The Earl of Sandwich was clearly on to something with his culinary invention that remains a dietary staple today. Basically a sandwich is a filling between two pieces of bread, quite often including some type of meat. Commercially prepared, thin and evenly sliced lunch meats are only as far away as the nearest grocery store. Packages often go on sale or are regularly priced at very low prices to encourage consumers to buy them. This type of lunch meat is not without fault. Sure, you are getting it for a very low price but like most commercially processed foods, lunch meat is laden with preservatives, food additives and sodium. One slice of roast beef lunch meat contains as much as 300 mg of sodium in comparison to 6 oz of home cooked roast beef that contains 92 mg of sodium. A sandwich made using two slices of roast beef lunch meat contains 600 mg of sodium in just the lunch meat without adding in the sodium content of the bread, condiments or extras. In perspective, those two pieces of roast beef lunch meat contain almost 30% of the sodium RDA set by Health Canada. Clearly, if you are on a sodium restricted diet lunch meat is not a food that you should consume on a regular basis. However, the problem with commercially prepared lunch meats is more than just sodium. Sodium nitrate, a known carcinogen, is used as a preservative in commercially prepared lunch meats. Expectant mothers are advised not to consume lunch or deli meats due to risk of Listeria to the feotus. Commercially processed lunch meats may also contain a number of food additives including high fructose corn syrup. All that aside, I have to admit not liking commercially prepared lunch meats and never have. My work-around is simply making homemade versions of lunch meats using whole cuts of meat, home cured meats and cooked meat loafs, all thinly sliced.
In general, I find leaner roasts work best for lunch meat slices. I generally do not add a lot of seasoning other than garlic pepper, onion and Worchestershire sauce although sometimes I add tomato stock. Once the roast is fully cooked, I let it cool then refrigerate until cold. The cold meat is easier to slice thinly.
This method of freezing and storing lends itself nicely to thinly sliced turkey breast, meat loaf, home cured summer sausage, home made pastrami, and wild game. I have found the price per pound of the home made lunch meats to be generally less expensive than commercially prepared lunch meat. The quality of the product is significantly higher though with lower sodium content, no preservatives or additives, and it tastes better. Prep time for freezing the meat is minimal at only slicing and vacuuming time. Overall, homemade lunch meats are a healthier, cost effective alternative to commercially prepared lunch meat!