Grilled hot dogs are a summer staple. Still, like any food, they can spoil, develop bacteria, and cause food poisoning if left out for an extended time.
So how long can you keep a hot dog sitting out before it goes bad?
Quick Answer: You can safely leave grilled hot dogs at room temperature for up to 2 hours. After that, they’ll begin developing harmful bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus.
Thankfully, you can extend this timeframe by storing your hot dogs in the fridge or freezer. Keep reading to learn more about these timelines to ensure you’re handling your food safely!
Temperature Directly Affects How Long Hot Dogs Can Sit
Often, it’s easy to forget just how long you’ve left hot dogs out when you’re barbecuing for others.
At room temperature, hot dogs shouldn’t sit on the counter for more than 2 hours. That timespan decreases to only 1 hour if the temperature is greater than 90°F. 
If you’re serving hot dogs outside, you can cover the wieners with a paper plate (or another cover) to prevent direct sunlight from beaming down on them.
Covering the wieners will not only ease the heat but also protect them from nuisances like flies.
How Long Do Unopened Hot Dogs Last?
Have you ever found an unopened package of hot dogs in the back of your fridge and wondered how long they’d been there?
Most hot dog sausages are cured meat, which means they’ve been treated to prevent spoilage, so their shelf life is longer than fresh meat. 
However, that doesn’t mean they’ll last forever.
Safety Tip: Don’t consume hot dog wieners beyond the “use-by” date. While you may not notice a taste or odor difference, bacteria could develop after that time.
If there’s no “use-by” or “best before” date on the package, you can safely store hot dogs in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
However, that timeframe changes once you open the packaging, which we’ll discuss next.
How Long Do Opened Hot Dogs Last?
Once you’ve opened a package of hot dog wieners, the storage period rapidly declines. However, you can still keep uncooked hot dogs in an opened package for up to 1 week (in the fridge). 
If you’re unsure how long your hot dogs have been stored, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and throw them out if there’s any doubt.
When it comes to food safety, it’s better to be safe than sorry! The last thing you want is to end up with food poisoning.
How Do You Refrigerate Grilled Hot Dogs?
After you’ve grilled the hot dogs, it’s time to start thinking about how to store them so they’ll be just as delicious later.
The first step for refrigerating hot dog wieners is to let them cool to room temperature. This may seem counterintuitive, but putting them in the fridge while still hot can dry out and become rigid.
Once they’ve cooled, put them in a zipper bag or other food storage container and place them at the bottom of your refrigerator.
This is where it’s typically the coldest, which will help keep your hot dogs fresh. You can keep grilled hot dogs in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. 
You can also wrap them individually in foil or wax paper before placing them in the storage container. When ready to enjoy them again, reheat them on the grill or in a skillet until warm.
How Do You Freeze Grilled Hot Dogs?
To freeze grilled hot dogs so they last longer, you’ll need to let them cool down and then put them into a freezer bag.
Ensure to squeeze out any excess air before sealing the bag, which will help prevent freezer burn. Then place the bag in the freezer and enjoy your grilled hot dogs within 1-2 months. 
How Can You Tell if a Hot Dog Has Gone Bad?
There are several ways to tell if a hot dog has gone bad. The most obvious is the appearance. If the hot dog is discolored or moldy, you should discard it.
Another hint is the odor. If the hot dog smells sour or off, don’t eat it.
Finally, you can tell if a hot dog has gone bad by touch. If the hot dog is slimy or sticky, it has expired, and you shouldn’t consume it.
Safety Tip: If you’re ever in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw the hot dog away. After all, it’s not worth risking food poisoning for something you can easily replace.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a lot of questions when it comes to food safety, particularly with grilled meats like hot dogs. Here are a few more thoughts you may want to consider.
What Do Expired Hot Dogs Look Like?
An expired hot dog will have a foul odor, slimy feel, and a color change from red to gray. Additionally, there may be a build-up of milky liquid around the wiener, which could be bacteria.
Is It Safe to Eat Expired Hot Dogs?
No, you shouldn’t eat expired hot dogs because they may contain harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes, which can make you ill. As a result, you may experience fever, chills, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Can Hot Dogs Be Left in the Car Overnight?
No, you shouldn’t leave hot dogs in the car overnight, even if they’re covered. Hot dogs that have been left out for more than 2 hours (at room temperature) can develop bacteria.
The bottom line is that grilled hot dogs can sit on the counter (or anywhere at room temperature) for up to 2 hours before they become unsafe to eat.
So if you’re serving a large crowd, I recommend cooking the wieners ahead of time and keeping them in a food warmer until it’s time to eat.