Shuffling through the meat drawer, maybe you found a bag of pepperoni slices from when you tried to make pizza at home with the kids. That might have been weeks ago, but the pepperoni seems fresh. Does it ever really go bad?
Whole and unopened, a stick of pepperoni can be stored indefinitely in the fridge, or up to 6 weeks in the pantry. Once opened, a pepperoni stick will last up to 21 days and must be refrigerated. Slices will last up to 7 days after the best-by date if you have never opened them, and only about 5-7 days after you have opened the bag.
It is recommended to be cautious of the best-by date for all meat products, but cured meat is made to last a long time. Read the packaging for any special instructions and keep it from drying out.
Does Pepperoni Go Bad? How Long Does Pepperoni Last?
Pepperoni is a hard and dry sausage, packed with salts and nitrates for preservation. It will go bad, but not as quickly as most other deli meats. So how long does it last?
How Long Does Pepperoni Last On The Shelf?
The process of curing meat has been around for thousands of years, for the purpose of storing meat for a long time. Although pepperoni is only about a hundred years old, it is a cured sausage.
A whole, unopened pepperoni stick can stay fresh for up to a month at room temperature. After that, the taste and texture will begin to degrade, even if it is still technically edible.
Sliced pepperoni and leftovers from a stick should always be sealed and refrigerated. It can be risky to your gut if you consume pepperoni that has been sitting at room temperature for over two hours.
How Long Does Pepperoni Last in the Fridge?
An untouched stick of pepperoni can last in the fridge for at least 10 months before it begins to degrade. It will stay safe to eat indefinitely, but will not taste as good the older it gets.
Leftovers should always be sealed and refrigerated, and pepperoni can keep for up to 3 weeks. The enemy of pepperoni is air, so if not sealed properly, the sausage will dry out.
You can put pepperoni in a resealable plastic bag, wrap it in aluminum foil, or use plastic wrap. Some consumers believe that an area of the pepperoni that might be exposed to dry out can be cut away, leaving the sausage intact.
How Long Does Pepperoni Last in the Freezer?
Most brands do not recommend that you freeze their pepperoni. Because the thawing process could severely degrade their product, and they will not be able to guarantee any measure of original quality if you put it in the freezer.
You may be able to expect it to maintain quality in the freezer for at least 3 months, if stored properly. It is recommended that you separate the pepperoni into amounts you can use all at once, since you will not be able to keep any leftovers once it is thawed.
Some sources believe freezing pepperoni can extend its shelf life indefinitely. Although, eating any meat that has been sitting in your freezer for over three years, for example, might be hard on your digestive system.
The best-by date on the label is an accurate guide for how long you can expect pepperoni to last. If that bag in your meat drawer is more than a few months past that date, you should consider buying a new bag.
How To Tell If Pepperoni Has Gone Bad / How To Know Pepperoni is Fresh
Pepperoni may be cured and full of salt, but it is still a meat, and it will spoil in time. When it does, it likely will not be appetizing, but it will almost definitely make you sick. Before stacking that old pepperoni on a cracker with cheese, check for any signs of spoilage.
Slimy or Sticky Texture. Pepperoni is made of the fatty parts of beef and pork, usually. Then it is blended with salt and preservatives. As the fat breaks down, it becomes a slimy or sticky substance that forms on the outside of the sausage. A little slimy-ness is normal, but take note as it begins to increase, and throw it out if it ever sticks to your hand.
Acrid or Putrid Odor. Rotted meat has an unmistakable rancid odor, many compare it to the odor of rotten eggs, and pepperoni is no different. When the oils oxidize, they throw that distinctive smell, and it is a sure sign that eating that meat will make you sick.
Discolored or Spotted. Fresh pepperoni is bright red, sometimes with visible spots of white fat. Any dark or brownish spots are signs the pepperoni has begun to spoil. It can also turn a darker red, brown, or gray when it has expired.
Sour taste. If, somehow, you catch no rancid signs and end up taking a bite, pepperoni should never taste sour or make you crinkle your nose. If one bite tastes like this, throw the rest out immediately.
How to Store Pepperoni?
Depending on how long you want your pepperoni to last, there are a few different ways to store it. Until it is opened, a stick of pepperoni will only last about a month in the pantry. So, it is recommended to refrigerate or freeze it if you want to keep it longer.
In the fridge. Unopened pepperoni can stay fresh in the fridge for ten months or more. Once opened, keep it protected from the air by sealing it in a bag with the air squeezed out, or wrapping it in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
In the freezer. Cut the stick into sections or separate the slices into different freezer-safe bags. It could also help to wrap the pepperoni in aluminum foil or plastic wrap before placing it into the bag.
Can You Freeze Pepperoni? How?
It is said you can freeze pepperoni to extend its shelf life for quite some time. Once you thaw it, however, you will have to eat or discard the entire thing. So there is a method to making the freezer an effective storage choice.
Separate the pepperoni. If using a stick, cut it into portions that you can consume at one time. The thawing process will degrade the quality, so you definitely will not want to re-freeze or even re-refrigerate anything left over. This method will also reduce the amount of space the pepperoni takes in your freezer.
Use freezer-safe bags. It is easy to squeeze excess air from a resealable bag, and this will help keep the pepperoni as fresh as possible. You can technically use any freezer-safe container, as long as the meat is protected from air and moisture.
Label the container. Although it may stay safe to eat for a very long time when frozen, you will likely want to be able to verify just how long the pepperoni has been sitting in the freezer.
How to Thaw Pepperoni?
When the time comes for you to use the pepperoni you have been storing in the freezer, you will want to be careful about how you thaw it out.
Leave it in the fridge overnight. The fridge is the most recommended way to thaw frozen pepperoni, to keep it from spoiling. You will want to consume or discard it within 24 hours of defrosting it this way.
Bring it to room temperature. It is recommended to set the pepperoni about no more than an hour before you want to start cooking with it, to bring it to room temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pepperoni’s Shelf Life
Can expired pepperoni make you sick? Yes, eating pepperoni that has gone bad can make you sick. Symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and sometimes fever and body pain. Do not eat any pepperoni that is suspicious. If you accidentally ingest some rancid sausage and your stomach starts to hurt, stay hydrated and maybe consult a doctor.
What does mold on pepperoni look like? It is not uncommon to unwrap a stick of pepperoni and find white spots that look a little suspicious, but if you can wipe them away with your finger, like a crumb, it is likely just solidified salt/fats. Mold grown on pepperoni will be greenish-blue and white, or black, and it will be fuzzy.
Although pepperoni does have a longer shelf life than most other deli meats, it can clearly spoil in time. It is best kept in the fridge and can stay fresh for months. It is wise to heed the best-by dates, manufacturer’s storage instructions, and always watch for signs of spoilage.