Can You Freeze Lunch Meat? How to Freeze Deli Meat

Lunch meat, luncheon meat, deli meat, cold cuts, whatever you call these yummy slices of cured meat, chances are you've wondered if there is a way of saving them for another day.

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Sliced deli meat, whether it's turkey breast, cooked ham, roast beef, hard salami, or any other type of cold cut, can be frozen for a future sandwich.

We all know how easy it is to buy too much. Whether we’ve overestimated how many sandwiches we need to make for a week or have some leftovers from a charcuterie board we’ve made, there’s nothing worse than condemning a bunch of leftovers to the trash. 

Thankfully, the freezer is a thing, meaning that lots of different foods can be saved safely for another day. Didn’t know you could save lunch meat? Well, you’re not alone in that.

Lots of people didn’t know this, and have been throwing away their leftover ham and turkey slices for years! However, we are here to tell you that this never needs to happen again!

Your lunch meats can be safely frozen and we’re going to explain exactly how to do it in this article.

To make your life even easier, we will also be compiling the information into a handy chart for you to print out and keep for your reference. 

First, a recap… 

We thought that we would give you a little recap on lunch meat first of all. Lunch meat (or whatever other names you call it) are thin cuts of cooked meat.

They are left to go cold and then sliced up ready for use in subs, sandwiches, paninis, and bagels. If you get them from  the deli counter, the deli worker will package them up for you.

You can also buy them pre-packaged in stores, where they are usually sold in vacuum sealed packs. Typically they have preservatives added to them to help them stay fresher for longer. 

So, they can be frozen, then? 

Yes, lunch meats can be frozen, but the rules differ slightly depending on the type of deli meat you have bought.

The preservatives included in them, as we discussed in the previous section, help to keep the lunch meat fresh for around 5 days once it has been opened and stored correctly in a refrigerator.

A vacuum sealed pack that has not been opened can keep for up to 15 days in the refrigerator. Of course, freezing them will make them last even longer.

If your packet of deli meat has already been opened and exposed to air, then provided it is packaged back up and frozen correctly, it can keep for up to 3 months, if you have a totally unopened vacuum sealed packet of deli meat then this can be frozen for up to 6 months and still be safe to eat. 

How to freeze lunch meat

When it comes to freezing your lunch meat, it is important that you take care to do it properly to ensure it is safe to eat.

In this section, we will be looking at how to freeze pre-packaged lunch meat that has not been opened. 

We will then be looking at how you can safely freeze lunch meat that has been opened. Meats such as chicken, ham, and turkey tend to have a higher water content than cured meats, and so these are often more susceptible to freer burn.

That being said, provided they are tightly wrapped and placed in two ziplock bags for extra protection, they should still be fine. 

Unopened, pre-packaged lunch meat (in a vacuum sealed pack) 

  1. If your lunch meat is already in an airtight, vacuum sealed pack then there is no need to wrap it again. Provided it is totally airtight and remains sealed, you can simply label it ready for freezing. 
  2. When it comes to labeling your meat, ensure you clearly place the date frozen on there, as well as what it is, and when you need to eat it by (you can check this at the end of our article). 
  3. Once it is labeled, place it into a freezer safe container or zip lock bag if you wish. You can stack packaged lunch meat on top of each other, provided they are wrapped separately - e.g. wrapped turkey can be stacked on top of wrapped salami, etc. 

Opened lunch meat (No longer vacuum sealed)

  1. If your lunch meat has been opened, it can still be frozen. You should repack your slices into an airtight, freezer safe bag, ensuring all of it is as close to being vacuum sealed as possible. A ziplock bag would work well for this. 
  2. As it is already open, it might be a good idea to place some wax paper, parchment, or baking paper in between each slice so that it can be defrosted a little easier. We skip this step if our meat is unopened, though, so that we are not unnecessarily exposing it to air. 
  3. When it is all packed tightly, label the meats with the date and contents, as well as the date it has to be eaten by if you wish (check out our chart at the end of the article to find out this). 
  4. You can then place it into a freezer safe container or another zip lockable bag if you wish, and you can keep it with other meats, provided all are packaged and labeled separately. 

Defrosting your lunch meat 

When you are ready to eat your lunch meat simply check that they are still within the safe date range (check our table chart at the end of the article.

If you are using the lunch meat that has already been opened, you can take out the amount you need as the parchment paper will have kept them separate, keeping the rest in the freezer to be used again. If you want the whole lot, take it all out.

We recommend moving your meat to the refrigerator at least 24 hours before eating it. This will ensure that it has adequate time to defrost thoroughly, ensuring it is safe to be consumed. If you have just taken out a slice or two, then it may take less time to defrost, so keep checking it. 

Important: defrosted lunch meat will only last for around 2 days and must be kept in the refrigerator, wrapped up when not in use. 

For how long can different lunch meats be frozen and refrigerated?

Use our handy table chart below to determine how long you can keep your lunch meats frozen safely. 

Opened fresh cut lunch meats from the deli counter
5 to 6 days
Around 2 months provided it’s double wrapped to keep from freezer burn 
Opened pre-packaged lunch meats 
7 to 10 days
Around 2 months provided it’s double wrapped to keep from freezer burn
Opened bologna cuts
1 to 2 weeks
1 to 2 months
Opened salami
2 to 3 weeks
2 to 3 months
Opened pepperoni 
2 to 3 weeks
6 to 8 months
Unopened deli meats
7 to 10 days
6 to 8 months
Unopened pre-packaged lunch meats
7 to 10 days
6 to 8 months
Unopened bologna
1 to 2 weeks
2 to 3 months
Unopened salami
3 to 4 weeks
2 to 3 months
Unopened pepperoni 
3 to 4 weeks 
2 to 3 months
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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