Are sausages supposed to be slimy? It’s a strange question, I know. But bear with me, because the answer depends on whether you’re trying to give your guests a memorable dinner or a trip to the emergency room.
Now, I’m no stranger to cooking up a mean sausage on the grill. I’ve made a living out of writing about it! But even I have to admit—whether out of wit or stupidity—I’ve cooked and eaten a slimy sausage or two in my time. And let me tell you, the aftermath ain’t pleasant.
So, what gives?
When is sliminess in the occasional sausage a normal thing, and when is it a sign that something’s gone awry? And more importantly, when is it safe to eat slimy sausages, and when should you steer clear of them?
Let’s waste no more time in chit chat and find out.
Are Slimy Sausages Bad?
Now, before we get into the nitty gritty of whether or not sausages should be slimy, let’s first define what we mean by “slimy.”
To me, a slimy sausage is one that has a tacky, maybe even gooey texture. It might feel greasy and nasty to the touch, and leave behind a trail of slime when you slice into it. This is in contrast to a sausage that has a dry texture, like a fresh sausage, or an oily but not slimy texture, like a cooked sausage.
Sausage, whether it’s raw or cooked, isn’t supposed to be slimy. And if the sliminess is accompanied by graying of the meat, yellowing of the fat, and a sour, rancid, or putrid smell, the sausage has undoubtedly gone bad. This is true for all sausages: beef, pork, beef and pork mix, chicken, duck, turkey, venison, you name it.
But here’s the thing: Not all slimy sausages are necessarily dangerous to eat.
Some precooked sausages, particularly hot dogs or precooked bratwursts containing pork, are slimy when opened because of the juice that’s floating around in the packaging.
Even though they’re precooked, that juice—as well as the precooked sausage itself—may contain Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. You can tell by the name it ain’t something you want in your belly.
I guess that’s why the good folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you heat precooked sausages till they’re steaming hot, or to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before eating them. This is particularly important if you or somebody else in your household fall in a group at risk of food poisoning.
Can Bad Sausage Make You Sick?
Here too, let’s start by talking about makes a sausage bad sausage… “bad.”
A bad sausage is one that has spoiled, or was contaminated with pathogenic bacteria due to improper storage. The telltale signs of sausage gone bad are an off odor, a slimy texture, and a gray color of the meat. Another one is mold growing on the meat.
With that out of the way, can eating bad sausages make you sick?
The short answer is yes, it’s definitely possible to get sick from eating bad sausage. Eating a bad sausage can lead to food poisoning symptoms, whose symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, food poisoning can lead to hospitalization or death.
Some folks may be more sensitive to spoiled or contaminated food than others, and may experience symptoms even after consuming a small amount of a bad sausage. Others may be able to tolerate a bit more before experiencing any ill effects. It all comes down to the individual and the specific type of contamination involved, healthcare practitioners say.
Practice good food safety habits and use your common sense, and you can minimize your risk of food poisoning and enjoy your sausages with confidence.
Will Cooking the Sausages Make Them Safe?
Now, I know what you might be thinking: “Of course, Sammy. Cooking the sausages does make them safe to eat. Heat kills bacteria, after all!” Well, yes and no. Let’s take a closer look at what happens when you cook spoiled sausages, and whether or not it’s safe to eat them.
Cooking a spoiled sausage won’t necessarily make it safe to eat. It’s true that heat kills bacteria, it may not be sufficient to kill all of the harmful pathogens that could be present in a spoiled sausage, and it won’t do nothing to neutralize the toxins they may have left behind.
Should you try to cook a spoiled sausage and hope for the best? Definitely not. If you suspect that a sausage is spoiled, it’s best to err on the side of caution and throw it out.
How Long Will Sausage Keep?
To make a long story short, it depends on the sausage and storage method.
Left out at room temperature: Sausages shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or they’ll become overgrown with bacteria that can sicken you. This is true for raw and cooked sausages, in the original packaging and on the countertop or served on a plate on the table.
Refrigerated: Raw sausages will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days, while cooked sausages will keep for 3-4 days. Vaccum-packed, pre-cooked sausages last 1-2 weeks in the fridge, but are safest and tastiest when eaten soon after purchase.
Frozen: Sausages will retain their best quality in the freezer for several months, depending on the type of sausage. Raw sausages will keep for 1-2 months, while cooked sausages will keep for 2-3 months. Technically, they’ll stay safe to eat forever after that time, but their texture, aroma, and flavor will degrade.
The Bottom Line
If a sausage is slimy and has an off smell, a gray or yellow color, or mold, it has likely gone bad and should be avoided. Eating a spoiled sausage can lead to food poisoning, and food poisoning can get you hospitalized or killed.
Despite lore to the contrary, cooking a spoiled sausage won’t make it any more safe to eat. It may not be able to kill all of the harmful pathogens present in the sausage, and it the heat-resistant toxins that they left will remain in the meat.
Eat your sausages fresh, or at least while they’re still good, and stay safe.
Next Up: Learn How to Stop Sausages From Splitting on the Grill