Luncheon meat, also known as cold cuts, lunch meat or deli meat, is a staple in many cold lunches and, in particular, sandwiches. A very practical source of protein, but that has also earned a bad reputation for health-related concerns, being classified by the World Health Organization as “carcinogenic”. It’s also known to be very enduring while unopened, able to last over 3 to 5 years in the right conditions. However, once opened, you better eat it fast! However, that’s may not always be possible. And these questions come to mind. Can you freeze luncheon meat? Does lunch meat freeze well? And how long does lunch meat last in the fridge?
The answer is: yes. You can freeze it, whether to preserve the already opened pack or to extend the shelf life of unopened cans you were saving for an impending doom scenario years ago. There are also different methods depending on whether it’s open or unopened.
If it has not been opened but you feel you might not be able to eat it before the “official” expiration date, you can simply put the pack or can in the freezer (if you want to be extra careful with freezer burn, you can wrap the pack in aluminum foil or put it in a freezer bag).
However, whether it has been opened or you bought it from a butcher store at the counter, you can slice up the meat, wrap the portions in aluminum foil or plastic in a way that you don’t leave any gaps (you can also put them in Ziploc bags and seal them airtight); then, place them in a freezer bag, seal the bag so that no air enters into it and store it in the freezer.
It’s not advisable to place it in the freezer when it has been heated or cooked, as this kind of meat is very sensitive to bacterial growth and can easily be spoiled once opened.
Absolutely not. These types of meat have the advantage of being super freezer-friendly, meaning that no discernible difference should be able to be noticed, provided that it was correctly packaged and stored. However, they are not meant to preserve their quality forever, so keep that in mind and try not to leave it there until Armageddon!
Yes. Provided that you have thawed the meat in the fridge for less than 24 hours and didn’t leave it outside at room temperature and exposed to bacteria for more than 2 hours, then it’s safe to refreeze. You should not refreeze it if it was cooked or heated. After heating, it should be consumed straight away.
Canned or packaged lunch meat can last between 3 and 5 years unopened and properly shelved.
If opened or bought at the butcher counter, it should at least be refrigerated if it’s not to be eaten the same day, and usually endures 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator at 40 F or below.
In the freezer at a temperature of 0 or lower, it can last up to 2 months in optimal quality, both opened and unopened.
The fridge is the most secure way to thaw it. You can leave it resting there for a day before feasting on it. You can also submerge the packaged meat in cold water, changing the water every 30-or-so minutes until you see no traces of ice in it, but while it’s technically quicker that way, it involves a bit more busy work. Finally, there’s the microwave’s “defrost” function, which can save you a lot of time and effort, though it should be consumed almost immediately after to avoid any food borne illness.
If you are going to use it for a cooked recipe then you can toss the frozen portions of meat into the pot or pan. But keep in mind that, in doing so, you would extend cooking time, so make sure you have made your calculations in order not to screw your meal.
You can make lots of interesting recipes with the frozen portions, such as carbonara and masala. It’s also a very popular ingredient in Asian cuisine!