Does Pepperoni Go Bad

So pepperoni was on sale in your local grocer. And since you love it on a sandwich or homemade pizza, you’ve bought way too much of it. Once you got home, you started thinking: does pepperoni go bad?

You know it lasts quite some time, but you also realized that you still have too much of it on hand, so maybe freezing is the way to go.

Or perhaps you’re new to pepperoni. You’ve bought a stick, and cut a few slices for your breakfast sandwiches. And only now you realized that you’re not quite sure for how long you can store the sausage before it goes bad.

If any of these sound familiar, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bag of pepperoni. We also talk about sliced pepperoni, so we’ve got you covered if you prefer this variety.

Pizza with pepperoni
(Credit: Carissa Gan)

How To Store Pepperoni

Let’s start with the whole pepperoni sausage, also known as the pepperoni stick.

The sticks usually come either wrapped or in a natural casing. Either way, since the meat is cured and has some preservatives such as salt and nitrates added, it doesn’t require refrigeration.

Unless the label suggests otherwise, you don’t need to put the unopened package into the fridge. A cool and dry area, like the pantry, will do perfectly fine.

Tip

Pepperoni technically doesn’t require refrigeration, it retains freshness for longer when you keep it in the refrigerator. So if you don’t plan on starting the sausage within like 2 to 3 weeks, go for the fridge.

Once you open the package, you should refrigerate the leftovers. And make sure you protect the sausage from drying out.

If the sausage isn’t that big, you can put it in a freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal it. If that’s not an option, use aluminum foil or plastic wrap to cover the opened part. Or if you like, you can cut the rest into a few smaller pieces that fit inside your resealable bags.

Slicing pepperoni
Image used under Creative Commons from Andrew Malone

When it comes to sliced pepperoni, it’s almost always sold refrigerated, and you should keep it in the fridge too.

Once you open the package, just like with pepperoni sticks, you want to keep the leftovers from drying out. So if you can reseal the original packaging, leave the slices in it and do it. Otherwise, it’s probably better if you transfer the slices in a resealable bag. As usual, remember to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing.

If you’re preparing sandwiches with pepperoni the evening before for your lunch at work, put them in an airtight container or freezer bag and refrigerate overnight.

Can You Freeze Pepperoni?

If you have more pepperoni than you can use, freezing is an option.

The first thing you should note is that many brands advise against freezing their pepperoni. That’s because they basically cannot guarantee that the quality of the sausage will be good enough after thawing. But in most cases, if you follow proper freezing practices, your pepperoni will freeze just fine.

When it comes to freezing this dry sausage, let’s start with some prep.

Unless you expect to thaw and use the whole stick at once, it’s better to cut it into several smaller ones. This way you can easily defrost as much as you need.

If you like, you can even slice the pepperoni and freeze it pre-sliced. That’s quite handy if you’re usually in a hurry in the morning preparing breakfast and getting ready for work.

You can freeze the sausage in aluminum foil, freezer wrap, or using resealable freezer bags. I always recommend the last option because it’s environment-friendly and you can use a single bag for quite a long time before it’s worn out.

When it comes to defrosting, overnight in the fridge is the preferred option, but there are other choices too.

How Long Does Pepperoni Last

Okay, so there isn’t one standard recipe for making pepperoni. Different brands use different preservatives and in various amounts.

That means there really isn’t a good way of estimating a general shelf life of pepperoni. What’s quite sure is that it’s almost always more than a month, but that’s about it.

Because of that, we need to rely on the date on the label. That date is usually a best-by or best-before date, and it’s a producer’s estimate of how long their product will retain freshness.

Of course, the sausage won’t go bad a day or two after that date, so there’s some extra time. Plus if the sausage is sold unrefrigerated, you can extend its shelf life by keeping it in the fridge.

Once you open the pepperoni stick, look on the label for how long you can keep it open. That period is usually between a week to up to three weeks. Once again, it heavily depends on the ingredients and production process the manufacturer uses. When in doubt, try to finish the stick within a week and freeze the rest.

When it comes to sliced pepperoni, we follow pretty much the same rules. For an unopened package, you should keep an eye on the sell-by or use-by date on the label. Once you open the package, finish it within about a week.

Tip

Sliced pepperoni usually lasts a bit longer than your average deli meat.

 PantryFridge
Pepperoni sticks (unopened, sold unrefrigerated)Best-byBest-by + 1 month
Pepperoni sticks (unopened, sold refrigerated) Sell-by + 1 week
Pepperoni sticks (opened) 1 – 3 weeks
Sliced pepperoni (unopened) Sell-by + 1 week
Sliced pepperoni (opened) 7 days

Please note that the periods above are estimates only.

How To Tell If Pepperoni Has Gone Bad

There are a few things to look out for when it comes to bad pepperoni.

First, there are changes in appearance, such as discolorations and slime on the surface.

Please note that if the sausage is open and not properly wrapped, the surface will dry out and change color, but the rest will be okay. If that’s the case, cut out the dry part and enjoy the rest.

The second thing to do is to check if its odor has changed. If it smells rancid (there’s oil in pepperoni) or putrid, throw it out.

If the sausage feels slimy or sticky (compared to how it felt when it was fresh), that’s another sign that it’s past its prime and you should discard it.

Given that everything seems to be perfectly fine, cut a slice and give it a try. If it tastes okay, feel free to use it your pizza or whatever meal you’re prepping. Otherwise, throw it in the trash can.