How long does lunch meat last once opened? 7 Storing tips

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You’re wondering how long lunch meat last after it’s opened and you’re not the only one. We researched several health and nutrition studies on lunch meat, as well as data written by relevant authorities about its ideal storage. We have the expertise to answer your questions and we’ll tell you how to store it once it’s open.

Let’s get right into it!

How long does lunch meat last once opened?

Once you open your lunch meat, its shelf life without refrigeration is significantly reduced. According to the USDA, opened lunch meat left out at room temperature should be consumed within two hours. Beyond this time frame, bacteria growth accelerates, making it unsafe to eat.

Proper refrigeration can extend the life of your opened lunch meat. If you store it in the refrigerator at 40°F or below immediately after opening, it can last for up to 3-5 days. This is because refrigeration slows down bacterial growth, preserving the meat’s freshness and safety.

Freezing your opened lunch meat offers the longest preservation period. When stored in a freezer at 0°F or below, opened lunch meat can last up to 1-2 months. Freezing halts bacterial growth entirely, allowing you to enjoy your lunch meat for a longer period without compromising its quality or safety.

Remember, these are general guidelines and actual shelf life may vary depending on the specific type of lunch meat and storage conditions. Always trust your senses: if the lunch meat smells off, changes color or texture, discard it immediately.

Scientific research supports these guidelines. A study published in the Journal of Food Protection found that Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria often found in deli meats, grows rapidly at room temperature but its growth is significantly slowed in refrigerated conditions and stopped in frozen conditions.

How to store lunch meat after opening? 

Once you’ve opened your lunch meat, immediate storage is crucial to maintain its freshness and safety. According to the USDA, you should store opened lunch meat in the refrigerator within two hours of opening. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or place it in an airtight container.

For longer-term storage, consider freezing your lunch meat. The National Center for Home Food Preservation suggests that frozen lunch meat can last up to two months. However, remember to thaw it in the refrigerator and not at room temperature to prevent bacterial growth.

Heating or reheating lunch meat can impact its shelf life significantly. A study published in the Journal of Food Protection found that heating lunch meat to an internal temperature of 165°F can kill bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes, potentially extending its shelf life. However, repeated heating and cooling can degrade the quality and safety of the meat.

Reheating should be done carefully. The USDA recommends reheating lunch meat until it’s steaming hot if it’s been previously heated. This helps kill any bacteria that may have grown during cooling. But remember, frequent reheating can lead to food spoilage.

Remember, proper storage and handling of lunch meat is key to its longevity and your health. Always adhere to recommended temperatures and times for refrigeration, freezing, and reheating. This way, you’ll enjoy your lunch meat at its best quality while minimizing food waste and risk of foodborne illness.

Using these best ways to store lunch meat should significantly extend its shelf life as well.

Does lunch meat expire after opening?

Yes, your lunch meat does expire after opening. The ‘Best By’ date on lunch meat is a quality indicator provided by the manufacturer. It suggests the time frame within which the product will maintain its optimal taste and texture.

However, this date doesn’t necessarily mean lunch meat is unsafe to consume after it. According to a study by the USDA, many products are still safe to consume past their ‘Best By’ date, as long as they’ve been stored properly.

What you really need to watch out for are spoilage signs.
lunch meat can last a while after opening. It depends on how you store it

How can you tell if your opened lunch meat has gone bad?

You can tell if your opened lunch meat has gone bad by checking for the following signs:

  • Change in color: Fresh meat usually has a pink or light red color. If it turns grey or greenish, it may be spoiled.
  • Unpleasant smell: Bad meat often has a sour, putrid, or unusual smell.
  • Slimy or sticky texture: If the meat feels slimy or sticky even after washing, it’s likely bad.
  • Expiry date: Always check the expiry date on the package. If it’s past this date, it’s safer to throw it away.

Are there any quick recipes to use up your opened lunch meat before it spoils?

Yes, there are several quick recipes to use up your opened lunch meat before it spoils:

  • Club Sandwich: Layer your lunch meat with lettuce, tomato, bacon, and mayonnaise between three slices of toasted bread.
  • Pasta Salad: Dice the lunch meat and mix it into a pasta salad with vegetables and a vinaigrette dressing.
  • Stir Fry: Slice the lunch meat and add it to a stir fry with vegetables and your choice of sauce.
  • Omelette or Scramble: Chop the lunch meat and add it to an omelette or scrambled eggs along with cheese and vegetables.
  • Pizza Topping: Use the lunch meat as a pizza topping along with cheese, sauce, and other toppings of your choice.

Remember to store your opened lunch meat in the refrigerator to keep it fresh for as long as possible. Also, consume it within 3-5 days after opening for best quality.

Can you still enjoy lunch meat if you forgot it opened overnight?

While it’s possible that the lunch-meat may still seem fine, it’s generally not safe to consume if it has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, potentially leading to foodborne illness. Always remember to refrigerate perishable food within two hours.

What next:

Now that you know if lunch meat go bad in heat and if it needs to be refrigerated, you might be interested in learning better tips on food storage. We happen to have written a guide on how to properly store and preserve lunch meat to extend its shelf life.

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