Recently, there have been a number of blogs, recipes, and videos flying across social media on the process of home-canning hot dogs. I am familiar with canning fresh sausages and other types of meat, so I decided to look into the process of home-canning hot dogs.
After talking to a few experts in the field, I learned that home canning of hot dogs should not be attempted. This is because safe canning procedures for hot dogs have never been established by professionals. No research-based information on whether hot dogs can safely be canned at home exists.
To learn more about how I found out this information, please read on. These are the steps I took to find a definitive answer.
Step One: Checking the USDA Website
As usual, before canning anything, I always go to the USDA National Center For Home Food Preservation to see the latest information on how to safely can that particular food item, because they are constantly researching canning procedures, and occasionally that testing and research leads them to change or alter their position on certain things.
The search term I used was “canning hot dogs.” The first result of my search was an article on home canning sausages that was specifically talking about canning fresh chopped or ground meat.
Nothing was mentioned about canning hot dogs.
However, I dove deeper and found their stance on the matter.
The USDA Says “Cured Meats” Should Not Be Canned
Then I went to the section entitled “How do I? …Can Meats” on the USDA website. There was no mention of canning hot dogs, but this section did include the statement, “We cannot support the canning of cured, brined or corned meats with the procedures for fresh meats.” And, hot dogs definitely fall into the category of cured meats.
Doubt that hot dogs are technically a cured meat? Well, here is what the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says:
“By their nature, hot dogs are cured meats. This means they include some combination of salt, sugar, and/or nitrite for the purposes of safety, preservation (improving shelf-life), and flavor and color. Curing is what gives hot dogs and other meats like sausage or bacon their distinctive color and flavor.”National Hot Dog And Sausage Council
By the way, gravy is another comfort food that cannot be canned. I wrote an article all about it called How to Can Gravy (You Can’t But Do This Instead).
Step Two: Calling the USDA directly
My next step was to call the contact number on the website of the USDA National Center For Home Food Preparation.
The gentleman I spoke to was very helpful and directed me to one of the food safety experts for my state and county, and even transferred the call for me. This call took me to my local Agricultural Extension Service office which took my name and number and the information I am looking for. It was then forwarded to one of the Cooperative Extension Service professionals at Virginia Tech, who specializes in food safety.
Step Three: Speaking to a Food Safety Expert
Within a very short time, I received a telephone call from a food safety expert from my area who had gotten my information and researched his databases to find anything pertinent on canning hot dogs that he had access to before returning my call.
The food safety expert is Dr. Lester Schonberger, who is on faculty at Virginia Tech and is a professor of Food Science and Technology.
Dr. Schonberger’s response to me was that he was unaware of any studies that had been done on the safety of home-canning hot dogs, and his research resulted in no information.
Based on what I had already learned, this was no surprise.
His recommendation is that he would not recommend canning hot dogs at home because there is no scientific evidence that it can be done safely.
Not only was Dr. Schonberger prompt at returning my call and providing me with the information I needed, but he also directed me to some additional websites that have valuable information on home canning, so I’m sharing that information here:
What Is The Cooperative Extension Service?
If you are wondering what the Cooperative Extension Service has to do with canning meat, these are the folks who do the research into how foods should be canned.
Please keep in mind when reading this that this is a very simple explanation of the workings of a very complex system and is only the workings of that system that I am familiar with. They serve other functions as well.
The Cooperative Extension Service has its roots in agricultural clubs like Future Farmers of America and Future Homemakers of America as far back as the 1800s, but in 1914, the Smith-Lever Act formalized the partnership of the land grant universities in all 50 states with the USDA and local governments to provide research and education to the people who need that information and training.
Here are a few examples of what they do:
- Research the best agricultural practices and get that information out to farmers and growers on the best and most efficient farming techniques.
- Research the plant life in each area of the country to find the vegetable plants, flowering and non-flowering plants, bushes, trees including fruit and nuts, and grasses that are best suited for the environment in each area. The information on those plants, bushes, trees, and grasses is then passed along to growers and our local farm supply stores so that we can be sure that the plants, bushes, trees, and grasses that we buy for our homes are the best we can get for the place that we live.
- Research safe food handling and preservation techniques and provide that information to those who need it. That information can now be accessed online at the USDA’s National Center For Home Food Preservation website. But, at the beginning of their program in the early 1900s, agents were sent into the communities and homes to teach proper canning techniques.
- Provide education to young people through such organizations as the 4-H Club.
- Soil Testing- They will even provide you with the packaging and information you need to have the soil tested on your property, via your local ag center.
Step Four: Confirming the Findings
While doing this research into canning hot dogs at home, I found these statements from various Cooperative Extension facilities:
Clemson University, which is one of the USDA Cooperative Extension facilities, has this to say about canning hot dogs or any cured, brined, or corned meat:
“The short answer to the question is that no science-based processes are available for home canning of cured, brined or corned meats. Clemson Extension recommends that home canners follow directions only as written and only for the specified product.”Clemson University
What they are referring to here is that the information provided by reliable sources for canning fresh meat like chicken and beef should not be used for cured, brined, or corned meats.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
From the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, their recommendations for the safe handling of hot dogs is:
“When you leave the grocery store with hot dogs, head straight home and refrigerate or freeze them immediately. If there is no product date, hot dogs can be safely stored in the unopened package for 2 weeks in the refrigerator; once opened, only 1 week. For maximum quality, freeze hot dogs no longer than 1 or 2 months.”The USDA
The results of this research on home canning hot dogs has resulted in my decision to simply freeze any extra hot dogs that I have for up to 2 months, at which time I will rotate them with freshly bought hot dogs and give up on the idea of canning hot dogs for long-term storage, at least for now.
From what I have learned, it is possible to home-can hot dogs, and there are videos out there with step-by-step instructions However, there is no sure way of knowing whether they will be safe to eat. Food safety professionals have not conducted any tests to date on home-canning hot dogs.
I’m not willing to take the chance that canned hot dogs might be unsafe for my family to eat, and neither should you.
And as the folks from the USDA and the professionals in food safety with various Ag Center locations have said, I do not recommend home-canning hot dogs.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss How to Store Hot Dogs After Opening (So They Stay Fresh).
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