How Long Can Lunch Meat Sit Out

How Long Can Lunch Meat Sit Out? Can You Leave It Overnight?

When it comes to making a quick and simple lunch, many people choose to make a deli sandwich. The variety of meats and their varying textures provide a great flavor to the sandwich.

Yet, the question remains: what do you do with leftovers or when you buy in bulk? Can you freeze coconut cream? Or will it change its flavor?

How Long Can Lunch Meat Sit Out Before Going Bad?

The US Department of Agriculture warns that it is dangerous to eat certain types of food, such as cold cuts and lunch meats, which can sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. This is the same as grilled burger meat left out.

Can You Leave Lunch Meat out For 5 Hours
Can You Leave Lunch Meat out For 5 Hours – No It Should Be Discarded After Two Hours

Below are the different deli meat shelf life and preservation techniques:

Dry-Cured Deli Meats

Dry-cured meats can stay at room temperature for 24 hours without exposing consumers to harmful bacteria.

Most manufacturers recommend keeping dry-cured meats in the fridge to prevent their moisture content from developing after being opened.

Pre-Packaged Deli Meats

Pre-packaged deli meats are commonly used in the meat department to store various types of meat, such as turkey, ham, and cheese. These products have condiments like salt, sugar, and other additives.

They are usually safe to eat because they have the necessary ingredients to keep them fresh. However, you should never keep them out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.

Fresh Deli Meats

You can get deli meat straight from the grocery store. The meat will be cut and packed before serving it to your dinner table.

Stored deli meats tend to have fewer preservatives than their pre-packaged counterparts and do not last as long in the fridge.

What Temperature Does Lunch Meat Go Bad?

The USDA’s Danger Zone is a temperature range typically between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s essential to keep perishables such as fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling.

The longer food items stay in the Danger Zone, the greater the chance they’ll get food-borne illnesses. If the temperature gets too hot for you, immediately discard any food sitting on a picnic table.

What Temperature Does Lunch Meat Start To Go Off
What Temperature Does Lunch Meat Start To Go Off

How to Tell if Deli/Lunch Meat Has Gone Bad?

If you suspect that deli meat has sat out too long, you can use several signs to confirm your suspicions. However, it’s noteworthy that even a single bite of spoiled meat can cause illness.


When deli meat has sat out of the refrigerator for too long, it can become warm or lukewarm to the touch. It indicates that it has become sufficiently warm to support bacterial growth.


If the meat in your deli has become rubbery, slimy, or falls apart quickly, it’s time to throw it out. The bacteria that cause these changes can still thrive in the meat.


Your nose is an excellent indicator of quality. When bacteria start to develop, they tend to produce a foul odor. If you’re eating deli meat, avoid it.


You should not eat Deli meat that has changed its appearance or color. These changes can indicate the presence of bacteria or mold in the food.

Ham Lunch Meat Can Go Off After 2 Hours
Ham Lunch Meat Can Go Off After 2 Hours

How Long Can Unopened vs. Open Lunch Meat in a Fridge?

Ensure that you follow the meat manufacturer’s instructions when managing deli meat. Some products, such as hard salami, can be safely stored in a cool, dry place.

Although unopened deli meat packages can stay in their original packaging, the USDA advises that they should only be preserved in the refrigerator for two weeks before they’re ready to eat.

For an opened package of meat to stay in its original packaging, it’s usually best to store it in the refrigerator.

If the package doesn’t have a lid, place the meat in a zip-lock bag or a container to prevent cross-contamination. The USDA also advises against keeping open meat packages for three to five days in the refrigerator.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Deli/Lunch Meat Bad if Left Out Overnight?

Generally, deli/lunch meat is terrible if left out overnight. It’s best to discard all deli meats that are left out overnight. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you have a particular preference for cured meats, you can still consume them.

Cured deli meats can be considered shelf-stable. However, this term doesn’t apply to all cured meats. You can keep some types of meat at room temperature for several weeks.

Before eating cured meat, ensure that the manufacturer has proper handling instructions. USDA requires that these instructions include a list of steps to follow when handling the meat.

Deli meat can only last 2 hours without refrigeration.

How Long Can Lunch Meat Last In a Sandwich
How Long Can Lunch Meat Last In a Sandwich – Two Hours Is the Safe Time

Do Cold Cuts Go Bad if Left Out?

Yes, cold cuts go bad if left out. The moisture in meat contributes to the growth of bacteria in these items. If you leave them out for more than two hours, discard them immediately.

How Much Cold Cuts Per Person For Sandwiches

Storing Lunch Meat – Top Tips

You’ll want to ensure that the meat in your deli sandwiches, snacks, and charcuterie boards is appropriately packed. Doing so will keep it from getting ruined.

Store the deli meat products inside an insulated lunch box. When the ice pack gets too hot, consume the meat within four hours. Alternatively, store the heart in the fridge.

If your deli meat has gotten warm, do not eat it. It could cause food poisoning. If it has been sitting in the sun for several hours, it could also contain harmful bacteria.

Can You Eat Sealed Lunch Meat Left out Overnight

No, you should discard it, as bacteria will start to multiply after only 2 hours.