Pepperoni, mushroom, and Italian sausage, that’s been my go-to pizza topping for as long as I can remember (thanks dad!). But even without the Italian sausage and mushrooms, pepperoni pizza is still an international favorite.
While pepperoni may be one of the best pizza toppings, it’s so much more than that! Pepperoni is an extremely versatile cured meat that can be added to so many different things, which is why it’s such a great ingredient to keep at home.
You can make sandwiches with it, add it to a salad, put it on a cracker, or even eat it plain. It’s great to use in both snacks and meals.
However, even though it’s a cured meat, pepperoni still only lasts for so long. So, if you’re worried about pepperoni going bad you may be wondering if you can freeze pepperoni. The good news is that yes, you can certainly freeze pepperoni!
In this article I’ll explain everything you need to know about freezing pepperoni. You’ll learn how to properly prep it for freezing as well as how to defrost it the right way.
Does Pepperoni Go Bad?
If, like me, you’ve got a little bit too excited at the grocery store and bought too much pepperoni, chances are you’ve probably grappled with bad pepperoni before.
Because, yes, pepperoni does eventually go bad, which is too bad. Since it’s a cured meat it does last a little bit longer than something like chicken, steak, Polish sausage, or deli meat. While the preservatives in it like salt and nitrate can combat spoilage, it only slightly extends the shelf-life of pepperoni.
Let’s take a quick look at how to spot bad pepperoni:
When it comes to sticks of pepperoni, they can go bad in a couple of different ways. First, it becomes dry because it wasn’t stored properly – which I’ll discuss more later. But if it’s dry, it’s not the end of the world. You can simply cut off the dry part and use the rest. It’s not dangerous if you eat the dry part – either by accident or on purpose. But the taste and texture aren’t as good compared to when it’s not dry.
The other, more serious, way it can go bad is if it’s spoiled. In this case, you should discard the stick of pepperoni.
You can tell if it’s spoiled by the sight, smell, and texture of the pepperoni. If it’s bad, the smell will be putrid or off in general. It may also look bad or change in color which also can mean it’s bad.
The color will change from its normal red to a brownish tone, signifying it’s no good.
Lastly, if it’s slimy and/or sticky it indicates that bacteria have taken hold and it should be discarded.
When it comes to sliced pepperoni, it acts closer to sliced deli meats. So if it goes bad it will go bad in a similar fashion. You can tell if sliced pepperoni has gone bad by discoloration, slimy texture, and/or a bad smell. You should be wary of a package of sliced pepperoni that’s gone past its expiration date.
How Long Does Pepperoni Last?
The best way to gauge how long pepperoni can last is by first checking the expiration date (if it has one). From here you can get a good idea about roughly how long it can last for. However, this is a guide date and it doesn’t need to be strictly followed. So don’t throw out pepperoni just because it’s one day past the expiration date.
There are other things to consider how long it can last for as well like the individual brand (how it’s made), if it’s been opened, how it’s stored and if it’s sliced or in a stick form. Each of these things can determine how long pepperoni can last.
First, if the label says that it should be stored in the fridge, make sure to follow the instructions and store it in the fridge.
If it doesn’t say this then it can be either refrigerated or stored in the pantry. However, by storing it in a refrigerator you can significantly extend its life. Pepperoni can be stored at room temperature, preferably in a cool and dark environment like your pantry, for about one month to six weeks.
Conversely, if it’s kept unopened in the fridge, it can stay good for up to 10 months. If it’s “hard” or “dry” pepperoni, it may not have an expiration date and can be kept nearly indefinitely if stored in the fridge, unopened, according to the USDA. However, once a pepperoni stick has been opened it should be eaten within three weeks. This is because when it’s in its natural casing, it’s protected from the air, which is its worst enemy after it’s been opened.
Sliced vs Stick
As for sliced pepperoni, it isn’t as hearty as a stick of pepperoni since it’s not in a protective casing. If it’s stored in the pantry, an unopened package of sliced pepperoni can last about four to six weeks. In the fridge, unopened, a package of sliced pepperoni can last up to six months.
However, once a package of sliced pepperoni is opened you should aim to use it within one week for the best taste.
But, if it’s kept tightly sealed (many packages will be resealable) with the air pressed out, they can stay edible longer. Just make sure to have a quick look and smell before you eat them to make sure they are still okay.
Can You Freeze Pepperoni?
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that the texture and taste may slightly change if you freeze it. This is because as it’s a cured food, it already was made to be stored for a long time. But freezing won’t make it inedible if you freeze it properly.
Personally, I would definitely recommend freezing pepperoni if you’re worried that you won’t be able to eat it all before it goes bad. However, there are some things to consider before you go and freeze pepperoni to make sure that you get the best results. But if you find a good deal on pepperoni and you want to stock up on it and freeze some for later, go ahead!
Freezing sliced pepperoni is probably the best as you can separate it into individual servings for long-term storage as well as easy use.
How to Freeze Pepperoni
You should avoid freezing a whole pepperoni stick, if possible. Not just because if it’s left unopened and stored in the fridge, it can often be kept indefinitely, but it also may get ruined by defrosting and then freezing the pepperoni again.
Instead, if you have a stick of pepperoni that’s already opened, you should first slice it. If it’s unopened, reconsider whether you need to be freezing it at all. However, if you’re worried you won’t eat it within a few months, then of course it’s better to be on the safer side and freeze it. But again, make sure to open it and slice it before freezing.
Before putting the slices all into a single bag, you should think about how they’ll be used in the future. You should separate them into individual portions if you won’t be using all of the sliced pepperoni. It also can make the defrosting process much easier.
To freeze pepperoni (if it’s a stick of pepperoni) cut the pepperoni into slices of desired thickness. Then, separate them into the number of portions that you’d like.
Remember, it’s better to have many smaller portions than have fewer big ones. It’s much easier to defrost multiple small bags than dealing with extra slices that may go to waste.
Next, put the portions into individual freezer-safe bags or containers that are labeled with the date and then place them in the freezer. If you’re using bags, try to press out as much air as possible before sealing them.
How to Defrost Pepperoni
Defrosting pepperoni is super simple, it just requires a bit of planning. Take out the desired number of portions and place them in the fridge. Usually, one night will suffice. If you notice ice crystals on the outside of the bag or container, put them on a plate when you put them in the fridge.
Avoid defrosting the pepperoni at room temperature. This can expose the pepperoni slices to temperatures that allow for the growth of bacteria.
Can You Refreeze Pepperoni?
No, you shouldn’t refreeze pepperoni.
While it will still be edible if it’s been handled correctly (it hasn’t been exposed to room temperatures) and refrozen, the taste and texture will suffer.
Even after freezing them one time you may notice a slight difference. So to enjoy the pepperoni at the best quality, avoid refreezing pepperoni.