deli meat

Deli Meat Shelf Life: How Long Is It Good For?

Lunch meat is present in the market under a variety of names such as cooked meats, sliced meat, luncheon meat, cold meat, and cold cut. Another popular name is deli meat.

They are pre-cooked or cured meat which is served either hot or cold as per preference. They can be purchased in vacuum packs as pre-sliced or sliced upon order.

In this article, you will find out how long lunch meat lasts in every situation.

Deli meats can be used in any way according to one’s liking.

Either put it on bread or toss it in the salad to add a protein kick or it can be used in burgers to add layers or dressing up crackers with lunch meat adds interest to the dinner table, the list is endless. (*)

Deli meat is available as:

  • Whole cut: flavored or spiced meat such as roast beef, corned beef
  • Sectioned/ formed: cooked ham,
  • Processed meat: sausages, bologna, hot dogs, etc. (*)

How Long Does Lunch Meat Last in the Fridge?

Luncheon meat can be kept in refrigeration to maintain its freshness. The freshness largely depends upon whether it is opened or unopened.

If unopened, it easily lasts up to 2 weeks but after opening, it should be kept in the refrigerator till 3 to 5 days. It is also important to note that the temperature should be maintained at 40 ºF or 4.4 ºC.

Luncheon meat can also be stored in the freezer for an indefinite period. But it is advised that to enjoy the best quality, it should be consumed within 1 to 2 months. (*) (*)

After keeping the unopened luncheon meat in the refrigerator for 2 weeks and if still it has not been consumed, it can be put into the freezer for 1 to 2 months.

See more: Can you freeze lunch meat?

Sliced Meat Without Refrigeration 

When food is out of the refrigerator, the chances of bacterial growth enhances. Bacteria grow rapidly in temperatures ranging between 40° F-140° F (4.4 ºC-60 ºC).

According to the United States of Agriculture (USDA), food should be discarded if it has been outside at room temperature for more than 2 hours or longer and if the temperature is above 90 ºF (32.2 ºC), it should be discarded after 1 hour. (*

How To Purchase Good Quality Sliced Meat

#1. While purchasing lunch meat, prefer vacuum sealed over open.

#2. When buying packed meat, check whether the seal is intact, if damaged, do not buy that.

#3. Select frozen or chilled meat from the back of the freezer where the temperature is maintained as frequent opening and closing of commercial refrigerators may cause the food to go bad due to frequent temperature change.

#4. Try to consume the purchased product within the time frame mentioned on the label.

Storing Lunch Meat

#1. For best quality and reducing the risk of food-borne illness, always reheat food completely before eating.

#2. While storing food in the refrigerator, it is advised to keep raw and cooked food separately to avoid cross-contamination. That is why it is advised to cover thaw meat with a plate or lid whether it is placed in a refrigerator or even outside to avoid such contamination.

How To Check If Deli Meat Has Gone Bad

1) Sight

The color of cold meat has to be iridescent. If it seems grey, brown or yellow, it is probably not safe to eat.

2) Smell

If there seems to come an off odor from meat, it is not consumable anymore.

3) Touch

If the feel of the meat is slimy or sticky or has hardened, it indicated that it is spoiled. (*)

How To Avoid Food Poisoning/ Food Turning Bad

#1 Wash hands often, especially before preparing a meal or eating, after using the toilet.

#2 Keep cooked and uncooked food separately even in the refrigerator or in the kitchen.

#3 Cook the food to appropriate internal temperature.

#4 Refrigerate food immediately after eating at a temperature below 40 ºF or 4.4 ºC.

#5 Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold when taking them out in an insulated container. (*)


How long is deli meat good in the fridge after opening?

For 3-5 days, the open deli meat is good in the fridge.

How long can you keep packaged cold cuts in the refrigerator?

Packaged cold cuts can easily stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Can I freeze deli meat?

Yes. Deli meat can be stored in the freezer for indefinite time but for best quality, it is preferred to consume it within 1-2 months.

How to keep the sandwich with deli meat fresh without a refrigerator?

It is advised to keep an ice pack or frozen gel pack to keep the sandwich cold and safe for a longer time during traveling, in-office or places where the availability of a refrigerator is limited.

Can luncheon meat be eaten by pregnant women?

Yes. But it is suggested that it should be heated thoroughly, in short, it has to be steaming hot. Try to eat it early and avoid putting it at room temperature for a long time. If food is heated in a microwave, check that it should be evenly heated. (*)

Who should avoid cold meat?

Cold meat has a high content of sodium, occasionally fat and preservatives like nitrite. So people having high blood pressure (hypertension) or any other medical condition, should consult their doctors for safe consumption.

What happens if someone eats contaminated/old cold cuts?

If contaminated food is consumed, there is an increased risk of food poisoning. Symptoms may appear after a few hours or a day which may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, etc.


With so much variety to offer, cold meat has now become an essential food item but to improve its shelf life, it is important to keep it safe and stored at the right temperature.

Up Next: How long does pepperoni last?

lunch meat shelf life
Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos

*Featured Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos

About The Author

Scroll to Top