Can you eat Vienna sausage without cooking?

Vienna sausages are a popular canned meat product made primarily from pork and beef. They have a distinct red color and come pre-cooked, allowing them to be eaten straight from the can without additional preparation. But is eating uncooked Vienna sausages actually safe? Let’s take a closer look.

The Safety of Eating Uncooked Vienna Sausages

Vienna sausages are fully cooked during the canning process, meaning they have already been heated to temperatures high enough to kill harmful bacteria that could cause foodborne illness. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), commercially canned foods like Vienna sausages are shelf-stable and can be safely stored unopened at room temperature for a long period of time.

Once opened, the contents of the can are still safe to eat as long as proper storage and handling procedures are followed. The USDA recommends refrigerating leftover canned meats within 2 hours of opening and consuming within 3-4 days. As long as the can is not damaged in any way, bulging or leaking, and has been properly stored after opening, it is generally safe to eat Vienna sausages straight from the can without cooking.

Potential Safety Risks

Although commercial canning eliminates the risk of most dangerous bacteria, there are still some safety considerations to keep in mind when eating uncooked Vienna sausages:

  • Food poisoning – While rare, it is possible that foodborne pathogens like Salmonella or Listeria could contaminate canned goods at the manufacturing facility. Proper cooking would kill these germs. Eating straight from the can poses a slight risk of illness in this case.
  • Cuts during manufacturing – Tiny nicks or cuts in the sausage casing from the mechanical chopping and stuffing process could allow bacteria on the surface to penetrate deeper into the meat. Cooking helps protect against contamination from these cuts.
  • Can defects – Very rarely, issues like metal punctures, damaged seams, or improper sealing during manufacturing may compromise the safety of canned foods and allow bacteria to enter.

For most people, the very low risk of contamination or foodborne illness from pre-cooked canned meats like Vienna sausages does not outweigh the convenience of being able to eat them straight out of the can. However, pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems may want to take extra precautions by briefly heating canned meats before consuming.

Taste and Texture of Uncooked Vienna Sausages

In addition to safety considerations, eating Vienna sausages right out of the can without additional preparation also affects their taste, texture, and visual appeal. Here is how the sensory qualities of uncooked Vienna sausage differ from cooked:


Vienna sausages have a distinct salty and smoky pork and beef flavor profile when eaten straight from the can while cold. Briefly sautéing or grilling them lends a warmer, maillard reaction flavor from caramelization and browning. Any seasonings and spices added during brief cooking also affect overall taste.


Cold canned Vienna sausages tend to have a firm, dense, and rubbery texture that some people find unappealing. Cooking makes them tender and gives them a softer, meatier bite. The sausages also plump up slightly when heated.


Uncooked Vienna sausages are a bright pinkish-red color and covered in a thin layer of gelatin or broth inside the can. When sautéed or grilled, they turn a richer reddish-brown and their skin browns and crisps up.

How to Cook Vienna Sausages

Although safe to eat straight from the can, heating Vienna sausages improves their flavor and texture immensely. Here are some quick and easy ways to cook them:

Pan Frying

Frying Vienna sausages in a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side browns them beautifully and heats them through. Alternatively, boiling the sausages for 1-2 minutes before frying helps render excess fat and reduces splattering. Fried Vienna sausages make excellent hot dog or sausage sandwich fillings.


Grilling Vienna sausages infuses them with delicious smoky barbecue flavor. Grill over medium heat for 4-6 minutes total, flipping periodically. Grilled Vienna sausages pair well with various toppings and condiments in a bun or sliced on a charcuterie board.


For a quick and healthy cooking method, place Vienna sausages in a steamer basket and steam for 4-5 minutes until heated through. Steamed sausages can be eaten as-is or used in pasta dishes, casseroles, soups, and more.


Microwaving offers the quickest cooking method to heat canned Vienna sausages. Place in a microwave-safe dish, add a small amount of water, cover, and microwave for 60-90 seconds until hot. Microwaved Vienna sausages work well in quick snacks and meals.

Serving Suggestions

Once cooked, Vienna sausages make for quick, protein-packed meals and snacks. Here are some serving ideas:

  • Breakfast sandwiches – Pair with eggs, cheese, and English muffins or biscuits.
  • Sausage rolls – Wrap cooked sausages in crescent roll dough with desired spices and bake.
  • Pigs in a blanket – Wrap cooked sausages in refrigerator biscuits or croissants and bake.
  • Sausage pasta – Mix with cooked pasta, tomato sauce, peppers, onions, garlic.
  • Sausage casserole – Combine cooked sausages with beans, veggies, stock, and spices and bake.
  • Potato skillet – Fry sausages with potatoes, peppers, onions, seasonings.
  • Soup – Add to canned bean, tomato, vegetable, split pea, or minestrone soups.


Vienna sausages are high in protein, fat, sodium, and certain vitamins and minerals. Here is the nutrition profile per 3 oz serving (about 5-6 small sausages):

Calories 180
Fat 16g
Sodium 450mg
Carbs 2g
Protein 8g

As you can see, Vienna sausages are high in sodium, providing about 20% of the recommended daily value per serving. The high sodium content helps explain their salty taste profile.

They are also high in fat, mostly heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from pork and beef. However, a serving still provides 18% of the recommended daily value for saturated fat. For this reason, Vienna sausages should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

On the positive side, the sausages provide an impressive 8g of protein per serving. This makes them an excellent portable protein choice.

Vienna sausages also contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin B6, iron, and zinc from the pork and beef. But they supply less than 10% of the daily values for these nutrients.


To safely store canned Vienna sausages:

  • Store unopened cans in a cool, dry place like the pantry. Avoid temperature extremes.
  • Discard cans that are leaking, rusted, bulging, or severely dented.
  • Refrigerate opened canned sausages within 2 hours and use within 3-4 days.
  • Store open cans in sealed containers to prevent odors from transferring.
  • Do not freeze opened canned meats.

Properly stored, unopened Vienna sausage cans maintain optimal quality for 2-5 years past the “best by” date on the packaging.


Vienna sausages are an affordable canned meat option, typically ranging from $1-3 per can. Name brands like Armour and Libby’s tend to cost more than generic store brands. Buying larger multi-packs helps lower the per-can cost. Canned meats like Vienna sausages offer a low-priced source of protein compared to fresh sausage or other unprocessed meats.


Vienna sausages have been popular since their invention in the late 1800s. Today, Americans purchase over $200 million worth of canned sausages every year, according to Statista. Their affordable price, convenience, smokey flavor, and versatility help explain their appeal with many consumers despite their processed nature.

Common Brands

Some of the most common brands of Vienna sausage include:

  • Armour – One of the most popular name brands. Comes in original, light, and smoked varieties.
  • Libby’s – Another trusted brand that offers original and hickory smoked options.
  • Hormel – Available in original, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese flavors.
  • Bush’s Best – Offers regular, low-sodium, and smoked options.
  • Great Value – Walmart’s store brand in original and lower-sodium varieties.
  • Scott Petersen – Known for smoked and polish sausage varieties.

Most major canned meat brands offer some type of Vienna sausage product. Store brands offer comparable quality at a lower price point in most cases.

Common Uses

Some popular ways Vienna sausages are used include:

  • Straight from the can as a convenient snack.
  • Added to salads, pastas, casseroles, and soups.
  • Served on topping-loaded hot dogs or sandwiches.
  • Skewered for appetizers or kabobs.
  • Chopped up in rice dishes, macaroni salad, etc.
  • Used as pizza toppings along with other veggies or meats.
  • Served with crackers, mustard, or hot sauce as a quick snack or appetizer.
  • Added to canned beans or veggies to make it a meal.
  • Served with breakfast eggs and cheese on English muffins or biscuits.

Their small size, fully cooked readiness, and mild smoky pork flavor make them extremely versatile for recipes, snacks, meals, and more.


Vienna sausages offer a convenient source of filling protein that can be eaten straight from the can without cooking if desired. While safe when the can is properly stored and handled, brief heating improves their taste, texture, and appearance. Pan frying, grilling, steaming, or microwaving for just 1-4 minutes transforms their flavor. Cooked Vienna sausages work excellently in breakfast sandwiches, pasta dishes, casseroles, soups, and a variety of other meals and snacks. Their salty, smoky taste profile, low cost, and long shelf life help explain why millions of Americans continue to enjoy this classic convenient canned meat product.

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