Slapping some salami or ham onto fresh bread from the bakery is one of the few luxuries of life (notwithstanding vegetarianism and veganism). Visiting the butcher or heading down to the market for some freshly sliced deli meat gets our mouths watering and we start plotting the perfect sandwich before our meat is even sliced. But, when you make yourself a sandwich at home and toss the remaining meat in the fridge, how long does it keep? The window may not be huge, but you have a small grace period before it's time to chuck your bologna or turkey. So exactly how long is deli meat good for once it's been opened?
After purchasing your deli meat you should see an expiry date on the barcode the cashiers print out. While that's a good place to start for expiration dates, you should keep in mind that those dates differ after you open the package. Once opened, you have a window of 3-5 days before the meat spoils or starts to lose its savory flavor. If you don't rip into the package as soon as you get home you have about 1 week, unopened, before things start to go south.
Storing your meat in the fridge will allow it to keep for about 3-5 days after you open it, but if you want to freeze it then you can comfortably keep your deli meat for up to one month. Expiration dates will also differ depending on whether or not you purchased pre-packaged luncheon meat or bought things fresh from the deli.
Opened pre-packaged deli meat: In the fridge, you can keep these packages for about 7-10 days and up to 3 weeks in the freezer.
Unopened pre-packaged deli meat: In the fridge, you can keep it for 7-10 days, but you can store unopened meat for up to 8 months.
Opened fresh deli meat: You can store the meat for 5-6 days in the fridge and in the freezer, you can keep it for 2-3 weeks.
Unopened fresh deli meat: Unopened fresh meat can be kept for 5-6 days, but in the freezer, you can store it for 3-5 weeks.
If you're wondering what the telltale signs of spoiled deli meat are then there are some warning signs to keep an eye on. When you see the meat develop a slimy film to it then you know it's time to pitch it. A film on your deli meat lets you know that bacteria has started to accumulate and isn't safe for consumption anymore. Another big sign is if you meat gives off a sour smell. Our favorite deli meats have distinct smells that we can recognize from the counter, but when they start to spoil the smell will change drastically. The third largest sign to keep an eye out for is discoloration. Some deli meats will turn grey or brown in color and if you see that happening, it's time to get rid of it. A bonus, no-brainer sign is if you see mold growing on your deli meat, you should chuck it.
Indulging in delicious deli meats is a satisfying way to soothe our hunger and make simple meals for the days ahead. Head over to the supermarket and pick up some cuts of quality deli meat now that you know the proper storing techniques and how long deli meat lasts in your home.