Tips for Tailgating: Hot Dog Safety Basics
By Diane Van, Deputy Director, Food Safety Education Staff, Office of Public Affairs & Consumer Education, USDA/Food Safety & Inspection Service
Whether you call it a hot dog, frankfurter, or wiener, it's a cooked sausage and a year-round favorite – especially during football season.
Before you grab your bun and favorite toppings, take a look at the questions and answers below to keep you and your loved ones safe while enjoying this fan favorite.
What do I need to know about preparing hot dogs?
The same general food safety guidelines apply to hot dogs as to all perishable products — "Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold."
After cooking hot dogs on the grill, keep them hot until served — at 140 °F or warmer. Keep them hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. If you’re at home, they can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200 °F, in a chafing dish, slow cooker, or on a warming tray.
Is it safe to eat hot dogs right out of the package (unheated)?
Although hot dogs are fully cooked, those at increased risk for foodborne illness, such as pregnant women, should reheat hot dogs and luncheon meat until steaming hot before eating, due to the threat of listeriosis.
What is the safest way for young children to enjoy hot dogs?
For children younger than 4, whole hot dogs and other round foods can be a choking hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that to prevent choking, cut hot dogs lengthwise or into very small pieces before giving them to children. If the hot dogs have a casing, remove it before cutting the hot dog into pieces for the child.
How long can you keep hot dogs?
- When you leave the grocery store with hot dogs, head straight home and refrigerate or freeze them immediately.
- If product has a date, be sure to follow it. If there is no product date, hot dogs can be safely stored in the unopened package for two weeks in the refrigerator; once opened, only one week.
- For maximum quality, freeze hot dogs no longer than one or two months.
- Never leave hot dogs at room temperature for more than two hours and no more than one hour when the temperature goes above 90 °F.
Can I refrigerate or freeze leftover hot dogs?
Yes, if they are refrigerated promptly after heating (within two hours; one hour if the temperature is above 90 °F), they can be safely refrigerated for three or four days.
For more information on the safe preparation and handling of hot dogs, check out this resource in English and Spanish:
English: Hot Dogs and Food Safety
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