The grocery store deli counter has long been a safe haven for easy packed lunches. Pick up a pound of turkey and some sliced cheddar, and you're halfway to a week of easy sandwiches for the family. By Thursday or Friday, however, the lunch meat often begins to look a little suspicious, and you're left wondering if those last slices are safe to eat. The sell-by or use-by date isn't always the best indicator, so instead here are three surefire signs to look for.
3 Ways to Tell If Your Lunch Meat Has Gone Bad
The first step in determining whether your lunch meat has spoiled is to examine its color. Has it changed in any way? If the meat has taken on a pale gray, brown, or yellow hue, it's probably not safe to eat. It's also time to toss it if it's grown any mold.
Next, take a whiff. If the lunch meat smells foul in any way (when bad, lunch meat often takes on a sour or vinegar-y scent), that's not a good sign. Don't risk it; just toss it.
Finally, if there's a slimy, sticky film on the lunch meat, or if parts of the meat feel very hard, it's likely that it's spoiled.
The Best Way to Store Lunch Meat
Whether you buy prepackaged lunch meat or ask for it freshly sliced from the deli counter, tuck it into the coldest part of your refrigerator as soon as you get home. It's generally fine to consume prepackaged lunch meat seven to 10 days after the sell-by date. Once open, however, it should be eaten within five days. Freshly sliced deli meat should also be eaten within five days.