In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “How long can lunch meat stay out of the fridge?” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of lunch meat at room temperature. Moreover, we are going to discuss the shelf life of lunch meat in the fridge and freezer along with different ways to spot bad lunch meat.
So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.
How long can lunch meat stay out of the fridge?
The lunch meat lasts for about 2 hours when kept at room temperature.
You should discard the lunch meat that has been left in open for more than 2 hours as bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, therefore there are greater chances of the lunch meat being already contaminated with bacteria when left out for more than 2 hours.
Moreover, if the temperature of the surroundings is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then the process of spoilage takes place at a faster pace and it is recommended to discard lunch meat that is left out in the open for more than an hour at 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Shelf life of lunch meat in the fridge
An opened box of lunch meat lasts for about 3-5 days if stored at approximately 40°F or below in the fridge according to the standards set by the USDA.
On the other hand, when it comes to the unopened box of lunch meat, it lasts for about 2 weeks in the fridge when stored appropriately in the fridge at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Shelf life of lunch meat in the freezer
The time for which the lunch meat will last in the freezer depends mainly upon the type of lunch meat.
Generally, the lunch meat, if kept wrapped in aluminum foil in a plastic freezer bag or heavy-duty freezer container, lasts for about 1-2 months in the freezer.
In case of the prepackaged lunch meat that has not been opened yet, you can directly freeze it in the freezer. It will be better to wrap the box in aluminum foil or some plastic covering to save your lunch meat from freezer burns.
Thus keeping the lunch meat in the freezer will increase its shelf life considerably owing to the cool temperature of the freezer that halts the bacterial growth on the lunch meat.
It is worth mentioning that the figures mentioned above are the estimated shelf life of lunch meat and is the time during which you can enjoy the optimum quality of the lunch meat.
You can read about different types of lunch and deli meats here.
Tips to store lunch meat
- You should always store your lunch meat at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, therefore it is always advised to store your lunch meat at a lower temperature to preserve their freshness for a long time.
- It is recommended to store lunch meat on one of the shelves of the refrigerator rather than the door as there are a lot of temperature fluctuations at the door of the fridge.
- You can further prolong the shelf life of the lunch meat by wrapping it in the heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic freezer bag and storing it in the freezer.
Different ways to spot bad lunch meat
There are a couple of indicators that point out bad lunch meat. You should consider the appearance, texture, and smell of the lunch meat to reach a final verdict on whether or not they have gone bad.
If you spot a mold, any other organic growth, or dark spots on your lunch meat then it means that your lunch meat has gone bad and the best thing you can do in this scenario is to get rid of it.
If you notice that the lunch meat has off colors (greenish-grey or brown) then it is an indication that your lunch meat has gone bad and it is better to discard them.
Several factors can be responsible for a change in the color of the lunch meat and that includes light, oxidation reactions, temperature, and bacterial contamination.
If you feel something slimy or gooey while touching the lunch meat then it means that your lunch meat has gone bad and it is better to discard them.
But keep one thing in mind that rinsing the lunch meat won’t help you in this scenario as you won’t be able to get rid of the bacteria. Rinsing the bacteria-laden lunch meat will put you at risk of cross-contamination as the bacteria will spread in the utensils and other food items that will come in contact with the water from the lunch meat that has gone bad.
It is worth mentioning that you should wash your hands thoroughly after touching the bacteria-laden lunch meat or else the bacteria will transfer from your hands to any other thing that comes in contact with your hands.
If you smell something sour or ammonia-like while taking a sniff test of your lunch meat then it means that your lunch meat has gone bad.
If microbes somehow found their way to your lunch meat and have spoiled it then the best thing you should do is to discard it.
In this brief guide, we answered the question “how long can lunch meat stay out of the fridge” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of lunch meat at room temperature. Moreover, we discussed the shelf life of lunch meat in the fridge and freezer along with different ways to spot bad lunch meat.