Tips & How-to

How long does salami last?

Don’t let your charcuterie go to waste.
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Salami is one of those things often bought for a specific purpose, such as a charcuterie board. But what do you do if you have leftovers? As with any food, salami only lasts for a certain amount of time before it goes bad. So, here’s what you need to know to keep it from going to waste.

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How long can salami last in the fridge?

Dry salami

Dry salami is a type of Italian sausage made with a mix of salt, meat, and spices that are stuffed into a casing and left to ferment and air-dry.

In the book Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing, authors Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman discuss how this process of salting and drying dehydrates decay-causing bacteria and lets good bacteria grow. That’s why dry salami (also called hard salami) can last longer than other kinds of meat products.

If dry salami hasn’t been opened yet, it can last up to six weeks unrefrigerated, and according to the USDA, “indefinitely” in the refrigerator. But cutting salami allows bacteria to reach the sausage, thus sliced salami can only last up to three weeks in the fridge, and up to two months in the freezer. Of course, if salami has a use-by date, you should follow that.

What’s an example of a dry salami? You have Genoa salami, which is made in Genoa, Italy, and contains pork, garlic, salt, fennel seeds, wine, and pepper. Then there’s Sopressata, which is higher in fat than most salamis and is pressed during the curing process to reduce its weight and heighten its flavour.

There is also French salami, or Saucisson Sec, which can have ingredients like cheese, wine, or even fruits. Pepperoni is another type of dry salami, in Italy, it’s called salamino piccante.

Cooked salami

Salami Cotto, or cooked salami, is meat in a casing that is cooked or smoked. Sometimes it’s cured after cooking, while other variants don’t undergo the curing or fermenting part of the process. Mortadella and roasted coppa are just two examples of cooked salami.

How long does salami last when it’s cooked? Again, according to the USDA, cooked sausage can last up to two weeks in the fridge if unopened, and up to seven days after opening.

If you really want to prolong a cooked sausage’s shelf life, go for the freezer. Frozen cooked sausage can last up to two months.

For salamis and sausages that are labelled “uncured” – meats that aren’t preserved with sodium nitrite or nitrate – it’s best to always check the use-by date on the packaging.

How long can salami sit out of the fridge or freezer?

As we mentioned, once salami is sliced, bacteria can easily penetrate the meat. So, like many other foods, salami can be left to sit out at room temperature for about two hours. If it’s left out for longer than that, it’s best not to stick it back in the fridge anymore.

Even if it seems wasteful to throw leftover salami, we recommend erring on the side of caution. Otherwise, you could get sick from eating bad salami.

How can you tell if salami has gone bad?

There are a few telltale signs that indicate when salami has gone bad.

1. A change in colour

While salami’s colour usually ranges for light pink to dark red, it’s not unusual to see bits of white mould. These are good bacteria that help preserve the meat and prevent bad bacteria from growing. However, if left out for too long, bad bacteria will eventually grow. These usually look like black, green, grey, or brown fuzzy spots. Once you see these little guys, it’s time to say goodbye to your salami. 

2. A change in smell

Salami has a distinct smell that’s acidic and a little cheesy. Some people even say it can smell like bleach! In most foods, this is a warning sign that the stuff has gone off. However, because salami has natural moulds, those smells are normal. But that also doesn’t mean that any type of funky smell is alright. If salami smells like sewage or rotten eggs, it’s a sign to let it go.

3. A change in texture

Salami that has gone bad can either be extra hard and dry or wet and slimy. Any of these two combinations are clear signs that the only place that salami should be, is the garbage bin.

What to do if you eat bad salami

Eating meat that has gone off can lead to food poisoning, which is characterised by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes fever, body pain, and chills. While a mild case of food poisoning usually goes away once your body has gotten rid of all the toxic stuff it has ingested, eating large amounts can cause it to last longer. This can lead to dehydration, which is dangerous if left untreated.

When this happens, the first thing you should do is visit a doctor, who will determine if you need to be confined and given an IV drip or if your symptoms are manageable at home.

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