Can You Freeze Deli Meat: Turkey, Chicken and Roast Beef

Written by: Najma A.



Time to read 6 min


Deli meats are a popular choice for quick and easy meals, from sandwiches to salads and everything in between. However, one common question is whether you can freeze deli meats to extend their shelf life. This guide will delve into the details of freezing deli meats such as turkey, chicken, roast beef, and more.

Understanding Types and Can You Freeze Deli Meats?

Before we dive into the specifics of freezing, we must understand the different types of deli meats. Here are some common varieties:

  1. Turkey: A lean option, often favored for its mild flavor and versatility.
  2. Chicken: Another lean choice, famous for its light taste and adaptability in various dishes.
  3. Roast Beef: Known for its rich, hearty flavor, it is often used in more robust sandwiches.
  4. Salami: It is a type of cured sausage that is typically more durable than other deli meats due to its preparation method.
  5. Bologna: A kind of sausage derived from a mix of meats, often seasoned and smoked.

Each of these meats has unique characteristics, influencing how well they freeze and thaw.

Can You Freeze Deli Meats?

The short answer is yes, you can freeze deli meats. However, the success of freezing and thawing depends on the type of meat and how it is prepared and stored. Here’s a breakdown of how to handle different kinds of deli meats:

Freezing Turkey and Chicken

Turkey and chicken are both lean meats that freeze well. Here’s how you can freeze them:

  1. Preparation:

    Ensure the turkey or chicken is fresh. If the meat is from an opened package, consume it within a few days or freeze it promptly. Check the expiration date before freezing if it’s from a sealed package.

  2. Packaging:

    Wrap the slices in wax paper or plastic wrap to prevent them from sticking together. Place the wrapped slices in a freezer-safe bag, removing as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn.

  3. Freezing:

    Label the bag with the date of freezing. Properly packaged, turkey and chicken deli meat can last in the freezer for up to two months.

  4. Thawing:

    Place the frozen deli meat in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid thawing at room temperature to reduce the risk of bacterial growth.

Freezing Roast Beef

Roast beef, being a heartier meat, also freezes well but requires careful handling:

  1. Preparation:

    As with turkey and chicken, ensure the roast beef is fresh. To maintain quality, it’s best to freeze it shortly after purchase.

  2. Packaging:

    Separate the slices with wax paper or plastic wrap and place them in a freezer-safe bag, removing as much air as possible.

  3. Freezing:

    Label the bag with the freezing date. Roast beef can last in the freezer for up to two months without significantly losing quality.

  4. Thawing:

    Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Roast beef can sometimes retain moisture better than leaner meats, making it suitable for various dishes post-thaw.

Freezing Salami and Bologna

Salami and bologna are processed differently from lean meats, which affects their freezing properties:

  1. Preparation:

    Ensure salami and bologna are fresh and not close to their expiration dates.

  2. Packaging:

    These meats are often higher in fat and preservatives, so they handle freezing slightly better. Wrap them in wax paper or plastic wrap, then place them in a freezer-safe bag, ensuring minimal air remains.

  3. Freezing:

    Label the bag with the freezing date. These meats, thanks to their higher fat content and preservatives, can last in the freezer for up to three months.

  4. Thawing:

    Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Salami and bologna retain their texture, making them ideal for sandwiches and snacks.

Understanding Deli Meat Types

Tips for Freezing and Thawing Deli Meats

While the process of freezing deli meats is relatively straightforward, here are some additional tips to ensure the best results:

  1. Portion Control: Freeze deli meats in portion sizes that you typically use. This minimizes the need to thaw and refreeze meat, which can degrade its quality.
  2. Double Wrapping: For extra protection against freezer burn, consider double wrapping the deli meat in wax paper and a freezer-safe bag.
  3. Use Vacuum Sealers: If you have a vacuum sealer, use it to remove all air from the packaging. This method can significantly extend the shelf life of frozen deli meats.
  4. Label Clearly: Always label packages with the type of meat and the date it was frozen. This practice helps track how long the meat has been in the freezer.
  5. Avoid Long-Term Freezing: While deli meats can be frozen, they are best used within the recommended time frames (up to two months for lean meats and three months for fattier meats). Prolonged freezing can result in a loss of flavor and texture.
  6. Check for Freezer Burn: If you notice any grayish-brown spots or dry areas on the meat, it may have freezer burn. While still safe to eat, the quality and taste will be compromised.

Creative Uses for Thawed Deli Meats

Once thawed, deli meats can be used in various recipes beyond the standard sandwich. Here are some creative ideas:

Turkey and Chicken:

  1. Salads: Add sliced turkey or chicken to a fresh garden salad for a protein boost.
  2. Wraps: Create healthy wraps with turkey or chicken, veggies, and your favorite sauce.
  3. Casseroles: Incorporate turkey or chicken into casseroles for a quick dinner option.

Roast Beef:

  1. Stir-Fries: Use sliced roast beef with vegetables and a savory sauce in stir-fries.
  2. Paninis: Make gourmet paninis with roast beef, cheese, and caramelized onions.
  3. Stews: Add roast beef to stews for added richness and flavor.

Salami and Bologna:

  1. Pizzas: Use sliced salami or bologna as a topping for homemade pizzas.
  2. Appetizers: Create antipasto platters with salami, cheese, olives, and crackers.
  3. Omelets: Add diced salami or bologna to omelets for a hearty breakfast.
Tips for Freezing and Thawing Deli Meats

Tips for Extending Deli Meat Shelf Life

If done correctly, freezing and thawing deli meats can be a safe and effective way to extend their shelf life. Here are essential safety considerations to ensure your deli meats remain fresh and safe to consume:

Thawing Safely:

Always thaw deli meats in the refrigerator. Thawing at room temperature can lead to bacterial growth, which can cause foodborne illnesses. The plan, such as refrigerator thawing, takes several hours to overnight, depending on the amount of meat.

Proper Storage:

Store deli meats in airtight, freezer-safe bags or containers. Removing as much air as possible prevents freezer burn and preserves the meat's quality. Double wrapping with wax paper or plastic wrap before placing it in a freezer bag can provide additional protection.


Clearly label packages with the type of meat and the date it was frozen. This helps keep track of storage times and ensures you use the oldest products first. Proper labeling can prevent the accidental use of expired meats.

Avoid Refreezing:

Once thawed, do not refreeze deli meats. Refreezing can degrade the texture and flavor and increase the risk of bacterial contamination. Thaw only the amount you plan to use within a few days.

Consumption Timeline:

Use thawed deli meats within 3-5 days. Even when refrigerated, bacteria can grow on deli meats after this period, compromising food safety.

Inspect for Quality:

Check thawed meats for any signs of spoilage, such as an off odor, discoloration, or slimy texture. If any of these signs are present, discard the meat immediately.

By following these safety considerations, you can enjoy the convenience and extended shelf life of frozen deli meats while ensuring they remain safe to eat.

Tips for Extending Deli Meat Shelf Life

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Freezing deli meats is a practical way to extend their shelf life and reduce food waste. Following proper preparation, packaging, and thawing techniques, you can enjoy the convenience and versatility of deli meats even after freezing. Whether you prefer turkey, chicken, roast beef, salami, or bologna, understanding the nuances of each type will help you achieve the best results. Remember to adhere to food safety guidelines to ensure that your frozen and thawed deli meats remain delicious and safe.

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