How Long Can Lunch Meat Sit Out? (Is It Safe? Explained!)

Lunch meat is a meat product also known by the names cold cuts, sliced meat, deli meat or sandwich meat. As the last name suggests, one of its main uses is making sandwiches. 

Because of that, it isn’t uncommon to leave lunch meat out of the fridge for quite a while, especially when making a lot of sandwiches at one time. But is it safe?

So how long can lunch meat sit out? According to the USDA, lunch meat can sit out for no more than two hours. Eating lunch meat left out of the fridge for more than two hours is dangerous because bacteria grow quickly at room temperature and may very likely make it turn bad.

But this was just to put it briefly; to indeed understand how long can lunch meat sit out, we need to look into this topic a bit more deeply.

What are we waiting for then? Let’s just jump right into it!

How Long Can Lunch Meat Sit OutPin

How long can lunch meat last unrefrigerated?

Lunch meat is a meat product that is extremely prone to spoiling, mainly because it contains additional moisture, making it easier for bacteria to grow. Therefore, it can’t sit out for too long.

Lunch meat can last unrefrigerated for two hours, according to the safety guides by United States Department of Agriculture.

Does lunch meat need to be refrigerated?

Yes, lunch meat need to be refrigerated if you’re not planning on eating it right away – lunch meat can sit out only for two hours. If you want to store it for a longer time, you then have to put it into the fridge.

When refrigerated, lunch meat can last even as long as five days, although we don’t recommend you to store it for much longer than 72 hours to be entirely sure it’s safe to eat.

Can you eat lunch meat if left out overnight?

As we’ve explained above, lunch meat can’t last for more than two hours without refrigeration, and you, therefore, definitely shouldn’t be eating it if left out overnight. Instead, you should just throw it out.

Even though there is a chance that it’ll still be good to eat, you would simply be risking a food poisoning, and that’s not worth it.

Can you save lunch meat for later?

Yes, you can save lunch meat for later, but you have to store it properly. What does that mean? Well, firstly that you have to put it into the fridge. Just because of that, the lunch meat’s lifespan gets significantly expanded.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean putting it into the fridge is enough – it’ll keep it eatable but not fresh. In order to do that, you need to do one more thing, but more about that later.

How do you keep lunch meat fresh?

If you want to keep your lunch meat as fresh as possible, you have to seal it into some air-tight containers. Then, you’ve just got to put the bags into the fridge, and your lunch meat will stay in excellent shape for even as long as five days.

How can you tell if lunch meat is bad?

Telling if your lunch meat is bad is just like doing so with any other food – to tell if lunch meat is bad, you most importantly have to take a good sniff and a good look. 

If you smell or see anything weird, you should always throw the lunch meat out since it most likely means it has turned bad. Sure there’s a chance that it may still be good, but still better be safe than sorry, right?

What happens if you eat bad lunch meat?

As we’ve touched in the last answer, some severe health issues are connected to eating spoiled lunch meat. If you eat bad lunch meat, you might very likely get food poisoned.

That means you may have diarrhea, stomach ache, or vomit. Because of that, you should never touch lunch meat that smells or looks weird or was left out for too long.


Lunch meat, just like any other meat product, should always be stored in the refrigerator. When left out, it starts to turn bad pretty quickly. According to USDA, it is not safe to eat lunch meat left out for more than two hours.

But when you put it into the fridge, you can expect it to stay good for even as long as five days, especially if you also seal it into air-tight containers.



Image credits – Canva

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