Is Pastrami Safe During Pregnancy? Hot Sandwiches, Risks, and More

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Pastrami is a popular sandwich meat commonly composed of smoked and corned beef. It’s often classed as a “deli meat” – so is pastrami safe to consume during pregnancy?

Pastrami can safely be eaten during pregnancy when you take certain precautions. First, ensure your pastrami is reheated to steaming or at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71c) before consumption during pregnancy, whether consumed at a restaurant or store-bought at home.

Have you wondered how pastrami safety differs from other deli meats during your pregnancy? Read more to find out!

Is Pastrami Safe for Pregnant Women to Eat?

Pastrami is a deli meat that dates back to the Ottoman Empire and is still very popular today. However, because it’s often served cooked and cold, pregnant women often question its safety.

Overall, the pastrami is safe when consumed in a hot form, such as in a hot sandwich. However, in its cold state, the pastrami must first be reheated to steaming temperatures to kill any potential Listeria bacteria that may still be present after packaging. 

pastrami in sandwich on a plate

There is no need to panic if you have been consuming pastrami or other deli meats without reheating. The odds of a problem occurring are extremely low, especially since the federal government takes extra precautions to prevent Listeria spread.

In addition to pasteurization and cooking, a spray is used before packaging to kill bacteria on deli meats (source: American Pregnancy Association). Reheating deli meats is simply a precaution to eliminate even more risk of foodborne illness occurring.

If you’re worried about having eaten cold pastrami without reheating, talk to your health provider for reassurance. Chances are, you’ll be fine – but heat up deli meats for the duration of your pregnancy afterward.

Is Hot Pastrami (e.g., Sandwiches) Safe During Pregnancy?

Hot pastrami sandwiches are very popular foods, especially New York-style pastrami sandwiches topped with mayonnaise, mustard, cheese, tomato, and lettuce. Luckily, when hot pastrami sandwiches are made, the heating process is sufficient to kill the harmful bacteria, and further reheating is unnecessary. So, enjoy! 

On the flip side, when ordering a cold pastrami sandwich at a restaurant or deli, ask the staff to heat the meat to steaming for you.

At home, when preparing a cold pastrami sandwich from store-bought or deli-bought pastrami, such as that available from the well-known Katz’s Delicatessen, ensure you reheat the pastrami until steaming. 

When reheating any cold deli meat, place the cold meat onto a plate and microwave on high heat for at least 30 seconds until it is steaming. Additionally, you could heat it on the stove until steaming as well.

Ensure there is no cross-contamination between the reheated pastrami and any raw or undercooked meat. Then, let the meat cool before eating if desired.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an opened package of deli meat can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for one to two months. Therefore, ensure you consume the store-bought or deli-bought pastrami within the recommended time frame, or freeze it.

Is Pastrami a Deli Meat?

The America Pregnancy Association defines deli meats as cooked meats that have been sliced in preparation for use in a sandwich or other light meal. Deli meat can be called lunch meat, cold cuts, sliced meat, or sandwich meat. 

Pastrami is usually considered a deli meat for this reason.

Deli meat (and therefore pastrami) is often of concern for pregnant women. However, the risk of a problem occurring from eating pastrami is fairly small (source: American Pregnancy Association). The recommendation is to heat deli meats until they are visibly steaming to kill any possible Listeria bacteria that may be present. 

Pastrami is included in this designation and is safe to consume during pregnancy when reheated to steaming.

deli pastrami meat sliced on a cutting board

Is Pastrami Cooked?

Pastrami can be prepared in several different ways. First, the meat base, often beef, is brined or pickled, turning it into corned beef. Afterward, the meat is boiled, seasoned, then smoked or steamed to complete the preparation process (source: Delighted Cooking).

This process cooks the pastrami thoroughly and is safe to consume during pregnancy. However, cold pastrami should still be reheated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or steaming before consumption.

Another less common method of preparation is cold-cured pastrami, in which the choice of meat is dry-cured in a salt paste and left for multiple weeks. However, this meat is too smoked or steamed after the curing occurs. Therefore, this variation of pastrami is considered cooked meat as well. 

Avoid homemade pastrami during pregnancy as there is an increased risk of improper preparation, potentially leading to spoilage.  

Does the Meat Matter? Is Beef Pastrami Safe vs. Other Meats?

Beef is the most common base for pastrami. However, turkey is also occasionally used. Even rarer is pastrami made from tuna, salmon, goat, duck, or venison (source: Delighted Cooking).

All pastrami is prepared in similar cooking methods involving boiling, smoking, or steaming. Therefore, regardless of the meat used, as long as the cold pastrami is reheated to kill potential bacteria, it is equally safe to consume. 

I hope you found this article helpful in safely determining how to consume pastrami during pregnancy! If you’re about to tuck into a pastrami sandwich, you’ll also want to read our articles on pickles and mustard, too.