Folded into a sandwich, diced and tucked into an omelet, or wrapped around cheese for a party hors d'ouevre, sliced lunch meat is a versatile part of any family refrigerator. Most cuts of meat can be frozen for later use, and sliced lunch meat is no exception to this rule, but special care needs to be taken to ensure that frozen sliced lunch meat stays delicious from fridge to freezer and back again.
Saving it for Later
When you’re at the grocery store and find a deal on family food staples, your freezer can help you extend the life of your purchases as well as your budget. Sliced lunch meat still within its "use by" date can be frozen for up to three months, but it must be stored in airtight package or vacuum sealed. Air-tight packaging is essential in keeping the meat from developing freezer burn. If you find yourself with an abundance of sliced lunch meat from a deli tray, you can freeze the meat after vacuum packaging it yourself. Many commercial vacuum sealers are available for purchase and may be a wise investment for large families or those who prefer to buy groceries in bulk.
Taste the Difference
Defrosted sliced lunch meat may taste slightly different then fresh cold cuts. Sodium and other preservatives leach out of the slices as the meat thaws, resulting in a milder sandwich filling. Tweak your sliced meat by adding a little more mayonnaise and mustard to sandwiches or using creamy salad dressing instead. Top a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich with some olive tapenade, or a roast beef and cheddar sandwich with mayonnaise and horseradish, then broil the sandwich in the oven until the cheese melts. You’ll add flavor and enjoy a bistro-worthy sandwich without leaving your kitchen.
Snack in a Snap
Sliced lunch meat comes to the rescue when you need a quick, energizing afternoon snack for kids. Pack several slices of low-sodium turkey, ham or roast beef in a small cooler, along with string cheese, mixed nuts and vegetable sticks. Toted along to an afternoon sports match or tucked in a backpack for a mid-morning school snack, sliced lunch meat will give your kids protein to keep them full and energized. Move frozen sliced lunch meat to the refrigerator at least 24 hours before serving, and use all of the meat within two to three days of opening the package.
Cold Cut Caveats
While freezing sliced lunch meat can be a budget saver, there are some instances where this could harm your family, not help it. If your sliced lunch meat has developed a slimy coating, smells peculiar or is discolored, do not freeze the lunch meat. Freezing lunch meat that has gone bad will not restore it, nor will cooking it immediately over high heat. Throw it out. If you are unable to vacuum pack your lunch meat, let it go. The meat will likely be inedible by the time you defrost it again, and in the meantime those cold cuts will have taken up valuable freezer space.
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Hailing from California, Ann Mazzaferro is a professional writer who has written for "The Pacifican," "Calliope Literary Magazine" and presented at the National Undergraduate Literature Conference. Mazzaferro graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of the Pacific.