Shelf Life of
Deli Meat

How Long Does Deli Meat Last?

Deli Meat

Deli Meat Shelf Life

How long does deli meat last? Deli meat, or lunch meat, is a term used for a meat that has been cooked, cured, or smoked and then packaged. The meat from the deli section of the grocery comes in aseptic packaging which further preserves the shelf life of the meat, but once it is sliced the shelf life shrinks. The shelf life of deli meat depends on a variety of factors, such as the sell by date, the type of meat, the preparation method and how the deli meat was stored. Deli meats are also known as cold cuts, lunch meat, luncheon meats, sandwich meats, cooked meats, sliced meats and cold meats.

So, how long does deli meat last? When properly stored, the shelf life of lunch meat past its sell by date is approximately …

(Unopened) Refrigerator Freezer
Past Printed Date Past Printed Date
Fresh Deli Meats last for 5-6 Days
Pre-packaged Deli Meats last for 7-10 Days 6-8 Months
Bologna lasts for 1-2 Weeks 2-3 Months
Salami (hard)* lasts for 3-4 Weeks 2-3 Months
(Opened) Refrigerator Freezer
Fresh Deli Meats last for 5-6 Days
Packaged Lunch Meat lasts for 7-10 Days
Bologna lasts for 1-2 Weeks 1-2 Months
Salami (hard)* lasts for 2-3 Weeks 2-3 Months
Pepperoni lasts for 2-3 Weeks 6-8 Months

*Hard salami refers to Genoa or dry salami that has been cured and lasts longer than other salami that would be classified with regular packaged lunch meat.
All deli meat lasts for a shorter period of time if it is not stored properly. But remember, deli meat or lunch meat, like a lot of other proteins, usually have a sell by date and not an expiration date. Because of this distinction, you may safely use them to compliment your favorite meals even after the date has lapsed, but because conditions can vary always beware of how to tell if your food has gone bad.

How to tell if deli meat is bad, rotten or spoiled?

Practicing proper hygiene and food safety discipline will help prevent food borne illness.
Although not a perfect test, your senses are usually the most reliable instruments to tell if your deli meat has gone bad.

Some common traits of bad deli meat begin with a moist surface and then quickly develop into a very wet, slimy exterior. There is also a very sour smell when your lunch meat has gone bad and sour smell means sour lunch meat so it should not be eaten.

Bologna and hard salami, because of their higher concentration of fat, will last a little longer than most other meats. When these types of deli meats have gone bad you will notice a change of color, usually around the entire edge, to a grayish or brownish color and they should not be eaten.

And, as always, do not consume if you see any mold (mould) on the meat – throw it out!

There are, of course, certain health risks associated with spoiled deli meat, so always remember to practice food safety and enjoy your lunch meats prior to the eat by dates suggested above.

How to store deli meat to extend its shelf life?

Proper food storage is the key to extending the expiration date of food. You can help deli meat keep fresh longer by storing it in your refrigerator immediately after use. Once opened, deli meat should be stored in a tightly closed container to keep out moisture and other contaminants.

For a long-term option, you can freeze your deli meat while preserving its taste if you use a freezer safe container.
Some benefits of proper food storage include eating healthier, cutting food costs and helping the environment by avoiding waste.

What to do with too much deli meat about to go bad?

Don’t just think lunch for luncheon meat, fry it up (just in case it was starting to go bad) and add it to your egg sandwich. Remember, this is only if your lunch meat is about to go bad, if your deli meat has gone bad (above section) or if you see any mold- throw it out!

Interesting Facts about Deli Meat?

Deli meat refers to a broad range of product than was processed using a broad range of techniques. Curing refers to the process of preserving the meat. The most common ingredient used to cure meat is salt. There is a “wet cure” where the meat is soaked in a salt mixture and a “dry cure” where the meat is coated in a salt mixture.
The oldest, yet possibly still the tastiest, method of preserving meats is to smoke them using a slow dry heat.[1]

How long is deli meat good for when prepared in a dish?

How long does deli meat last? That depends. How long does bread last? What is the shelf life of eggs? In general, deli meat lasts only as long as the quickest expiring ingredient in the dish that it is prepared in.
To find out how long those other ingredients are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or search below!

Search the Shelf Life Guide!

What are our shelf life resources?

Our content incorporates research from multiple resources, including the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Food & Drug Administration. In addition, we scoured the web for informative articles and reports related to food safety, food storage and the shelf life of deli meat.

*An important note about expiration dates …

Although the deli meat shelf life information on Eat By Date is generally reliable, please remember that individual cases will vary and that our advice should only be taken as an opinion. Please eat responsibly!