Skip to Content

How Long Can Lunch Meat Stay Out Of The Fridge

How Long Can Lunch Meat Stay Out Of The Fridge

How Long Can Lunch Meat Stay Out Of The Fridge

Lunch meat can stay out of the refrigerator for about 2 hours. But it depends on the nature of the lunch meat. It may not be safe to eat lunch meat left out overnight. Stored in the refrigerator, they can last for 1 to 2 days. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, packaged lunch meat stays fresh in a fridge for three to five days after opening. Once you have opened your package of lunch meat or bought your sliced lunch meat from the deli, you can store it refrigerated for three to five days.

When refrigerated, lunch meats can also last up to five days, though you are not advised to keep them much longer than 72 hours just to ensure they are safe to eat.

To learn about Can Jam Go Bad, check out my article where I cover everything you need to know.

Proper Storage and Consumption Guidelines for Deli Meats: Maximizing Freshness and Safety

Once you have opened your lunch meat package, or purchased your lunch meat cut up at the deli, you will want to store them in the refrigerator for three to five days after you have opened it.

Never store cooked and uncooked meats in the same container, and after you open a package, use the meats within three to five days, or by its expiration date, whichever is earlier.

Fresh, pre-packaged deli meats that are not opened and are not past their use-by date or expiration date may keep for up to two weeks in the fridge, while opened packages will keep for around a week after they are opened.

TemperatureShelf life
At room temperature2 hours
In refrigerator1-2 days
Temperature and Shelf Life of Lunch Meat.

Most pre-packaged deli meats will last about one week in the fridge, but they should never sit at room temperature for more than a few hours. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that deli meats should never sit at room temperature for more than two hours.

If you are unsure whether meats are allowed to remain at room temperature, keep them refrigerated and use the two-hour rule for times left at room temperature.

You should consult your manufacturer’s safe handling instructions to see if your processed meats can remain at room temperature and when you should store them in the refrigerator.

Find out how long food can be left out

Can you eat lunch meat if left out overnight?

It is generally not advised to leave lunch meat overnight at room temperature. Lunch meat is a perishable food that can reach the “danger zone” (40°F to 140°F or 4.4°C to 60°C), where germs can quickly increase and lead to foodborne diseases.

The best course of action is to err on the side of caution and avoid eating lunch meat that has been out overnight. The longer food is exposed to an improper temperature, the greater the risk of bacterial development and subsequent contamination.

Perishable goods, such as lunch meat, should always be kept in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4.4°C) and used within a reasonable time.

It’s preferable to throw out lunch meat if you’re unsure about its safety than to run the danger of contracting a foodborne illness. Potential health risks are reduced with the use of good food safety practices.

By the way, if you’re interested in Can Hummus Go Bad, check out my article on that.

Food Safety Alert: Avoiding Undercooked Turkey and Preventing Foodborne Illness

Cooked turkey left outside for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if temperature is above 90 degF) is considered undercooked. Because germs from foodborne illnesses begin to form on meat stored at temperatures of 40-140deg F, it is recommended not to keep a cooked turkey outside of the refrigerator for more than two hours at a time.

Eating leftover lunch meat left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours is dangerous, as germs quickly grow at room temperature, and can most likely cause it to go bad.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has warned that eating some types of foods, like fresh cuts of meat and lunch meat, which may have been left outside at room temperature for more than two hours is hazardous.

Click on this link if you want to learn Which Fruits Rot The Fastest

What happens if lunch meat is left out?

Several things can happen if lunch meat is exposed to room temperature for an extended period:

  • Bacterial Growth: The main cause for worry is the quick development of dangerous germs, including Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. The “danger zone” temperature range of 40°F to 140°F (4.4°C to 60°C) is where these bacteria flourish. Bacteria can quickly develop in this temperature range when lunch meat is left out, raising the risk of contracting a foodborne illness.
  • Spoilage: Lunch meat can still go bad due to the formation of spoilage bacteria, even if hazardous bacteria don’t multiply enough to make people sick. The lunch meat may become unpleasant due to these changes in color, texture, smell, and flavor.
  • Toxin Production: Some bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, can create toxins not eliminated by boiling. Consuming lunch meat that has developed these poisons can make you sick.
  • Cross-Contamination: Leaving lunch meat out might also make it more likely that other foods or surfaces will become contaminated. The risk of infection increases if the bacteria on the lunch meat move to other objects in your kitchen.
  • Foodborne Illness: Eating lunch meat that has been left out at room temperature increases your risk of contracting a foodborne illness, which is characterized by symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever. These infections can cause everything from a little discomfort to life-threatening complications, particularly in susceptible groups like young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

To maintain food safety, perishable items like lunch meat should be kept in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4.4°C) and consumed within the prescribed time range. It is always best to throw away food if you have any doubts about its safety to prevent possible health problems.

Preserving Deli Meats: Handling, Storage, and Safe Consumption Guidelines

If the meat is sitting on the deli counter too long, or if it is mid-summer and it takes you an hour to drive back home with your groceries, the meat may not hold up well over the mentioned timeframe. Slices that are fresh off the counter in cold cuts can be stored properly for 1-3 days; if not, they go bad. If stored outside of a cooler, at room temperature, a sandwich is no longer safe for up to 4 hours, depending on room temperature.

The 2-hour/4-hour rule means if the sandwich has been left out for 2 hours or less, it is fine to put in the fridge and keep it for later. Cold cuts like ham, salami, bologna, pepperoni, and other processed meats can last three days in a cooler. Food safety regulations differ between countries, but generally, foods must be kept at a safe temperature for a period before they are sold.

Should leftover lunch meat be stored in the refrigerator?

Because of these variables, consumers might discover items in grocery shops, such as packages of salami and Parmesan cheese, that are meant to be consumed at room temperature.

However, to prevent the growth of bacteria that might cause illness, softer and semi-soft cheeses and meats, such as lunch meat and ring bologna, must be stored in the refrigerator.

How do you tell if the meat at the deli has gone bad?

Toss the meat if it has a layer on the surface and is extremely slimy if it possesses these characteristics. Whether it smells like vinegar, ammonia, or yeast, toss the turkey, pastrami, or ham when you notice any weird or unpleasant scents from the meat.

Any meat or packaging that exhibits the presence of mold or any other kind of growth should be discarded without delay. This is something that should go without saying.

Is it possible for frozen lunch meat to go bad?

Compared to uncooked ground beef, which should be thrown out after only four months in the freezer, uncooked roasts, steaks, and chops should be thrown away after one year. During this time, any cooked meat that has been stored in the freezer should be discarded after three months.

Skip to content