That pastrami sandwich in your fridge? It won’t keep forever. Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life of this Jewish deli staple.
After a long day at work, few things are better than coming home to a delicious pastrami sandwich from your favorite deli. But as hungry as you may be, you know as well as I do that these sandwiches are gigantic, especially if you live in New York City.
If you have no help, or you and the family ordered one pastrami sandwich too many, you will almost certainly be left with leftovers. Which raises the question: How long will that pastrami sandwich keep? And how can you keep it fresh longer?
Read below to find out the answers to your questions and get our best tips and tricks.
To make a long story short, it really comes down to how you store the pastrami sandwich. Food will last a few hours outdoors, a few days in the fridge, and virtually forever in the freezer. Your favorite deli order is no exception.
The rule of thumb for pastrami sandwiches’ shelf life is as follows: A pastrami sandwich will keep 1 to 2 hours at room temperature and 3 to 4 days in the fridge. The sandwich will keep almost indefinitely in the freezer but only retain its best texture and flavor for 3 months.
We’ve explained why below.
How Long Can a Pastrami Sandwich Stay Out?
A pastrami sandwich can be kept for 2 hours at room temperature. This time is reduced to just 1 hour in summer when the outside temperature is above 90°F/32°C.
An article on AskUSDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s consumer question and answer website, explains that the bacteria that make us sick grow the fastest in the temperature range between 40°F (4.4°C) and 140°F (60°C).
This is any temperature above refrigeration and below the lowest temperature of your regular convection oven. Room temperature—66°F to 77°F (18.8°C to 25°C) according to Dictionary.com—falls within this range, too.
Food safety experts have dubbed this temperature range “the danger zone,” and for a good reason. When you leave a pastrami sandwich on the kitchen countertop or dining room table, the disease-causing bacteria on it is said to double in count every 20 minutes.
So don’t. Eat your pastrami sandwich or refrigerate it after you’re done making it, but never leave it out for prolonged periods of time, or you risk food poisoning.
How Long Does Pastrami Sandwich Last in the Fridge?
According to an article from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, pastrami sandwiches can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Since the bacteria that make us sick are not necessarily the same as those that spoil our food, a sandwich stored longer than this time can look, smell, and taste perfectly fine and still cause food poisoning.
So if you’re not sure how long that pastrami sandwich has been in your fridge, and you suspect it’s been there longer than 4 days, you should just throw it away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million Americans contract food poisoning each year; you don’t want to be one of them.
To refrigerate a pastrami sandwich, seal it in a sandwich bag or wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place it on one of the bottom shelves of the refrigerator, where it’s colder.
How Long Does Pastrami Sandwich Last in the Freezer?
Food frozen at 0°F (-18°C) or below is safe to eat almost indefinitely because freezing temperature puts the disease-causing bacteria into a state akin to pause.
With that being said, freezing a pastrami sandwich comes at a price. Sooner rather than later, the sandwich will begin to dry out and lose its best texture, aroma, and flavor. So label today’s date when freezing yours and, for best quality, use it up within 3 months of freezing.
To freeze a pastrami sandwich, seal it in a freezer bag with a zipper or in a freezer-safe food storage container with the lid shut tightly. Wrapping the sandwich in plastic wrap or aluminum foil isn’t enough; the cold air in the freezer will seep through the nooks and crannies of the wrapping and cause freezer burn on parts of the sandwich.
If your pastrami sandwich has suffered from freezer burn, you can still eat it. However, it’s best to cut out and throw away the parts that were damaged by the freezer burn, as they smell off and taste funny. The rest can be eaten as usual.
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