How long does Deli ham last?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question “How long does Deli ham last”, we will discuss how long deli ham lasts in the fridge and under various conditions.

How Long Does Deli Ham Last

Mostly it is best to use deli ham within 3-5 days if kept in a refrigerator (or 1-2 months in the freezer) to have the lavishing flavor.

If daily ham is not stored properly its shelf life is usually reduced. To have the best quality out of hams, it must be stored in air-tight packaging in refrigerators.

Several factors that control the shelf life of the deli ham are best by date, the amount of the preservatives used and the type of ham. The  expiration date1 of the daily ham are as follows:

Opened              RefrigeratorFreezer
Fresh & uncured3-5 days6 months
Cured5-7 days3-4 months
Bologna1-2 weeks1-2 months
Salami2-3 weeks3-4 months
Dry Italian2-3 months1 month
Fresh5-6 days
Bologna2-3 weeks2-3 months
Salami3-4 weeks2-3 months

How to Check Deli Ham Meat

The lunch meat indeed does go sour counter to our belief that it is manufactured and then preserved in ideal conditions. The manufacturers use different dates for the grocers to ensure the safe consumption of meat by the customers. The dates you usually see are “best-by”, “sell-by”, and use-by”2. These are explained below:

  1. The “sell-by” date is meant for the retailers or grocers by which they should sell the product to the consumers. This date certainly does not indicate that the ham is inedible.
  2. The “use-by” date is for the consumers by which they should eat the product. After this date, the shelf life of the lunch meat is remarkably reduced.
  3. The “best-by” date is merely a suggestion for the consumers to have the perfect quality and flavor of the meat.

Signs That Your Deli Ham Has Gone Bad

We usually have to rely on our senses to determine if the ham meat has gone bad. The first thing you notice is the appearance of the cold cut and the next stage is the smell.

Start by observing the texture of the meat. If the meat is slimy, it can be a cause of bacterial contamination by Listeria and Staphylococcus aureus. It is a sure sign that the ham should be thrown out right away.3 Needless to say if the daily meat is moldy or the natural pink color of ham has changed it should be disposed of.

If the cold cut gives of stale odor it cannot be consumed anymore. It is a sign that any kind of meat with the off smell is not safe for consumption. 

What Happens When You Eat Bad Deli Meat

If the lunch meat has passed the “best-by” date it should not be consumed. It is always better to be cautious than to be risking food poisoning. 

The meat which is consumed after the “best-by” date may be contaminated by the bacteria which is most commonly Listeria. If such a slice of meat is consumed it is a cause of food poisoning and its symptoms include nausea, vomiting, convulsions, fever, confusion, and changes in alertness.

These symptoms occur because our body is trying to get rid of the bacteria. Once the bacteria is out of the system, which may take a couple of days, you should be able to feel better.

How To Store Deli Meat to Increase the Shelf Life

Meat has high moisture and protein content which makes it prone to spoilage. The moisture on the fresh cuts makes an ideal condition for bacterial growth. The meat should be stored in a refrigerator to decrease bacterial growth and this, in turn, increases the shelf life of the meat products. When the ham is vacuumed packed its exposure to the air is reduced which in turn increases its shelf life.

Optimum conditions to store ham are listed below:4

  • The ideal temperature to store meat in a refrigerator is 33°F to 36°F.
  • Freezing significantly increases the shelf life of any kind of meat. The meat should be stored in a freezer at 0°F or below.
  • The vacuum-packaging of the meat also extends its shelf life.

Can You Freeze Deli Meat

If you are in a habit of buying meat in bulk, as most people do, it is always a best practice to store ham meat in a freezer rather than a refrigerator because it is prone to contamination much faster. It is always optimal to freeze deli meat.

Some meats could be frozen better than others. Meats with a higher content of fat, like salami, freeze better than others. Nonetheless, when thawed the deli ham is good to go.


  • Freeze the meat to increase its shelf life significantly.
  • Using deli ham after the “best-by” date is hazardous because it can cause food poisoning.
  • Buying vacuum-packaged deli ham also extends its shelf life.

In this brief guide we answered the question “How long does Deli ham last”, we discussed how long deli ham lasts in the fridge and under various conditions.



Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.

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