Can You Freeze Lunch Meat: Freeze Right, Eat Right
It is very often that supermarkets offer lunch meat on a buy 1 pound get the next pound free. I have always been tempted to take advantage of this offer. I have a small family of three. It will take us some time to consume 2 pounds of lunch meat.
Although, my son always loves it when his lunch box is stuffed with a lunch meat sandwich he can’t have it for lunch every day. My husband I love to sit in the porch at night and indulge in some cold cuts, cheese and wine. All these things we do when I have just bought some lunch meat from the nearby Deli.
The buy 1 get 1 free offer is always too good to pass. The frequent trips to the Deli are also taking so much of my time. However, this question always stops me from taking advantage of the offer – can you freeze lunch meat?
As I have learned by now, yes, you can freeze lunchmeat. If packed and stored in the freezer the right way, lunchmeat can last for up to two, sometimes even six months.
Types of Lunch meat
Lunch meats are known by a lot of names. They are often referred to as cold cuts, cooked meats, cold meats, sliced meats or deli meats. They are available in supermarkets sliced and vacuum packed. They are also available in Deli counters where they are often sliced as ordered. Lunch meats come in three types -whole cuts, sectioned and processed.
Whole cuts are the roast beef, turkey breasts and chicken breasts that are sold in Deli counters. They are parts of cooked meat that are usually seasoned with salt, sugar or spices. They are thinly sliced for cold cuts and sandwiches. They are the most costly of all lunch meats.
Sectioned / formed lunch meats are pre-packaged and pre-sliced. They are often sold in the supermarket. Cooked ham is one sectioned or formed meat product. They are made from chunks of meat joined together to make one piece. The chunks of meat are joined together by meat emulsions, non-meat additives, and squeezed myofibrillar proteins and meat emulsions.
Myofibrillar proteins are made by squeezing out the meat proteins. This is done by adding in salt to the meat and massaging it. When this is done, sticky substances will leach out. Protein that leached out is Myosin. The meat then softens and is shaped in molds to form one piece. It is then cooked so the proteins used to join the chunks of meat together will coagulate. The end product is cooked ham.
Most of what we know as cold cuts are processed meats or sausages. A sausage is any chopped meat that has been seasoned and formed into a cylindrical shape. Bologna is a kind of sausage.
The method of preparing processed meat is similar to that of section/formed meat without the massaging. Meat for sausages come from pork, beef, poultry, and veal. They are available in supermarkets sliced and vacuum packed.
Getting the Meat Ready for Freezing
Freezing lunch meat the right way can extend its shelf life. The technique to keeping lunch meat fresh in the fridge and freezer is to prevent it from getting into contact with air. When exposed to air in an environment that is low in moisture, the food item will dry out and dehydrate. To avoid exposure to air, wrap them in 3-4 layers of plastic wrap. You can also place them in tightly sealed freezer bags.
- Freeze unopened lunch meat in in its original packaging, assuming it is either vacuumed sealed or in an airtight bag.
- Place the lunch meat in a freezer safe container.
- Label the bag with the date you first placed it in the freezer.
- For opened lunch meat, transfer it in an airtight freezer bag.
- Place parchment between the slices so each piece can be easily removed with minimal thawing.
- Make sure to vacuum out all the air before sealing the bag.
- Label each bag with the date you placed them in the freezer.
For opened lunchmeat, it is best that you placed small portions in different freezer bags. This is so you will only thaw what you need.
Here is a smart idea on how to freeze lunch meat:
Refrigerator and Freezer Times
Freeze lunch meat BUT do it the right way. If done the wrong way it will lose its texture and worst, its flavor. Avoid extended freezing, too. As a rule, opened lunch meat has a shelf life of 3-5 days when stored in the refrigerator and 1-2 months in the freezer. Unopened lunch meat stays in the refrigerator for 2 weeks and 1-2 months in the freezer. Lunch meat bought from deli counters though should be eaten immediately.
The best way to thaw frozen lunch meat is in the refrigerator. Never thaw them at room temperature as they will be breeding grounds for bacteria. Lunch meat thawed in the fridge can remain there for 3-5 days. When they are sealed in freezer bags, they can last for 3 weeks. If you are in a rush, you can thaw lunch meat in the microwave. When thawing this way, consume the meat immediately after thawing.
Each type of lunch meat has their own shelf life. The best way to buy them is to be conscious of the dates found in the package. “Sell by” means that after the date indicated, items must be pulled out from the shelves. “Best if used by” is the date where the food item is at its maximum flavor and quality. “Used by” means you should never eat the food item after the date indicated.
Spoiled Lunch meat
Eating spoiled lunch meat will make you ill or worst, it can kill you. To prevent serving spoiled lunchmeat, especially to your kids, watch out for these spoilage signs.
- Discoloration - having a yellowish or grayish color.
- Foul smell.
- Sticky or slimy texture.
- Growth of molds.
Even if you stored lunch meat in the freezer the right way, anything can happen. It can still get spoiled especially when thawed the wrong way. Freezing for extended periods can also cause spoilage. Freezing will not stop spoilage if you bought lunch meat that is past its “sell by”, “best if used by” and “used by” dates.