How long do cold cuts last? (+5 Ways to tell)

In this article, we will answer the question “How long do cold cuts last?”, and how to tell If Deli meat has gone bad?

How long do cold cuts last?

Pepperoni and salami have a lower moisture content, which contributes to a longer shelf-life than ham or chicken. The following table shows an estimated shelf-life of different types of cold-cut meat.

(Unopened)In the fridge In the freezer 
Past printed date Past printed date 
Fresh Deli meat 5-6 days ——
Pre-packaged Deli meat 7-10 days 6-8 months 
Bologna 1-2 weeks 2-3 months 
Salami (hard)3-4 weeks 2-3 months 
Opened In the fridge In the freezer 
Fresh deli meat 5-6 days ——
Packaged lunch meat 7-10 days ——
Bologna 1-2 weeks 1-2 months 
Salami (hard)2-3 weeks 2-3 months 
Pepperoni 2-3 weeks 6-8 months 

What kind of meat is cold cut?

The most common names of cold-cut meats are lunch meats, deli meats, sliced meats,  cooked meats or luncheon meats, etc. these meats are processed and cured or pre-cooked. 

They are sold in the refrigerated section, either pre-sliced or they can be sliced at the deli counter. Sliced cold-cuts come in vacuum-sealed packaging.

The most common type of cold-cut meats includes ham, salami, sausage, chorizo, smoked meat, turkey breast, meatloaf, corned beef, chicken loaf, chicken breast, etc.

How to cook with cold-cut meat?

Cold-cut meat slices can be used as a crust in your muffins. They can be lightly heated in oil and tossed in pasta. Lunch meats are very handy for toppings. Use lunch meat as a topping for pizza and pie.

Lunch meats can be eaten with cream cheese for a quick snack or appetizer. They can be added to scrambled eggs. Other than that, cold-cut meats work fine in dips, soups, salads, rolls, sandwiches, and stuffed potatoes.

How to store cold cuts?

  • Irrespective of the type of cold cut, it should always be stored in the fridge.
  • It should always be completely wrapped up.
  • If the cold-cut meat comes in resealable packaging, It can be stored in its original packaging. If the packaging is not resealable, transfer the contents to a freezer bag. Squeeze out the air from the bag before storage. This applies to both pre-packaged cold cuts and lunch meat sliced at the deli.

Can you freeze Cold cuts?

Yes, you can easily freeze cold cuts. Before freezing, you have to make sure the package of the deli meat is freezer-burn-proof. To do this, wrap the meat tightly with a heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic sheet. Alternatively, you can use a freezer bag.

If you choose a plastic sheet, wrap it around the meat twice for full-proof protection. Pre-packaged and unopened cold cut meat can be directly tossed into the freezer bag and stored in the freezer. Once the package is opened, you have two options. You can either transfer the contents to the freezer bag or put the whole thing in an air-tight container.

If you only need a few deli meat slices at a time, you can store them separately in sandwich-sized piles and then keep all of them in a freezer bag. 

Keep in mind that high fat and low moisture deli meat like salami will freeze well as compared to other types like pepperoni. Any type of cold-cut meat should be thawed in the fridge before using it.

How to tell If Deli meat has gone bad?

  1. If the meat feels sticky and develops a slimy surface, it should be discarded. The slimy layer may also come from the brine but it may also be due to fungal growth. Therefore it is safe to not take the risk.
  2. If the meat gives off a sour or rancid smell, get rid of it.
  3. Discolored patches on the surface of the meat also indicate spoilage.
  4. Salami or bologna, with a higher fat level, will start to discolor and turn brown or grey from the edges. If this occurs, throw away the meat as It is already spoiled.
  5. The presence of moldy areas in the form of spots or patches is a clear indication of spoilage. Such meat should be immediately discarded.

The risk of consuming expired Deli meat 

Deli meats are commonly infected by Staphylococcus aureus or Listeria during processing. If you have consumed expired meat, you will most likely face the symptoms of food poisoning within a few hours or days.

The typical symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, headaches. Stomach ache and fever. 

If the symptoms persist for more than 3 days, you need to see a doctor.


In this article, we answered the question “How long do cold cuts last?”, and how to tell If Deli meat has gone bad?


Sana Ameer

Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.

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