freeze lunch meat

Can You Refrigerate and Freeze Deli Meat?

Deli meat is everyone’s favorite food item. It is delicious, easy to prepare and widely available in the supermarket, grocery stores, or your local delis.

As you might have known, deli meat – also widely known as lunch meat, cold cuts, cooked meats – refers to cured or processed meat served on its own or used for cooking or sandwiches fillings.

Unfortunately, deli meat only lasts for a few days after opening. If you often race with time to finish a pack of cold cuts or salami, you might be wondering whether you can freeze deli meat.

No worries, in this article, we discuss the nitty-gritty of freezing and thawing deli meat and other related questions. Are you ready to take notes? Read on!

The Best Ways to Freeze Lunch Meat

Deli meat comes in a diverse variety of products prepared from beef, pork, turkey, and chicken. Generally, we can group them into cured and cooked meats.

Some of the most common deli meats include sliced roast beef, ham, pastrami, salami, cold cuts, prosciutto, etc. Whether you have leftovers or unopened packs, rest assured that you can always freeze them!

Freezing unopened packs of deli meat

If you have a few extra packs of deli meat, those are the easiest to handle! Unless you plan to use them within a couple of weeks, you can always freeze them as is.

For extra protection from freezer burn, you can place the meat in a freezer bag or wrap it in a plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Toss the meat in the freezer. That’s it, easy peasy!

Freezing sliced or leftover deli meat

If you buy sliced meat from your local deli or maybe you have leftovers, you can also freeze them. Make sure you wrap them properly and follow the steps below.

  1. Lay individual slices in a wax paper. Alternatively, place several pieces of meat in a container, if you know the portion you usually use
  2. Place the meat in a container or freezer bag and seal tightly
  3. Squeeze as much air as possible from the plastic bag
  4. Label the container with the name of the product, amount, and freezing date or use-by date.
  5. Place it in the freezer

How to Defrost Frozen Deli Meat

As a rule of thumb, you should never defrost frozen meat or other perishable foods at room temperature. Thus, thawing the meat in the garage, kitchen counter, or basement is generally not recommended. In this condition, bacteria can grow and multiply, which will spoil and make the meat unsafe to eat.

You can safely thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator, in a cold water bath, or in the microwave. Here is how you should do it.

  1. Thawing in the refrigerator

Refrigerator thawing is considered as the safest method but can be pretty lengthy. The benefit of defrosting in the refrigerator is you can refreeze the meat without cooking it.

Depending on the size of the meat, thawing can take hours or more. So, make sure you plan it ahead of time. You can simply transfer the frozen meat from the freezer to the refrigerator before you go to bed. It should be ready to use the next day.

  1. In a cold water bath

If you’re a little short in time, try this method. Immerse a pack of frozen meat in a bowl of cold water. Make sure the container is tightly sealed and doesn’t leak. Change the water every 30 minutes until the meat is thoroughly thawed.

You should cook the meat immediately after thawing. This method is not recommended if you want to eat the meat right away without cooking, such as for sandwich filling or salad.

  1. In the microwave

Microwave thawing is one of the most common methods for defrosting foods, particularly if you’re really tight on time. However, you need to pay attention during the process, since thawing can quickly cross over to cooking.

Use the defrost mode or use the lowest power setting with short increments of 10 – 15 seconds, depending on the meat’s size.

  1. Cook it while frozen

If you plan to use the meat for a cooked dish, such as soup, pasta sauce, or casserole, it is also possible to throw it frozen into the pot. Don’t forget to calculate extra cooking time to compensate for the saved time for thawing.

How Long Can You Freeze Deli Meat?

With proper handling, frozen deli meat remains safe to use indefinitely. However, prolonged freezing may affect texture and taste. Therefore, it is recommended to use frozen deli meat within 1 – 2 months.

After thawing, it is best to serve or cook the meat as soon as possible. If you have any leftovers, keep them refrigerated in an airtight container and use them within 3 – 4 days.

See more: Does lunch meat go bad?

Can You Safely Refreeze Deli Meat?

As long as the meat is frozen and appropriately thawed, deli meat can go back into your freezer without being cooked.

That means you should only refreeze deli meat if it’s thawed in the refrigerator instead of in a cold water bath or room temperature.

Don’t refreeze if the meat is left out of the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours. The same notion applies if the meat stands in temperature above 90°F (32°C) for 1 hour. (*)

Make sure to refreeze the meat within 3 – 4 days after defrosting.

Keep in mind that repeated freezing and thawing may increase the risk of bacterial growth, mostly if the meat is not handled correctly. Therefore, whenever doubt, let’s stay on the safe side and do not refreeze the meat.


How do you know when deli meat is bad?

General signs of deli meat going bad include changes in appearance, smell, and texture. If the meat turns grayish, yellow, or brown, that’s an indication that the meat has spoiled. Slimy, hardened texture and off-smell are other symptoms of meat spoilage. If any of these signs are observed, the meat is no longer safe to consume.

How long does deli meat last?

Unopened packs of deli meat last up to two weeks and should be kept refrigerated up to 3 – 5 days after opening.

Can you freeze sliced ham?

Yes, freezing sliced ham can salvage your leftover meats and prolong the shelf life.


Deli meat is a must-have item in the fridge. Unfortunately, this delicacy has a limited shelf life. Therefore, freezing is an option to prolong the shelf life up to 1 – 2 months for the best quality.

You can freeze both unopened packs and leftover deli meat. To thaw the meat safely, you can do it in the refrigerator or microwave. Once thawed, serve or cook the meat immediately and keep the leftovers refrigerated. Discard the meat if you spot any spoilage signs.

See more: Can you freeze ham?

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