Can You Freeze Lunch Meat?

Updated: Apr. 02, 2024

Overstocked on cold cuts and wondering, can you freeze lunch meat? Yes! You can stash deli meat in the freezer to extend its shelf life.

Deli meat, also known as lunch meat, has a notoriously short shelf life—from savory to slimy in a handful of days. Yet while most home cooks are comfortable freezing chicken breasts or stew meat, many still wonder: Can you freeze deli meat?

The short answer is yes. Deli meat is one of those foods that freeze surprisingly well. It can be frozen for up to two months as long as it’s prepared and wrapped properly to preserve the texture and moisture content.

What deli meat can you freeze?

Pre-packaged and deli counter lunch meat packages on a marble countertopTMB Studio

All deli meats can be frozen. Cured meats, like sausage, bologna and bacon, tend to hold up the best, thanks to their dense, hearty texture and lower water content. Freezing roasted turkey, ham, chicken and other deli meats is still possible, but the meat may be slightly wet upon defrosting. (Tips on that below!)

You can freeze lunch meat in a large piece or in slices. For the best results, eat meat immediately after thawing.

How to Freeze Deli Meat

Packaged deli meat

Pre-packaged meat is the simplest: if the package is unopened, just toss it directly into the freezer. Wrapping the package in an outer layer—like a plastic grocery bag or aluminum foil—will help prevent freezer burn.

Fresh deli meat

Fresh deli meat being packaged for proper freezing with a piece of wax paper between each sliceTMB Studio

Sliced meat from the butcher counter or meat from an opened package needs to be wrapped. Lay individual slices on pieces of waxed paper or even paper towels, and freeze stacked in an airtight bag. Press the air out of the bag to preserve flavor and texture. When you’re ready to eat, take out as many or as few servings as you need.

Remember to follow these freezer organization best practices: Label the wrapper with the contents and the frozen-on date!

How long can you freeze deli meat?

Opened Fridge Freezer
Fresh meat 3-5 days 1-2 months
Packaged meat 3-5 days 1-2 months
Unopened Fridge Freezer
Fresh meat 3-5 days 1-2 months
Packaged meat 2 weeks 2 months
Cured meat 2 months 3 months

It won’t last as long as frozen ground beef, but you can store most lunch meat in the freezer for up to two months. After that, the texture and flavor will probably deteriorate. Cured meats will still be tasty for up to three months.

This is how long any food will last in the freezer.

How to Defrost Deli Meat

The best way to defrost is to transfer the meat—the entire package or the portion you want to eat—into the refrigerator to thaw. If you’re in a hurry, place the wrapped meat in a bowl of cold water and change the water frequently.

You can keep the thawed meat in the fridge for up to three days.

How to Use Frozen Deli Meat

Pat the defrosted meat with a paper towel to remove any excess water.

Rather than using previously frozen deli meat to make a sandwich, chop turkey into a casserole, toss ham into a pasta dish or use any lunch meat to top a pizza. Like using frozen cheese, a bit of heat brings frozen meat back to life.

The bottom line: If you find a great deal on lunch meat, it makes sense to freeze the extras for later!

Quick Ways to Use a Package of Deli Meat
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