Deli meats usually last about a week in the fridge before you need to use them, as they’ve been cured. But what if you want to make them last longer than that? Is it possible?
While the process of curing does make meat last longer, it’s not infallible when it comes to the meat spoiling, so the best way to preserve deli meats for longer is to freeze them.
During the curing process, excess moisture is evaporated, making the meat much easier to freeze.
That’s not to say that the freezing and thawing process won’t affect cured meats. It can alter the texture and the taste, but when stored properly, this won’t be a problem.
As long as the meat is frozen and thawed in the right way, there’s no reason why you can’t extend the shelf life for up to 6 months for cured meats (see also Can You Freeze Jerky), and about 2 months for sliced deli meats.
Dry cured meats keep well in the freezer, significantly better than sliced deli meats.
Having said that, you shouldn’t try to keep the deli meats in the freezer for too long, as the overall quality of the meats will degrade, the longer you keep them in the freezer.
Types Of Deli Meats
It’s worth looking at the different types of deli meats, as there are different ways of freezing them.
Deli meat can be divided into two categories: sliced, pre-cooked deli meat, and cured, dry meat.
Deli meats, whether they have a high or a low level of fat content, can be frozen well provided that they’re put into the right container for freezing.
For much larger pieces of meat, like salami, for example, you’ll need to make sure to put the meat into a completely airtight container, to protect from freezer burn, as well as moisture loss.
If a lot of moisture is lost during the freezing process, this can render the meat very dry, and it will also affect the flavor.
The one thing you need to absolutely get right when it comes to freezing deli meat is to make sure that whatever you store it in, it has a completely airtight seal.
This will stop moisture from the freezer getting into the meat and altering its consistency and flavor.
How To Freeze Deli Meats
How To Freeze Unopened Or Packaged Deli Meats
Unopened deli meats are very easy to freeze, as they come in vacuum-sealed containers.
No need to transfer the meat into another container, just put the whole thing flat into the freezer.
How To Freeze Leftover Cooked Deli Meats
When you’ve got leftover sliced or pre-cooked deli meats, you’ll need to transfer them into an airtight container which has a very good seal.
Make sure to seal it well, label it with the freezing date, and put it into the freezer.
How To Freeze Larger Cuts Of Deli Meats
If you’re wanting to freeze larger cuts of deli meats, or more sliced deli meats, it’s helpful to wrap the meat in either cling film or tin foil, making sure that the meat is completely covered.
Put the meat into an airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag, label it, and freeze it.
How To Defrost Deli Meats
The best way to defrost deli meats is to do it slowly. For this purpose, the fridge is always the best option.
Don’t be tempted to leave the meat out at room temperature to thaw faster.
This could result in food poisoning at worst, and at best, you’ll get a disappointing plateful of deli meat that hasn’t got a pleasant texture.
Instead, let the meat thaw at its own pace in the fridge, making sure to put a plate beneath it to stop any mess.
Depending on how much meat you have to defrost, this may take a few hours, or it may take overnight.
How To Reheat Thawed Deli Meats
While you may not cook deli meats if you have them fresh, you need to do so if you’ve frozen them, as it will kill any bacteria growing on the meat.
If you skip reheating them, you may get food poisoning.
Once the deli meats have completely defrosted, you’re ready to reheat them. There are two ways to do this.
You can either put the meat into the microwave and cook it in short bursts until it’s hot enough, or you can use a plastic cooking bag.
If you go for the cooking back, get a saucepan and boil 3 or 4 cups of water. Put the thawed deli meat into the bag, seal it, and submerge it into the boiling water.
It should be ready in five minutes.
Do not refreeze deli meats.
Deli meats can be frozen, but you need to be particular in the way that you freeze, defrost, and cook the meat to prevent food poisoning, texture or flavor changes.