Can You Freeze Deli Meat? How to Extend its Life

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So you went and got yourself a great big pile of cold cut meats. All was well and you made sandwich after sandwich for a couple of days. 

Until you looked in the fridge and saw that a metamorphosis had taken place. All you have left is slimy lunch meat.

If you want to make the most of your cold cuts and use them for much longer, you’ve come to the right place. Many people who are just beginning to cook often wonder, ‘Can you freeze deli meat?’ 

Questions like can you freeze lunch meat? or can you freeze cold? cuts are pretty common and we will answer them all here!

What are Deli Meats?

delicious deli meats

Deli meats, also called cold cuts, lunch meats, and sliced meat, are basically cured or processed meats that are sometimes cut into thin sheets and meat to be served in sandwiches. These meats can be purchased in individual slices or as whole hunks that you can cut up by yourself.

Lunch meats are super convenient because they are generally cured, which makes many of them precooked. They can be found across grocery chains and your local delis, so you are never too far away from a store that sells lunch meats.

These meats generally include all sorts of smoked, cured, and processed meat products. Pancetta, chorizo, pepperoni, mortadella, salami, ham, and pastrami are just some of the most common deli meats found in kitchens across the world. 

Things like chicken roll lunch meat, frozen corned beef, and bologna lunch meat are examples of affordable cold cuts.

Freezing Luncheon Meat: What You Need to Know

Luncheon Meat

To answer the question you are undoubtedly waiting for; yes, you can absolutely freeze deli meats. This will prolong the deli meat shelf life and stop them from going nasty and slimy after just a few uses. 

However, there are a few things you need to know before tossing your stack of deli meat into the freezer.

Freezing Pre-Packed Deli Meat:

Buying deli meat in bulk? Choose the pre-packaged kind. 

There is no need to remove your cold cuts from the packaging. The airtight and vacuum-sealed packaging will actually let you keep your lunch meats in the freezer from experiencing freezer burn.

If you are still worried about freezer burn, place the packages in a freezer-safe container, plastic bag, or wrap them in aluminum foil. Mark the packages with the date you stored your meat, which will help you keep track of expiry dates.

Freezing Unpacked Lunch Meats:

If you’ve already used up a couple of slices of your cold cuts, you can still freeze your deli meat. Wrap each of the slices of your deli meat in wax paper, then place the slices in a freezer bag. Make sure to squeeze all the air out to prevent freezer burn. Once again, make sure you write the storage date on the freezer bag.

How Long Can I Store Deli Meat in the Freezer?

When stored in the regular fridge, it is best to eat deli meat within a week. However, the low temperature of a freezer means that it prevents the growth of bacteria. As a result, you can store it in the freezer for 1-2 months.

The best lunch meats for storage are those with low moisture, like bologna. Moreover, salami shelf life is also pretty long for this reason. You can also freeze corned beef this way.

Although certain sites claim that unopened, pre-packaged lunch meat can last for 6 months; the FDA suggests consuming both pre-packed and opened deal meat within a month or two.

Defrosting Deli Meat

To safely defrost bulk deli meat, you can go about it in many ways. The easiest way to do it is to take out the meat and let it thaw in your fridge overnight or even the day before. 

You can also submerge the airtight package in a bowl of room temperature water and let it defrost on the counter for a few hours.

Cured meats, such as sausage and bologna, generally hold up the best in the freezer, due to their dense, thick texture and seasoning. 

However, freezing meats like roasted turkey, ham, chicken is still possible, but the meat might be slightly wet upon defrosting. This can be remedied by patting the pieces of meat dry with a kitchen towel or napkin.

Freezing Cooked Lunch Meats

Cooked Lunch Meats

If you’ve cooked your lunch meats, like smoked turkey or mortadella, and have a lot of leftovers, these can be frozen as well. Wait for the meat to cool down completely, before placing them between layers of wax paper, before wrapping in plastic and storing them in the freezer.

It is also a good idea to cut large pieces into smaller ones and to remove any bones. Smaller boneless pieces will also thaw more easily. Fully cooked poultry will last 3 months in the freezer, while cooked ham will remain fresh for 2 months.

Summing it all up:

Deli MeatIn the FridgeIn the Freezer
Pre-Packaged3-5 days1-2 months
Opened2-3 days1-2 months
Cooked2-3 daysUp to 3 months

Cooking Frozen Deli Meat

After defrosting your lunch meats, make sure you eat them in 2-3 days. Thanks to your careful wrapping and the low freezer temperature, the taste, and texture of the meat should remain unchanged. 

You can use these meats in sandwiches, omelets, frittatas, and quiches. They also make a filling, inexpensive, and convenient meal with some artisanal bread and cheese.

But if you find that there is a loss of flavor, you can dress it up by frying the meat in butter and seasoning liberally. When diced or cut into slices, the luncheon meat can be added to tacos, quesadillas, used as a pizza topping, and added to noodles and pasta. 

They also make a good addition to Stromboli, gratins, casseroles, and even a bowl of quick fried rice!

Have Any Other Questions?

In this section, we answer questions you might have about freezing your deli meat.

01. Can I Freeze Bologna?

You can safely freeze bologna by slicing the meat and then wrapping them in wax paper. Store the wrapped meat in a freezer-safe box, plastic bag, or zip lock bag with the air pushed out.

02. Can I Freeze Pre-Packaged Lunch Meat?

You can easily freeze pre-packed deli meat. All you need to do is toss the package in the freezer without taking the meat from the pack. For added security, place the package in a plastic or zip-lock bag.

03. How Long Does Deli Ham Stay Good?

Sliced ham deli meat will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator when stored properly. However, when left in a freezer, the meat will be good for 1 or 2 months. Once the meat changes in appearance, texture, or smell, discard immediately.

04. How Long Does Ham Lunch Meat Last?

To lengthen the shelf life of lunch meat, wrap it in foil or plastic wrap very tightly. When stored this way, your lunch meat will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 5 days. On the other hand, when wrapped and stored in the freezer, the meat will stay fresh for a month or two.

Final Thoughts

Lunch meats taste great and are easily available and need very little preparation. Besides this, they are amazingly versatile and are a great protein source in countless dishes. 

If you’re running low on your grocery budget, you can lunch meats in bulk and survive on them until your next paycheck. Just remember to ditch the meat as soon as it feels off your changes in smell or color.

Since you know the right answer to the question, ‘Can you freeze deli meat?’, you will have a nice supply of cured meats in your pantry. 

So what do you think? Does a smoked turkey sandwich sound like a great dinner?

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