How Long Does Lunch Meat Last

How Long Does Deli Meat Last

Lunch meat—also known as luncheon meats, sandwich meat, cold cuts, cold meat, and deli meat—is one of those things that we all love and hate at the same time. It is delicious, but it also tends to go bad quickly. Like most people, you probably do not want to throw away any leftovers, so what do you do? Well, you probably eat them until they are gone. But what happens after that? Do you freeze them or put them in the fridge? Or maybe you toss them into the trash?

You may also be interested in How Much Cobb Salad to Serve For Lunch for a Crowd

How Long Does Lunch Meat Last

If unopened, it can remain in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. However, it should be kept in the fridge for 3 to 5 days after opening. It is also crucial to remember that the temperature should always stay at or below 40° F (4° C).

On the other hand, freezing luncheon meats helps them stay fresher for longer periods. Freshness mainly depends on whether it has been opened or not. Luncheon meat will keep for an indefinitely long time in the freezer. However, it is recommended that you consume it within 1 to 2 months for the best quality.

If you leave it at room temperature, expect that it will last no more than a week. The high temperatures in the summer make it spoil faster. You may have noticed that lunch meat starts to get dry and hard when stored at room temperature. This is because bacteria start to grow and multiply.

How to Store Lunch Meat

There are three different methods that you can choose in storing lunch meat. Of course, choose whichever is convenient and advantageous for you. 

How to Store Lunch Meat in the Refrigerator

You can store your luncheon meats in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. Here’s how you should do it:

1. Remove the plastic wrap from the pre-packaged lunch meats before placing it inside the refrigerator. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture content and place in an airtight container.

2. Place the luncheon meat in the middle of the shelf inside the fridge. If you have a meat drawer, that would be great to use. 

3. Make sure that there is enough space between each piece of luncheon meat.

4. Put the lid back on the container.

5. Label and date the container with the expiration date.

6. Keep it out of direct sunlight t keep the deli meat fresh.

7. Avoid putting too many cold cuts deli meat in one container.

How Long Is Lunch Meat Good For
How Long Is Lunch Meat Good For

How to Store Lunch Meat in the Freezer

Another way to store lunch meat is by keeping it frozen. Here’s how you can do this:

1. Take the luncheon meat out of its original package if it is not consumed yet. Slice them up if you plan to freeze them in portions.

2. Wrap it very tightly in a plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in a resealable bag, airtight freezer bag, or airtight container. Get a heavy-duty freezer-bag if you have chunks of fresh deli meat. Double wrap it if you plan to freeze it longer to prevent freezer burn.

3. Freeze it immediately to extend or preserve the shelf life. Set the temperature at  0° F (-18° C).

4. Make sure to label the container or bag with the expiration date. 

5. For thawing, place the frozen lunch meat in the refrigerator at least 12 hours before you cook it.

How to Store Lunch Meat at Room Temperature

The third method of storing luncheon meats is at room temperature. Here’s how you would do it:

1. Separate the luncheon meats from the rest of the food items.

2. Open the package and remove the original plastic wrap.

3. Cut the luncheon meats into smaller pieces if needed.

4. Arrange the luncheon meats on a plate or tray.

5. Cover the luncheon meats with another new layer of plastic wrap.

6. Leave it at room temperature for at least 12-24 hours.

How To Purchase Good Quality Lunch Meat

Lunch meats or deli meat comes in various types. Some are made from beef while others are made from pork. They also vary in terms of price. If you want to buy good quality luncheon meats, then you need to know what you’re looking for.

Here are some things to consider from preventing bad deli meat during your grocery shopping trip:

1. Look for luncheon meats that are packaged in clear containers.

2. Avoid those that are covered with brownish-yellow liquid. It could be spoiled deli meat.

3. Check the expiration dates.

4. Choose luncheon meats that are free from mold and sour smell.

5. Do not purchase luncheon meats that have been exposed to heat.

6. Be wary of luncheon meats that have an overpowering odor.

7. Avoid buying luncheon meats that are packed in bulk or sliced at the deli counter. They only last for a short time.

8. Always read the labels carefully.

How Long Does Deli Ham Last in The Fridge
How Long Does Deli Ham Last in The Fridge

What is the Shelf Life of Cured Lunch Meat

Dry curing involves using salt as the main ingredient. This kind of curing uses no water so it does not require refrigeration since it has a longer shelf life of seven days after opening. However, it requires proper storage conditions. On the other hand, wet curing uses brine or vinegar as the main ingredients. It requires refrigeration because it needs moisture but has a long shelf life.

Cured meats are much more difficult to categorize. Some have a stable shelf life, requiring no refrigeration, whereas others must be kept at low temperatures for the duration of their shelf life. The shelf lives of different foods in this class vary from a few weeks to several months.

You might also be interested in

These are a few examples of cured lunch meat:

  • Pancetta
  • Serrano and jamon jberico
  • Mortadella and bologna
  • Salami, pepperoni, capicola
  • Prosciutto

What is the Shelf Life of Smoked Lunch Meat

Smoked lunch meats are comparable to precooked deli meats in handling and shelf life. They, too, must be refrigerated and kept from being held unrefrigerated for more than two hours (or one hour if it’s above 90°F outside). 

Smoked lunch meats will keep for a long time if they are in sealed packaging. They will last until their recommended expiration date or the use-by date, whichever comes first. However, after you’ve opened the package, eat them within seven to 10 days.

These are a few examples of cured lunch meat:

  • Pastrami
  • Smoked ham
  • Sausages like kielbasa, andouille, and chorizo 

What is the Shelf Life of Precooked Lunch Meat

Precooked deli meats should be kept in an airtight container or a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator. Never leave them out beyond two hours (or one hour if the environmental temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) at room temperature.

After you open the package, consume it within seven to ten days, even if this is sooner than the use-by or expiration dates. If there is a sell-by date on the packaging, you can anticipate sliced meat to stay good for 7 to 10 days after being opened or unopened.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat 10-day old lunch meat?

Yes, you can. You just need to make sure that your lunch meat is still safe to eat. Signs of spoiled lunch meat include sour smell, discoloration, molds, and growth of bacteria.

How long can you refrigerate cold cuts?

Cold cuts can be stored for up to three to four weeks in the refrigerator. Make sure that you store them properly. Do not place them near any other food items. Also, do not freeze them.

What happens if you eat old lunch meat?

If you eat old lunch meat, you may get sick due to food poisoning. There could be harmful bacteria present in the meat that causes illness. Refer above to the signs of spoiled lunch meat and how to pick good quality lunch meat.