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Can You Freeze Lunch Meat? Does Lunch Meat Go Bad?

Lunch meat, also known as deli meat, has many desirable properties, but the long shelf life is certainly not one of them. They are perishable and should be used within 7 days once bought from the store. But if you have overstocked lunch meat or you have leftovers from a previous holiday party, you don’t have to throw them away.

Can you freeze lunch meat? Freezing lunch meat is possible. It is the only way to make them stay fresh for a few months. Are you wondering how you can achieve that? You are in the right place. We will discuss how to freeze lunch meat and detail everything you need to know about it. Keep reading!


Recipe With Lunch Meat

Recipe With Lunch Meat

You can use lunch meat in many recipes, such as quesadillas, quiches, gratins, casseroles, Stromboli, pizza, etc. We cannot discuss all of them, but we will outline some of the common ones you can try out.

Turkey and Balsamic Onion Quesadillas Recipe

Turkey And Balsamic Onion Quesadillas Recipe


Material Quantity
Sliced red onion 1
Balsamic vinegar ¼ cup
10-inch whole-wheat tortillas 4
Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese 1 cup
Smoked deli turkey 8 slices


Mix onion and vinegar in a bowl and marinate for about 5 minutes. Drain vinegar and keep it for other uses.

Use a large nonstick skillet to warm 2 tortillas over medium-high heat for 45 minutes and flip them over. Ensure the tortillas do not overlap.

Sprinkle a quarter of the cheese on only half the side of the tortillas. Cover with 2 slices of deli turkey and add a quarter of the onions on top.

Fold Tortillas into half and flatten using a spatula. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt. Flip and cook the other side for another 2 minutes or until it turns golden brown.

Put the cooked quesadillas on a plate and cover to keep warm as you cook the remaining portion.

Baked Ham and Colby Sandwiches Recipe

Baked Ham and Colby Sandwiches Recipe


Material Quantity
Melted butter ½ cup
Prepared mustard 2 Tablespoonfuls
Poppy Seeds 1 Tablespoonful
Sugar 3 Teaspoonful
Hamburger buns 8
Colby cheese 8 slices
Deli ham slices 1 pound


Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix butter, onion, mustard, poppy seeds, and sugar in a bowl.

Place the bun bottom in an ungreased baking pan with the cut side on top and add Colby cheese, deli ham, and mozzarella on top. Use half of the butter mixture to brush.

Replace the bin tops and brush with the other half of the butter mix. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts. Remember to keep them uncovered.

Pastrami Roll-Ups Recipe

Pastrami Roll-Ups Recipe


Material Quantity
Spreadable cream cheese ¾ cup
Crumbled blue cheese ½ cup
Lean deli pastrami 12 slices
Dill pickle spears 12


Mix cream cheese and blue cheese in a bowl to obtain a uniform mixture. If pastrami and/or pickles are excessively moist, you can pat them dry using paper towels.

Spread 1 Tablespoonful of cheese mixture on pastrami slices and add pickle spear on top. Roll and cut into 4 slices. Do the same for all the deli pastrami.

Does Lunch Meat Go Bad?

Yes. Even frozen lunch meat will spoil when it reaches its shelf life. Such deli meat is not safe for consumption, even for your pets.

How Do You Know If the Lunch Meat Is Spoiled?

How Do You Know If the Lunch Meat Is Spoiled

If you are keen enough, you can tell when the spoilage has occurred on your lunch meat. You can use the following signs to know whether the meat is spoiled or still fresh:

  • If the meat feels slimy after defrosting, it should be discarded. Don’t confuse this with thawed wet deli meat.
  • The presence of slick, oily residues on top of defrosted deli meat pieces is a sign of spoilage.
  • A different smell, such as the scent of vinegar or ammonia, indicates the lunch meat is no longer safe for consumption.

Remember to always discard any lunch meat you suspect is spoiled. Eating such may result in food poisoning that can prove fatal. Just be keen and stay safe.

How Long Does Lunch Meat Last?

How Long Does Lunch Meat Last

Lunch meat can only last a few days in the fridge, probably 7 days. That is not long enough to clear the leftovers from your past holiday party or family get-together. If you do not preserve them as needed, they will spoil or simply go to waste.

If you want lunch meat to last longer, you need to freeze them. Pre-packaged deli meat can last about 3-5 days in a fridge and up to 2 months when frozen. Cooked lunch meat has the shortest shelf life of up to 3 days. But when frozen, it can go for three months.

The table below summarizes the above statements:

Opened Fridge Freezer
Fresh meat 3-5 days 1-2 months
Packaged meat 3-5 days 1-2 months
Unopened Fridge Freezer
Fresh meat 3-5 days 1-2 months
Packaged meat 2 weeks 2 months
Cured meat 2 months 3 months

Can You Freeze Lunch Meat?

Can You Freeze Lunch Meat

Yes, you can. But there are things to note before actually throwing the pieces into the freezer. Freezing can make the deli meat last longer, but only if it is done appropriately. If you plan on freezing your lunch meat, then first understand the following:

Pre-Packed Lunch Meat

Store-bought lunch meat pieces are sealed packages. You are better off freezing them in those original packages without breaking the seal. Alternatively, you can look for freezer-grade bags and containers and put the packed deli meats in them before freezing. If you cannot access either, then aluminum foil is another option to consider.

Frozen deli packages have a definite shelf life in the freezer. To track that better, mark the dates on the freezer bags or container before actually putting them in the freezer.

Unpacked Lunch Meat

The original sealed package can be unsealed to remove some pieces. Sometimes you just open many packets unexpectedly, and now you have to freeze them. It is still possible to do that. Use wax paper to wrap each lunch meat piece before putting it in a freezer bag. Remove as much air from the freezer bag as you can before sealing it.

How To Freeze Lunch Meat?

How To Freeze Lunch Meat

The methods for freezing lunch meat vary a bit depending on the status of the deli meat package. As we have seen, your approach should depend on whether it is still sealed or unsealed. Any of these two conditions determine the procedure to follow, and you need to identify the right one.

Assuming you passed by a store and you bought more lunch meat than you need, only unpack the ones you intend to use and freeze the rest as they are. To freeze packed deli meat, proceed as follows:

Put the packed pieces in the freezer just the way they are. But if you fear there might be cases of freezer burns, then you can put them in another container or bag before freezing. Use only the recommended freezer bags or airtight containers to achieve a maximum shelf life of 2 months.

Label the bag or container with the current date so that you can know the time the lunch meat pieces have been in the freezer. When done, put them in the freezer but don’t forget about them. They should be used within two months when their taste and structure are still at their best.

For unpacked or already cooked lunch meat, you need to wrap the individual pieces with wax paper before putting them into the freezer bag or container. The rest of the procedure remains the same. Just label them and place them in a freezer. Unpacked but uncooked deli meat will stay fresh for two months, while unpacked and cooked can go for up to 3 months.

Freezing Lunch Meat Tips

Freezing Lunch Meat Tips

Freezing lunch meat is a delicate process. There can be freezer burns, or the meat can spoil before the expected 2 or 3-month period. How do you ensure that does not happen? Use the following tips:

  • Vacuum the freezer bag or container as much as you can.
  • Use only freezer bags and containers in good conditions. That is, they should be sealable and without any holes.
  • The freezing temperature should be as steady as possible, preferably 0.
  • If freezing unpacked lunch meat, wrap the individual pieces with wax paper before putting them in the freezer bag.

How To Defrost Lunch Meat?

How To Defrost Lunch Meat

You can defrost lunch meat, but not at room temperature. That is because bacteria thrive faster under such conditions than in other places that we will describe for thawing deli meat. You can do it through the following:

Defrosting in the Fridge

This is the best method, but it takes a longer time compared to other approaches. It can take several hours for the meat to thaw, depending on the quantity and size of the slices. Remove the deli meat from the freezer and take them out of the freezer bags. Place them in a fridge well ahead of time.

As mentioned, it will take a significant amount of time for the meat to defrost in a fridge. So, you need to plan ahead of time. You can place them in the fridge when you go to bed, and hopefully, they should be ready the next day.

Thawing in a cold water

You will require cold water for this. Put the deli meat in an airtight container and submerge it in the water. Consider changing the water every 30 minutes to fasten the process. Cook the lunch meat pieces as soon as they are thawed using this method.

Thawing in a Microwave

This is the most common and fastest method for thawing frozen deli meat. Some microwaves have the defrost mode. If yours doesn’t have it, then set the lowest temperature with small increments of about 10 seconds. Check the meat pieces from time to time if they are ready.

Cooking frozen lunch meat

You can use frozen meat in many recipes. However, you should compensate for the extra time required for the lunch meat to thaw in the cooking pot.

Tips for Using Frozen and Thawed Lunchmeat?

Tips for Using Frozen and Thawed Lunchmeat

A defrosted lunch meat should be used within 3 days after thawing. That is because bacteria can quickly grow in it, leading to food spoilage. So, are you wondering how you can use previously frozen and defrosted meat?

The best way to use defrosted lunch meat is in cooked dishes. That is because freezing may change texture and taste, depending on how it was frozen. We prefer them in such recipes because the flavor of the seasoning and other ingredients is enough to make them as delicious as before.


Can you freeze lunch meat? Yes, you can freeze lunch meat and thaw it later for your dishes. You should not let leftovers go to waste or fear taking advantage of the store promotion to overstock. Freezing can extend the shelf life for up to 3 months if done appropriately. Fortunately, you can freeze both packed and unpacked lunch meat.

Thaw the frozen lunch meat when you need to use it. But if spoiled, discard to avoid food poisoning. Otherwise, use it in cooked dishes and enjoy the delicacy.

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