Deli meats cover a wide range of types, from dry cured meats like prosciutto to luncheon meats like bologna. While you can freeze deli meats, it isn’t generally recommended as freezing can affect texture and flavor. However, if done properly, freezing deli meats is a safe way of preserving food that you can’t finish in time. Always thaw frozen deli meats carefully.
Types of Deli Meat
All deli meats, whether high in fat like pepperoni or lean like turkey breast, can be frozen. However, package the meat properly and don’t store it for long periods of time, as extended freezing can change the texture and taste of the meat. Sliced deli meats; large pieces of deli meat, such as half a salami; and dry cured meats like prosciutto also can be frozen.
Packaging the Meat
The key to keeping deli meat fresh in the fridge is to wrap it well, leaving as little of the meat exposed to air as possible. Exposure to air in the low moisture environment of a freezer can lead to parched, desiccated meat. Wrap your slices of deli meat in several layers of plastic wrap, or store them in sealed freezer bags. Vacuum sealing is ideal as it removes all air from inside the package. Deli meats that are already vacuum sealed don’t need to be re-packaged before freezing.
Large chunks of deli meat, as well as slices of deli meat, can be kept in the freezer for 1 to 2 months if properly packaged. After this time, the quality of the meat begins to deteriorate, affecting texture and flavor. Dry cured meats, because they contain less moisture, can be frozen for longer, up to 3 months.
Defrost deli meats slowly in the refrigerator, so there’s less chance of the meats becoming a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. As defrosting in the fridge can take some time, you can also defrost the meats in the microwave or by submerging them in cold water. If you thaw deli meats in cold water or the microwave, use them immediately after defrosting. Deli meats defrosted in the fridge can last in the fridge for 3 to 5 days, unless they are vacuum sealed, in which case they can last up to 3 weeks. Dry, cured meats last upwards of 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge.
References and ResourcesBoars Head: FAQ
Columbus Salame: Storing Salame and Deli Meats
The Kitchn: Can I Freeze Prosciutto
U.S. Department of Agriculture: Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics