Pre-sliced lunch meat is a very convenient product for making fast and easy meals. However, sometimes you might find that you bought a bit more than you can easily consume within its short shelf life. Can you freeze lunch meat?
You can freeze lunch meat for up to two months. However, because of the water content, some types of lunch and deli meat will last longer in the freezer than others. Knowing the best way to freeze lunch meat will keep it fresher for longer.
In this article, I’ll explore the details of freezing lunch meat and how to safely ensure that your deli meat stays fresh in the freezer for you to enjoy later.
The Best Way to Freeze Lunch Meat
In order to preserve lunch and deli meat as long as possible, there are a few important steps you should take.
1. Separate Lunch Meat Slices With Wax Paper
First, you should separate the lunch meat between sheets of wax or parchment paper. This will allow you to easily remove one slice of meat at a time. If you freeze the lunch meat together, they’ll freeze into an entire block that’ll be impossible to separate unless you completely defrost it.
2. Seal the Deli Meat Slices in an Air-Tight Container
Next, you should seal your deli meat in as airtight a container as possible. The less air that’s exposed to the lunch meat, the better. You can do this by wrapping the meat in a plastic freezer bag or cling wrap. You may also choose to then use aluminum foil around the wrapped meat for even more protection.
The better you package your lunch meat, the longer it’ll stay fresh.
3. Squeeze Out Excess Air To Avoid Lunch Meat Freezer Burn
Squeeze out as much air as possible as you package the lunch meat. This will prevent your deli meat from getting freezer burn.
For lunch meat that hasn’t been opened, you don’t need to seal it because it’s already sealed. However, if you bought your lunch meat pre-cut by the slice at the deli counter, make sure you wrap it very well.
This’ll ensure that the lunch meat is protected against freezer burn and exposure to the air, which will dramatically shorten its shelf life.
It also helps to keep the freezer temperature as close to 0° F (-18° C) as possible. Temperature dips can increase the risk of freezer burns.
4. Label The Wrapped Meat With The Date
After it’s properly wrapped, be sure to label the current date on the package, so you don’t forget how long it’s been in the freezer. You can use a sharpie on a plastic bag or a piece of tape on a container.
Marking the date will ensure that you don’t eat the lunch meat if it has been in the freezer too long.
How Long is Frozen Lunch Meat Good For?
The shelf life of lunch meat varies from meat to meat due to the water content. The less water, the longer it’ll stay fresh.
Cured meats contain less free water because the process of curing reduces the moisture content. Therefore, cured deli meat is more likely to stay fresh for a longer period of time.
On the other hand, lunch meats such as ham, turkey, and chicken have higher water content. They’re more likely to have a wet surface when you take them out of the freezer and thaw them.
So cured meats like sausage, bologna, and pepperoni will last up to 3 months when frozen. While uncured lunch meats such as ham, chicken, and turkey will only last 1-2 months in the freezer.
The freezer shelf life of lunch meat also varies depending on whether it’s packaged or has been previously opened. Unopened lunch meat is likely to last a solid three months in the freezer, while an open package of deli meat will last just one or two months.
How To Thaw Lunch Meat
You have a few different options for defrosting lunch meat. You will need to ensure that you are doing the process correctly, and never leave the meat out on the counter. Have a look at the best options for thawing lunch meat below.
Leave the Lunch Meat in the Refrigerator Overnight
The safest method is leaving the frozen lunch meat in the refrigerator to thaw. This ensures that it won’t become warm enough to grow bacteria. You can defrost however much you want – just a slice or all of it at once.
If you plan to eat the lunch meat the next day, put it in the fridge the night before. This’ll give it plenty of time to defrost slowly.
Place the Lunch Meat in a Bowl of Cold Water
If you don’t have time to wait for it to defrost in the fridge, you can also place the airtight package in a bowl of cold water. Cold water should be used instead of warm water because it will thaw the lunch meat without promoting the growth of bacteria like warm or hot water would.
Make sure you leave the lunch meat in its plastic bag so that it isn’t exposed to the water directly. Turn the bag over every ten minutes, and be sure to change out the cold water as the lunch meat defrosts to ensure it remains cold.
It may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for the lunch meat to thaw. The timing depends on how much deli meat you’re thawing as well as its thickness.
Microwave Lunch Meat To Thaw
If you’ve no time at all, you can use the microwave to defrost and heat the lunch meat. Make sure you use the defrosting function rather than the standard microwave cook function since you likely won’t want to cook the meat.
After it has completely defrosted, there may be some leftover water on the meat from the melted ice. Simply use a paper towel to dab it dry before you eat it.
If you choose to use the microwave, you need to eat the lunch meat instantly. You can’t place it in the refrigerator after, or it could spoil.
How To Tell When Lunch Meat Is Bad
After you defrost your lunch meat, you should eat it within three days. After three days, the meat will no longer be safe to eat. If you use the microwave to defrost, you should eat it immediately.
Sometimes, you might miscalculate the amount of time your lunch meat has been frozen or defrosted which may result in the meat spoiling.
There are a few ways you can tell if lunch meat has gone bad.
- It may have an odd smell. Some common scents of bad lunch meat include yeast and vinegar-like scents.
- The meat might be slimy or filmy. If you wipe any residual water off your lunch meat and find it to still be very greasy, it’s probably not good anymore.
- The meat might have moldy spots. If there are any moldy spots on your lunch meat, throw it away.
Can You Refreeze Lunch Meat?
If you thawed your lunch meat before realizing you couldn’t eat it all in time, you might be considering throwing it back in the freezer.
It isn’t recommended to refreeze lunch meat after it has thawed. The same is true even if it has only very slightly thawed. Refreezing after thawing presents a risk of the meat spoiling or making you sick. It also comprises the quality of the lunch meat.
After you thaw the meat, you should eat it within a couple of days. If you don’t manage to eat it all at this time, don’t put it back in the freezer. Instead, just throw it away.
Bring Your Frozen Lunch Meat Back to Life
Most of the time, freezing your lunch meat won’t change it. The taste and texture should remain the same as long as it hasn’t been exposed to air or gotten freezer burn.
However, if you find your thawed lunch meat to be a bit bland, there are a couple of simple fixes.
There are many spices you can use to give your lunch meat a bit more flavor before you eat it. Sprinkle some of your favorite spices on the meat – perhaps some salt and pepper, too.
If using the meat in a sandwich, a little bit of mayonnaise or mustard goes a long way. Even using some fresh veggies can help give your sandwich a more fresh and flavorful taste.
It also helps to use the meat in cooked meals. Add it to a pizza, casserole, quesadillas, or whatever you commonly like to cook.
All the meat needs is a bit of spice or heat to renew its flavor and make it more enjoyable to eat.
Can You Freeze Lunch Meat – Conclusion
Lunch meat is a quick and easy product to make your daily afternoon meal. However, its short shelf life can cause you to waste a lot more than you’d like.
Fortunately, you can freeze lunch meat to lengthen its shelf life from days to months. This way, you can save money while enjoying your favorite deli meats for longer.