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How to Tell if Deli Turkey Is Bad

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You can usually expect packaged deli turkey to last less than a week in the fridge. If you keep the package sealed, you’ll get more time out of the turkey versus leaving it open to air exposure. Also, freezing the deli meat will make it last much longer; it just takes more planning because you’ll need to thaw it before eating it.

There are straightforward ways to tell when you shouldn’t be eating some deli turkey slices. The most obvious is whenever an unpleasant smell comes from the meat or the packaging. In addition, a slimy film on top of the meat means it’s probably not good anymore.

Various cold cuts on a plate

Also, leaving the deli turkey out can make it turn darker in color and harden on its edges, making it harder to eat. If it’s been sitting out for too long or has been in the fridge for weeks, eating it could make you sick, so it’s essential to know whether your turkey is fresh or not.

Here are some ways to tell if your deli turkey is bad and how you can store it to keep it in good condition for much longer.

What Does Deli Turkey Look Like When It Goes Bad?

Deli turkey can last for a bit, but if you don’t keep it well, it will turn sour after just days in the fridge. A visual inspection is one of the easiest ways to spot bad turkey. The slices will generally let you know whether it’s safe to eat.

Sometimes, especially if you leave the deli meat open to air, the edges of the turkey will go stale and turn hard. If you feel around the edges and the turkey is no longer soft, it can be good to eat, but it’s not exactly fresh.

fresh and tasty slices of turkey ham

Additionally, bad deli turkey will turn a darker shade than usual. The packaging may also contain more liquid as it leaks water.

As a result, sometimes turkey turns paler when it goes bad. Anytime you notice a significant change in color, it’s a reason to hesitate before you use the deli slices in your sandwich.

What Does It Smell Like?

Slices of fresh deli turkey should have a light aroma without any hint of sourness or ammonia. When turkey starts to go bad, you may smell something off-putting or sharp, like ammonia, which tells you it should go in the trash.

Rather than a foul smell, the meat should smell inviting like something you want to eat rather than something you would have to struggle to get down.

Does the Texture Change?

Big Group of Wafer Thin Sliced Meats

Yes, rotten turkey will typically have a different texture than fresh deli slices. A bad batch of deli turkey will likely be slimy when you run your fingers over it. It may also be stale, which means it will be hard and chewier than regular turkey slices.

Finally, if your turkey has been sitting around for much too long, it can lose the fibers in the meat, and the slices can be mushy and slimy at the same time.

Does the Color Change?

Stale turkey slices will look darker around the edges because of oxidization and a loss of water content. It’s common when people leave packages of turkey meat open in the fridge or on the countertop.

Another thing to look for is if the turkey slices look lighter or paler in color. When the turkey becomes slimy, it can also transition to a pale color that’s much lighter than how it looked when you bought it.

How Long Is Sliced Deli Turkey Good in the Refrigerator?

In many cases, you’ll get around a week in the fridge. If you’re buying deli slices straight from the butcher or cut from a larger piece in your grocer’s meat section, you’ll have even less time to eat it.

Whenever possible, eat your deli turkey within five days of purchasing it. If you wait any longer, you risk having it turn hard or feel slimy in your sandwich.

You can get a few more days out of the meat if you keep it in a sealed bag or container. In addition, try to keep the meat in a moisture-controlled section of your fridge if you have one.

turkey breast deli meat

Can You Freeze Deli Turkey?

Freezing deli turkey is a fantastic option, especially if you want to buy in bulk to save some money.

When you freeze meat, you stop the aging process, which means you can keep it good for virtually forever! All you need to do is ensure your freezer stays on and the temperature stays low.

When you freeze turkey, you should probably portion it out before sticking it in the freezer. This helps avoid having to thaw all of your turkey slices each time you want some. Constantly thawing and re-freezing meat causes freezer burn and affects how it tastes.

turkey breast deli meat

What Happens if You Eat Bad Deli Turkey?

Bad turkey meat, like other poultry, can be dangerous. When meat spoils, bacteria begin multiplying on the meat. When you eat it, you’re bringing potentially harmful bacteria into your body.

Eating bad deli turkey can give you a severe case of food poisoning, so it’s vital you know how to spot bad meat and store any deli slices properly. Light cases of food poisoning will make you experience stomach pain and nausea. Severe cases, however, can send you to the hospital or worse.

Don’t eat any turkey that’s past its expiration date. Most of the time, your grocer will list both a sell-by date and an expiration date on turkey packaging.

However, if you’re buying the meat straight from the butcher, you may not get any dates. Instead, ask the butcher or whoever is working there how long you have to eat it all.


Never eat bad or expired meat.

Always check your turkey slices to see whether they’re still fresh before you eat them or give them to anyone else.

If you store the meat well and plan your meals, you’ll increase your odds of getting your money’s worth and enjoying the turkey while it’s still fresh.