are some guidelines from food safety experts:
- Cooked sausages should be discarded after 1-2 months in the freezer according to StillTasty.
- Eat By Date recommends using cooked frozen sausages within 1 to 3 months for best quality.
- The USDA FSIS says cooked sausages can be frozen for 1 to 2 months.
So for cooked sausages like brats or smoked kielbasa, try to freeze in smaller portions and use within 1-2 months. After 2 years, pre-cooked sausages are likely to have significant quality loss.
How to Freeze Sausages for Maximum Freshness
Freezing sausages properly from the start helps extend their freezer life and maintain quality for as long as possible:
- Portion into meal-sized amounts – Freeze sausages in portions ready to thaw and cook rather than freezing a whole package. This prevents re-freezing thawed sausages.
- Use freezer bags – Wrap tightly in plastic freezer bags, pressing out excess air before sealing. Freezer burn can start once air reaches the sausages.
- Freeze immediately – Freeze sausages as soon as possible after purchasing for peak freshness.
- Avoid temperature fluctuations – Store sausages in a stable 0°F freezer. Temperature changes shorten shelf life.
- Rotate frozen foods – Use older frozen items first and move new items to the back. Try to use sausages within a year.
Proper freezing and thawing also help maintain sausage quality and texture. Thaw frozen sausages in the refrigerator overnight rather than at room temperature. Cook sausages directly from frozen if preferred.
Reheating and Cooking Frozen Sausages
Frozen sausages 2 years old will likely be safe to eat, but the taste and texture may be noticeably inferior. Here are some tips for reheating old frozen sausages:
- Thaw sausages in the refrigerator before cooking for best results. Thawing brings out more flavor.
- Cook thawed sausages within 1-2 days. Don’t refreeze raw sausages after thawing.
- Preheat pans before cooking thawed sausages to help retain moisture.
- Cook frozen sausages from frozen for faster meals. Add a couple extra minutes to the cook time.
- Watch closely for doneness. Cook until sausages reach an internal temperature of 160°F.
- If sausages seem dry during cooking, add extra oil or broth to the pan.
Try incorporating the old frozen sausages into flavorful recipes like soups, chilis, casseroles, pasta sauces. The other ingredients can help mask any off flavors or textures.
Can You Freeze Thawed Sausages Again?
It’s not recommended to refreeze raw sausages after they have been thawed in the refrigerator. Any bacteria that may have developed during thawing could grow to unsafe levels if they are frozen again. The USDA recommends cooking thawed sausages within 1-2 days and then freezing the cooked sausages. Leftover cooked sausages can be stored in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Discarding Bad Frozen Sausages
Look for signs of spoilage when determining if thawed or cooked frozen sausages should be thrown out. Discard any sausages that have an off smell, weird color or slimy texture. When in doubt, remember the old adage – “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Sausage or other meats that have been freezer burned with large dry spots of discoloration should also be discarded. The affected areas can harbor bacteria. Defrost freezer burned foods in the refrigerator to contain any leakage.
Make sure to immediately discard any cooked sausages that have been left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are above 90°F).
Storing Uncooked Sausages in the Fridge
Properly stored, fresh sausages can last 3-4 days in the refrigerator according to USDA guidelines. Here are some fridge storage tips:
- Keep sausages in original store packaging or wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Store on a plate to catch any leakage and prevent cross-contamination.
- Place sausages on a shelf rather than in the door where temperature fluctuates.
- Use raw sausages within 3-4 days for peak freshness and quality.
- Freeze sausages if they won’t be used within 3-4 days.
Can Frozen Sausages Be Refrozen After Thawing?
As long as frozen sausages are thawed safely in the refrigerator, they can be refrozen, though the texture may become more watery. Thaw sausages in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours until completely defrosted.
Avoid thawing sausages at room temperature as this allows bacteria growth. Also do not refreeze raw sausages that were thawed in the microwave since this can create uneven cold spots.
For best quality, try to cook thawed raw sausages within 1-2 days and then refreeze the cooked sausages. Freeze cooked sausages for up to 1-2 months.
Takeaways on Sausages Frozen for 2 Years
Here are some key takeaways on whether sausages are still safe and good quality after being frozen for 2 years:
- Sausages frozen continuously at 0°F for 2 years are technically safe to eat, but the quality declines over time.
- Cook frozen sausages within 1 year for best taste, texture and freshness.
- Discard frozen sausages with visible freezer burn, odor, or sliminess.
- Thaw frozen sausages in the fridge before cooking for added moisture and flavor.
- Incorporate old frozen sausages into flavorful soups, chilis or casseroles.
- Do not refreeze raw sausages after thawing – cook first then refreeze.
- Follow safe food handling practices when storing, thawing, and cooking frozen sausages.
The Bottom Line
Freezing sausages for up to 2 years may not make you sick if they have been stored continuously at 0°F. But the eating quality will likely diminish over time. For best safety and quality, try to use frozen sausages within 1 year and be on the lookout for signs of spoilage.
Practice proper freezing methods like flash freezing in meal-sized portions and wrapping tightly in freezer bags. Maintain a stable 0°F freezer temperature. Cook frozen sausages within recommended timelines for optimal freshness and taste.
While sausage frozen for 2 years is probably still safe, it’s better to not take chances with your health. If in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with frozen foods pushing the limits of recommended storage times.