Does Deli Meat Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

Does Deli Meat Go Bad How Long Does It Last
Image: Lucky Belly

If you like eating deli meat for breakfast, you probably want to know does deli meat go bad.

Like other meat products, this food won’t last forever, and you should check how long does deli meat last and what are sure signs of spoiling.

That is the only way to prevent possible health issues.

Does Deli Meat Go Bad?

Deli meat (cold meat, cooked meats, luncheon meat, sliced meat, cold cut) is pre-cooked, cured, or prepackaged meat. You can choose between whole cut, processed meat, and sliced products. The preparation of this delicious food includes brining it, and that additional water speeds up bacterial growth and the spoilage process.

You can expect these delicacies to spoil even if they are still vacuum-packed. How long it lasts will depend on the meat type. However, you can’t keep them in the pantry while most of them are edible within a week and two when stored in the fridge.

How Long Does Deli Meat Last?

How Long Does Deli Meat Last
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Deli meat usually has a sell-by date, not an expiration date. Thanks to that fact, you can use them to prepare meals a few days after the date printed on a label.

How Long Does Deli Meat Last (Chart)

Deli meat type

FridgeFreezer
Unopened fresh3 to 6 days

/

Unopened pre-packaged

7 to 10 days6 to 8 months
Unopened bolognaUp to two weeks

2 to 3 months

Unopened hard salami

Up to one month2 to 3 months
Unopened pepperoniUp to one month

/

Unopened prosciutto

3 to 4 months/
Unopened ham5 to 6 days

/

Unopened deli turkey

5 to 6 days/
Unopened roast beef5 to 6 days

/

Opened fresh

5 days/
Opened pre-packaged3 to 5 days

/

Opened bologna

Up to two weeks1 to 2 months
Opened hard salamiUp to three weeks

2 to 3 months

Opened pepperoni

2 to 3 weeks6 to 8 months
Opened prosciutto2 to 3 months

/

Opened ham

3 to 5 days/
Opened deli turkey3 to 5 days

/

Opened roast beef

3 to 5 days/
Opened smoked7 to 10 days

/

Lunchmeat sliced

2 to 5 days

/

The deli meat shelf life primarily depends on the product types you use, but you should always check a printed sell-by date on the package. Sometimes, it can last several days longer when stored appropriately in the fridge, but you shouldn’t take too much risk.

5 Tips to Tell if Deli Meat Has Gone Bad

5 Tips to Tell if Deli Meat Has Gone Bad
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Only proper hygiene and adequate deli meat storing will help you prevent possible foodborne illness. In most cases, using your senses is a reliable way to discover if this delicacy has gone bad. Let’s test it!

Sell-by date

The first thing to do is to check the deli meat sell-by date on the label. Never consume the unopened product for more than two weeks after this period if you store it in the fridge.

Otherwise, you will face meat with lower quality and inappropriate flavor. Once the package is opened, you should eat the content within three to five days.

Texture

If you spot a wet or slimy film over the deli meat surface, you can be sure that it is not edible anymore. It is always a result of bacteria or yeast growth, which makes the product unsafe for consumption.

You can also notice hard parts inside the meat, which are the sure sign it is spoiled. Some housewives add such deli meat to scrambled eggs. You can also do it, but at your own risk.

Smell

One of the first signs that deli meat is spoiled is a sour, stale, or yeast odor. It usually occurs when storing an opened package in the fridge for more than five days. In such a case, it is time to throw it away.

Color

The discoloration is always a signal that something is wrong with your deli meat. Some products’ edges may turn greyish, yellow, or brown, which is always an indicator of spoilage. Over time, these changes will spread and affect the central parts, and you should throw them out.

Mold

As soon as you notice mold or unusual growths on deli meat, you should immediately throw it away.

How to Store Deli Meat

3 Tips to Store Deli Meat
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You can pick out among various deli meat types, but their characteristics are not too much different. Therefore, the ways you need to store them to extend their lifespan are quite similar. Let’s take a closer look at the subject.

Pantry

When you buy the whole deli meat package, you can store it in the cold, dry, and dark pantry for a while. However, it is not always an excellent idea since the chances for bacterial growth enhances over time.

Keep in mind that temperatures higher than 46.5 F (8 C) allow rapid bacteria growth, so this storage method is time-limited. In fact, it is recommended to throw away this food when it has been at room temperature for longer than two hours.

When the temperature is above 90 F (32 C), you shouldn’t leave it out of the fridge for more than an hour.

Fridge

The best option is to place unopened packages of these highly perishable foods into the fridge at 40 F (4.5 C) as soon as you bring them home. You can also do that with leftovers each time you use deli meat for preparing the meal.

Always keep open slices in a tightly closed container to avoid spoilage caused by air, moisture, and other external contaminants.

If you purchase prepackaged products, you can put leftovers in the fridge in the original package. Otherwise, use a freezer bag to protect your food from drying out, but always remove the air from it before sealing it tightly.

Always put freshly sliced deli meat toward the back or in the meat drawer. These are the coldest parts of your fridge, and such storing is the best way to prolong this product shelf life as much as possible.

Never purchase more delicacies than you can spend within a week. In fact, it would be best to avoid consuming them more than three to five days after opening.

Freezer

In a case when you need to store your deli meal for longer, you can freeze it. The best solution is to slice it and pack smaller portions in separate freezing bags. That way, you will need to thaw only the amount you need for a particular meal.

Even though you can keep some deli meat types for half a year in the freezer, it will be better to use them within a month or two. Keeping them for too long at low temperatures often affects their taste and overall quality. It is mainly a case when you freeze an unopened package after staying in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

The Risk of Consuming Expired Deli Meat

The Risk of Consuming Expired Deli Meat
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If you haven’t noticed that deli meat is spoiled, you may have an issue with food poisoning that is followed by symptoms, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea

Usually, the first problems occur within a few hours, but they can appear a few days later in some cases. Luckily, food poisoning is a treatable condition, but it can be quite uncomfortable. Be prepared that symptoms will last from several hours to a few days.

The severity of the symptoms will depend on the reason for product spoilage. The biggest problem is bacteria contamination in the case when Staphylococcus aureus or Listeria infect deli meat during processing.

Can You Freeze Deli Meat?

Can You Freeze Deli Meat
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Freezing deli meat can be tricky since not all of them are made equal. For instance, you won’t have any problem to freeze products with less moisture content and a higher fat percentage, such as pepperoni or salami. Even though others won’t tolerate low temperatures so well, you can basically store all of them this way.

The crucial thing is to prevent the occurrence of the freezer burn on your delicacies. Therefore, you should wrap deli meat tightly with plastic or heavy-duty aluminum foil or place it in a freezer bag.

The best option for keeping this product for a long time is double wrapping. In other words, wrap the meat with foil and then place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. If you plan to freeze an unopened product, put the whole package into a freezer bag.

However, it is perhaps more convenient to slice your deli meat. That way, you will be able to take only as many slices from the freezer as you need. Once you decide to use it, let it thaw in the fridge overnight.

Summary

Vacuum-sealed deli meat always has a sell-by date on the label but can last a few days more when stored in the fridge. Avoid storing it in the pantry after opening, but the freezer is the right place to save leftovers for future use. Once you notice any change of color or smell, you should get rid of such a product.

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