Lunch meat is one of those items that are always handy to have in stock. Whether you are making sandwiches, want a snack, a lunchbox filler, or a flavorful addition to a cooked dishes, it’s a convenient item to make a meal complete.
The problem is that deli meat has a notoriously short shelf life. Considering that it’s not a cheap ingredient, you also don’t want to overstock and see it go to waste.
While most home cooks are comfortable freezing chicken breasts, freezing roasted turkey, and even stew meat, you may not be certain if the same applies to cured meats like pepperoni, bologna, and sausage as well as other deli meats.
The great thing about deli meat is that you can freeze it. Not only does this allow you to stock up when your favorite cold cut is on sale, but you can also prolong its shelf life and prevent food waste.
Here is everything you need to know about freezing lunch meat.
Types of Lunch Meat
Lunch meat goes by many different names. It is also known as cold cuts, sliced meat, deli meat, sandwich meat, and cold meat.
Regardless of what you call it, lunch meats come in two types of preparations. There is cured meat and cooked meat. Both are generally used sliced and served either cold or hot.
Most lunch meat can be purchased at the butcher counter, deli counter or prepacked and vacuum sealed. It is often used on sandwiches, on savory platters, or as a snack, but can also be added as a pizza topping, into pasta, an omelet filling, quiche, or in a salad.
You will find a selection of pork, turkey, chicken breasts, and roast beef cold cuts in stores in a variety of flavors, cuts, cooked or smoked preparations.
Can Lunch Meat Be Frozen?
Yes, you can easily freeze deli meat, however, some types of meat freeze better than others. Due to their dense texture, cured meats such as sausage and bologna tend to freeze well, whereas, poultry and turkey deli meats may develop a slightly wet surface once thawed.
This does not mean that you can’t freeze it. However, you do need prepare deli meats by ensuring they are wrapped properly for extra protection and to reduce freezer burn. This will help maintain the texture and moisture content.
Using deli meat in a cooked dish such as quiche, adding it to soup, mac n cheese, or scrambled eggs is a great way to use it after it has been frozen.
See more: Can you freeze salami?
How To Freeze Deli Meat
If you are freezing pre packaged meat that has been vacuum-sealed and is unopened, you can place the entire package straight into the freezer.
For leftovers, pre packaged deli meat that has been opened, or slices bought over the counter at your butcher, follow the steps below for successful freezing.
Step 1: Separate Slices
Cut pieces of wax paper slightly bigger than the slices of deli meat. Stack the meat slices alternating one slice of meat and one layer of wax paper. This will prevent the meat slices from sticking together.
Step 2: Portion and Wrap
Decide how many slices you may want to use at a time. For example, if you have 12 slices and usually need 4 slices of lunch meat to make sandwiches, make three stacks of four slices each.
As you lay individual slices on top of each other, separate each individual slice with wax paper or parchment paper. Wrap each small stack of slices in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
This way you can take out only as many as you need from the freezer at a time without having to defrost and use the entire batch.
Step 3: Bag It
Contact with moisture or air will cause freezer burn and eventually the deterioration of the meat quality. To save space and packaging, you can stack a few portions of wrapped meat to fit into one airtight freezer bag. It is ideal to use a thicker freezer bag when storing meat in the freezer.
Don’t overfill the bag as it will take longer for the meat in the middle to freeze. Press as much air out of the freezer bag as possible, and seal. Alternatively, use a freezer safe container.
Step 4: Label and Freeze
Label each plastic bag with the contents and date of freezing before placing it into the freezer.
How To Thaw Frozen Lunch Meat
The best way to thaw lunch meat is by placing it in the refrigerator and leaving it overnight. Due to the susceptibility to harmful bacterial growth, it is not advisable to defrost deli meat at room temperature on the countertop. Keep the deli meat in the packaging until fully thawed. Thawed meat should be pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess water.
If you’re in a hurry to thaw the frozen meat, place the sealed packet in a bowl of cold water. Change the water frequently to speed up the process.
Once thawed, it is best to heat the deli meat before serving, however, only heat as much as you need since reheating it more than once makes it susceptible to the growth of bacteria.
To preserve flavor, avoid freezer burn, and prevent harmful bacterial growth, lunch meat needs to be protected from contact with air and moisture. You can safely freeze cold cuts by wrapping them in a few layers and keeping them in airtight packaging.
Following the correct steps allows you to make use of store specials and have delicious deli meats on hand at any time to bring an extra layer of salty, smoky, meaty flavor to your meals.
Up next: Can You Freeze Meatloaf?
*Image by depositphotos.com/sarymsakov