Is Smoked Sausage Already Cooked? (& How To Tell)

There’s a smoked sausage for every occasion. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, even desert, I ain’t judging.

But, when shopping around for your favourite at the delicatessen, butcher, or market, it can sometimes be hard to tell if the the smoked sausage your getting is pre-cooked, just cured, or actually raw.

Here we go through the preparation methods behind smoked sausage, how to tell if your smoked sausage is already cooked, and whether you need to cook smoked sausage, simply reheat it, or if you are able to eat it cold.

The main question on everyone’s mind before preparing, reheating, or cooking smoked sausage is: is this smoked sausage already cooked or is it actually raw?

Of course, if it’s already cooked you don’t want to overcook it, but if it’s still raw you don’t want to undercook it.

So, when making a decision on whether you need to cook your smoked sausage, reheat it, or if it’s safe to have cold, you need to determine if it’s been fully cooked already

The answer lies in how it’s been prepared:

  1. Hot Smoked: In addition to being smoked, hot smoked sausages are cooked at high temperatures cooking the meat to a safe to consume temperature. These hot smoked sausages are already cooked and can be eaten without the need to recook or reheat them.
  2. Cold Smoked: Cold smoked sausages are those that remain at low temperatures whilst being infused with smoke. During this process the meat isn’t cooked at all. Therefore it should be cooked before consumption. 

The only exception to this rule is if the smoked sausage has been adequately cured first, as this prevents any harmful bacterial growth.

These same kind of hot and cold smoking and curing principles apply to other meats too, like with smoked salmon.

Is Bratwurst Already Cooked?

The classic German bratwurst can be prepared in many ways. 

Smoked bratwurst is generally pre-cooked first through a hot smoking process. During this process the meat is heated past food-safe temperatures of 160°F, meaning it’s safe to consume whether it’s cold or has been reheated.  

In most cases you can tell a bratwurst has been hot smoked and is safe to consume without further cooking if its rigid and stiff, and appears a pale uniform brown in the center.

However, you can still find cold smoked bratwurst, which absolutely needs to be cooked before consumption. Cold smoked bratwurst remains pink in color, is much more flexible, and squishy to the touch.

If in doubt, it’s always best to heat past 160°F before consumption.

Is Chorizo Sausage Already Cooked?

Traditional chorizo sausage is first fermented then cured, creating a wonderfully flavored dry sausage. Through this process moisture is drawn from the sausage, resulting in a safe to consume salted cured meat – similar to salami or pepperoni.

Still, it’s possible for harmful bacteria to grow after this process has been completed, depending on the storing conditions of the chorizo.

If chorizo sausage has been stored in an airtight, sealed package then it’s generally safe to consume without needing to be cooked. But, if you have any doubt it can be a good idea to reheat it just in case!

It’s important to note that not all chorizo sausages will come cured and cooked. But, it’s rather easy to tell if it’s still raw as it will be very squishy and super flexible.

Is Frankfurter Sausage Already Cooked?

Ahh the classic American hotdog.

In the case of a frankfurter, whether it’s
a smoked frankfurter or a normal variety, the meat is already cooked.

But, in saying this, it’s important to still heat these bad boys up to at least 160°F before serving just in case any harmful bacteria has grown on it since it’s been packaged.

Is Smoked Turkey Sausage Already Cooked?

Typically smoked turkey sausages have been slow cooked, past the safe to consume internal temperature for turkey.

But although most smoked turkey sausage has been cooked already, since poultry does tend to have a higher risk in the associated bacteria, i.e. salmonella, it’s important to cook it yourself to at least the food safe temperature (165°F) before consumption.

How To Tell If Smoked Sausage Is Already Cooked?

Normally, if smoked sausage is rigid, stiff, and a consistent pale color all through the center, it’s likely hot smoked. In this case, you can simply reheat and eat, or recook and eat, depending how you’re serving it.

On the other hand, any smoked sausage that’s soft and squishy to the touch has likely been cold smoked.  In this case it’s imperative that you cook it as if it was raw.

If you have a dry, cured meat like salami, pepperoni, or chorizo, so long as it’s been stored correctly since you’ve bought it, it will be safe to consume.  It’s more obvious these smoked sausages are safe to eat without reheating as they are incredibly stiff, dry, and it’s normally outlined on the package itself!

The key here: If it looks raw it almost always IS raw. 

Another essential step is to always check the packaging for instructions, or talk to a butcher before buying them!

If you are ever unsure, it’s always best to cook smoked sausage to the recommended food safe temperature before serving it your guests or to yourself!

Do You Need To Cook Smoked Sausage?

The only times you’ll need to cook smoked sausage is if it’s been cold smoked and hasn’t been adequately cured.

Salted cured meats like salami, although not cooked, have been thoroughly cured before smoking them. This eliminates any of this harmful bacteria. They are the carefully packaged, ready for consumption.

On the other hand, all hot smoked sausages will have been precooked up to their safe to consume temperature already, before being carefully packaged up into an airtight container or vacuum pack. 

It’s possible for these hot smoked sausages to grow harmful bacteria after this process, particularly if the package has been opened. For this reason it’s still best to reheat these type of sausages before consumption.

How Long Does Smoked Sausage Last In The Fridge?

Assuming your smoked sausage has already been cooked, or hot smoked, then it will safely last 3-4 days in the fridge, much like other smoked meats,

If you’re wanting your smoked sausage to last longer than just 3-4 days, you can easily freeze it for later consumption. In the freezer smoked sausage can last 3-6 months, so long as it’s carefully and tightly packaged in an airtight package or vacuum packed.

This is perfect for if you’re smoking your own sausage, as you can smoke a bulk lot and freeze it in individual packages to take out as you please.

If you’ve got a smoked and cured salami, these can lasts roughly 2 months in the fridge, depending on how airtight you keep them!

That’s All!

Smoked sausage normally refers to those that have been hot smoked. Meaning, it’s already been cooked before. 

You can get a good indication of whether it’s a hot smoked, cooked sausage if it’s uniform in color in the center, and it’s rigid and inflexible.

Hot smoked sausages don’t need to be cooked again or reheated before consumption.

It’s much more uncommon to find a cold smoked sausage that hasn’t first been adequately cured, killing off any harmful bacteria in the process. 

You can tell if it’s been cold smoked and is still raw if it’s soft, flexible, and squishy. If you do find these uncooked cold smoked sausages then it’s vital you cook them before consumption!

If you’re ever unsure, refer to the packaging, or cook it anyway just in case!

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