How long does lunch meat last in the fridge?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how long does lunch meat last in the fridge” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of lunch meat in different conditions. Moreover, we are going to discuss different types of lunch meat and the different ways to tell if your lunch meat has gone bad.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

How long does lunch meat last 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. Moreover, the unopened box of lunch meat lasts for about 2 weeks in the fridge when stored appropriately.  It is the cool temperature of the refrigerator that decreases the rate of bacterial growth on the food when stored appropriately.

Moreover, when it comes to lunch meat you should always consider the best by date written on the package. 

What is the optimum temperature to store lunch meat?

You should always store your lunch meat at 40°F or below. Bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40°F and 140°F, therefore it is always advised to store your lunch meat at a lower temperature to preserve its freshness for a long time.

How long does lunch meat last at room temperature?

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°F and 140°F, therefore there are greater chances of the lunch meat being already contaminated with bacteria when left out for more than 2 hours.

How long does lunch meat last in the freezer?

The lunch meat if kept wrapped in an aluminum foil in an air-tight container or heavy-duty freezer container lasts for about 1-2 months in the freezer. The time for which the lunch meat will last in the freezer depends mainly upon the type of lunch meat. 

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 the freezer burns.

Maybe you also wonder How long can lunch meat stay out of the fridge.

You can read more about freezing lunch meat here.

How to defrost lunch meat?

The recommended way to thaw the frozen lunch meat is to leave it in the refrigerator overnight and let it thaw there. 

Conversely, you can thaw the frozen lunch meat in a bowl of cold water but you should reheat and use it immediately after thawing. Moreover, if you are thawing and reheating the lunch meat in the oven or microwave it is recommended to use it immediately. 

What are the different types of lunch meat?

So there are several different lunch meat options, some of them are pre-cooked while others are either smoked or cured.

Precooked lunch meats

So when it comes to the pre-cooked lunch meats they should be properly handled and should be stored in the refrigerator to keep the bacteria at bay for some days. Examples of precooked lunch meats include roasted beef, roasted turkey, baked ham, etc.

Smoked lunch meats

Just like the pre-cooked lunch meats, smoked lunch meats should also be handled with care and should be refrigerated at or below 40°F to preserve their freshness for a long time. Examples of smoked lunch meats include smoked ham, smoked turkey, pastrami, etc.

Cured lunch meats

When it comes to cured meats, most of them need to be refrigerated while others can stay at room temperature for quite some time. Examples of cured lunch meats include bologna, pancetta, salamis, etc. Cured lunch meat generally has a longer shelf life than that of precooked or smoked lunch meats.

How to tell if the lunch meat has gone bad?

You can tell whether or not your lunch meat has gone bad by considering its appearance, texture, and smell.

Appearance

If you can see some off-coloration or if you can spot molds or dark spots on the surface of the lunch meat then it is the indication that it has gone bad.

Texture

If you can feel something slimy or gooey while touching the lunch meat then it means that it has gone bad as the fresh lunch meat has a firmer texture.

Smell

If you can smell something acidic, or some ammonia-like or sulfur-like putrid smell then it means that your lunch meat has gone bad and you should discard it. 

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “how long does lunch meat last in the fridge” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of lunch meat in different conditions. Moreover, we discussed different types of lunch meat and the different ways to tell if your lunch meat has gone bad.

Citations

https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-long-does-lunch-meat-stay-fresh

https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-long-can-you-keep-lunch-meat-in-the-refrigerator/

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.