Kielbasa, a type of sausage made from coarsely ground pork and beef, is often used in rice, potato, and pasta dishes. Manufacturers flavor the sausage with garlic and other herbs, cook it inside a casing, and smoke it before packaging. Because of how versatile kielbasa is, people freeze it to use in quick, easy dishes.
You can freeze kielbasa indefinitely when you store it properly. However, its flavor, texture, and quality will begin to deteriorate after two months. All kielbasa (except dried kielbasa) should be stored in the refrigerator before freezing.
In this article, I’ll dive into the safety of freezing kielbasa, methods for storing this flavorful sausage in the freezer (and for how long), and how to defrost the kielbasa once you’re ready to use it. I’ll also discuss the safety of refreezing kielbasa once it thaws, and what the dates on kielbasa packaging actually mean.
Is It Safe To Freeze Kielbasa?
It’s safe to freeze kielbasa whether it’s dry, cooked, or raw. The sausage retains its quality and flavor for at least two months after freezing. Although quality declines after this point, the USDA says it may be stored indefinitely when kept at a consistent temperature of 0°F (17.7°C) or lower.
Freezing kielbasa helps increase its shelf life, giving you the option to use it at a later date. However, you might not be sure about the safety of freezing this sausage. Although it’s generally safe to freeze kielbasa, you need to take the type of kielbasa into consideration.
There are three varieties of kielbasa: dried, fully-cooked, and white. Dried and fully-cooked kielbasa are ready to eat, while white kielbasa is raw. You can keep dried kielbasa in the pantry before freezing. On the other hand, you should keep fully-cooked and raw kielbasa in the fridge.
When storing white kielbasa, follow the guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the USDA, all raw sausage must be kept at 40°F (4.44°C) or lower. At this temperature, raw sausage remains safe to eat for three to four days.
How To Safely Freeze Kielbasa
To retain the quality and flavor of kielbasa, and ensure the safety of the meat, freeze the sausage depending on what type you have. Please note that if you’re storing cooked kielbasa, you should let it cool completely before sealing it in plastic wrap. Never seal hot or warm meat in plastic wrap, as it affects the flavor, texture, and overall quality of the food.
Freezing White Kielbasa
As mentioned earlier, white kielbasa is raw. Therefore, you must be careful when you freeze it to avoid contamination. If you want to eat frozen white kielbasa, you must cook it to an internal temperature of 160°F (71.1°C) before consumption. To freeze white kielbasa, here are the steps you should follow.
- Keep the white kielbasa in its original, unopened packaging.
- Place the package into a zip-up freezer-safe bag or freezer-safe container.
- Label the bag or container and write the date.
- Store in the freezer for two months for the best quality or longer if needed.
- Thaw and cook thoroughly before serving.
Freezing Fully-Cooked Uncut Kielbasa
You can freeze fully-cooked, uncut kielbasa in its original packaging. You can also rewrap it in plastic wrap before storing it in the freezer. Either way, here are the steps you should know to freeze fully-cooked uncut kielbasa safely.
- Wrap the fully-cooked whole kielbasa tightly in plastic wrap. If it’s in its unopened, original packaging, skip this step.
- Place the wrapped or packaged kielbasa into a zip-up freezer bag or freezer-safe container.
- Label the bag and write the date.
- Store the kielbasa in the freezer for up to two months or longer if needed.
- Thaw before serving.
Freezing Fully-Cooked Sliced Kielbasa
Once you slice fully-cooked kielbasa, you have to freeze it as quickly as possible. That way, you can eliminate the growth of bacteria and other contaminants that show up in food left at room temperature. Here’s how to freeze fully-cooked sliced kielbasa.
- Place the sliced kielbasa in a shallow metal baking dish.
- Put the uncovered dish in the freezer for two hours.
- Remove the sausage from the freezer.
- Ensure the sausage is fully frozen.
- Vacuum-seal or tightly wrap the sausage with plastic wrap.
- Put the sausage in a zip-up freezer bag or freezer-safe container.
- Label the container with the date.
- Store in the freezer for up to two months or longer if needed.
How Long Can You Freeze Kielbasa?
You can freeze kielbasa for six months or longer, as long as it’s properly packaged and stored. After two months, however, the texture, quality, and flavor of the sausage will deteriorate. As long as you keep it at a temperature of 0°F (17.7°C), it should remain safe to eat indefinitely.
There are a few ways to defrost kielbasa safely, depending on how soon you need it.
Defrosting Kielbasa Overnight
When you’re ready to pull your kielbasa out of the freezer, you’ll need to defrost it before preparation. Defrosting any meat requires care, as bacteria and other contaminants can grow on it if you don’t defrost properly. If you don’t need the kielbasa until the next day, you can defrost it overnight in the fridge as follows.
- Check the temperature of your refrigerator by placing a thermometer in the fridge, closing the door, and checking the temperature after five minutes. If it’s too high, adjust the settings until it’s no higher than 40°F (4.44°C).
- Place the frozen kielbasa and its packaging on a plate.
- Put the plate and kielbasa on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator away from other foods to avoid contamination.
- Check the kielbasa the next day. If it’s soft to the touch, it’s ready to use. You can keep the thawed kielbasa in the refrigerator for up to four days before preparation.
Defrosting Kielbasa Quickly
What if you need the kielbasa ASAP? In these instances, you’ll want to defrost the kielbasa as quickly as you can without sacrificing its quality. You can do that using your microwave or hot water. Let me explain the steps you should take for both below.
Defrosting kielbasa using the microwave method:
- Place the kielbasa and its container on a microwave-safe dish.
- Turn on the microwave.
- Change the microwave setting to “Defrost,” or adjust the microwave power to 50 percent.
- Set the timer for three minutes.
- Check the kielbasa. If it’s soft and easily penetrated with a fork, it’s ready. If not, continue microwaving in two-minute intervals until soft.
- Prepare immediately.
Defrosting kielbasa using the water method:
- Remove the kielbasa from its original packaging or plastic wrap.
- Put the kielbasa into a small stainless steel bowl.
- Place the small bowl into a larger bowl.
- Fill the large bowl with lukewarm water, taking care not to get water into the smaller bowl containing the kielbasa.
- Turn the tap on to a steady drip to maintain the water temperature. Take care that the faucet isn’t dripping into the kielbasa bowl.
- After 20 minutes, check the softness of the sausage. If it’s easily penetrated with a fork, it’s ready to prepare.
Regardless of the defrosting method you use, do not leave defrosted kielbasa out of the refrigerator for longer than two hours.
Can You Refreeze Thawed Kielbasa?
You can safely refreeze thawed kielbasa as long as it was handled properly before freezing and during the defrosting process. Any food left at room temperature for longer than two hours should not be refrozen. Once frozen and thawed, food quality declines.
You can also refreeze kielbasa after cooking, as long as it’s properly handled. Additionally, if you purchased frozen kielbasa, you can safely refreeze it once thawed, as long as it’s in its original packaging.
Can I Freeze Kielbasa After Its Expiration Date?
You should not freeze kielbasa after its expiration date, since the expiration date marks the last date a piece of food is safe to eat. You may, however, freeze kielbasa on its sell-by, best if used by, or use-by date for up to two months.
Not all dates on kielbasa packaging are safety recommendations. To wit:
- Sell-By Date. This date represents when the product must be sold before being pulled from store shelves. It’s not the same as the expiration date.
- Best If Used By and Use-By Dates. These dates indicate when consumers should use the product to enjoy the best quality and flavor. Again, this is not the same as the expiration date.
Kielbasa is a staple food in many homes. It’s easy to prepare, relatively inexpensive, and goes well with multiple dishes. Freezing this flavorful sausage can increase its shelf life, allowing you to stock up on it and save money. When properly handled, prepared, and stored, kielbasa can keep in your freezer for long periods of time.