bacon shelf life

Bacon Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

On a Sunday morning, you’re craving for pancakes with crispy bacon and drizzles of maple syrup. Much to your surprise, a pack of streaky bacon in the fridge has already passed the use-by date. Does this mean bacon has gone bad?

Perhaps, you bought a few extra packs of bacon because they were on a big sale. When you’re putting them into the fridge, you’re asking yourself: How long can you keep bacon?

Either way, it’s useful to know more about the nitty-gritty of your favorite food items. In this article, we look into details of bacon, its shelf life, proper storage, and how to know if bacon has spoiled. Sounds interesting? Read on!

How To Store Bacon

Bacon is salt-cured pork cuts, typically from belly parts and occasionally from back cuts.

Bacon significantly varies in terms of cuts, forms, processing methods, flavors, and forms.

Streaky or side bacon is considered the regular bacon you’ll find in every store in the US. It’s the most popular in the US, hence its nickname American bacon. Some other popular bacon varieties are Canadian bacon, pancetta, turkey bacon, and beef bacon.

In the mass production of bacon, the meats are heated and smoked after the curing process with salt and nitrites. Meanwhile, dry-cured bacon is hung for up to 2 weeks to draw moisture out.

The addition of salt, nitrites, and heat processing has made bacon less perishable than raw meats. If you’ve ever bought uncured bacon, this is manufactured without adding nitrites or nitrates.

Bacon is typically sold in vacuum packages, in slices or slabs, uncooked and pre-cooked, refrigerated, and shelf-stable.

How To Store Uncooked Bacon

All types of raw or uncooked bacon are perishable. It means uncooked bacon should always be kept refrigerated.

As with other perishable foods, bacon should be among the last items to pick up right before you walk to the cashier. This way, you can minimize exposure to room temperature.

Put the bacon back into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you’re home. Avoid storing in the door as the temperatures in this area tend to fluctuate considerably.

After opening, wrap the pack tightly in aluminum foil or transfer into an airtight container. Proper wrapping prevents the smell from leaking to other neighboring foods and avoids contamination to and from other foods.

To freeze uncooked bacon, you can freeze a whole pack or individually. The latter is recommended if you only use a few slices at once. If you freeze the entire package, make sure it’s perfectly sealed. Place it in a freezer bag for double protection and to avoid freezer burn.

There are multiple ways to freeze an individual slice of bacon. One of the easiest methods is to roll each slice, flash freeze it, and place the slices into a freezer bag. 

How To Store Cooked Bacon

You can buy precooked bacon in both refrigerated and unrefrigerated shelves. The former needs to stay chilled in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, the latter can be kept at room temperature, preferably in your pantry or cupboard. Once the package is opened, save any leftovers in the refrigerator. The same goes for home-cooked bacon.

If you plan to freeze cooked bacon, consider dividing it into portion sizes. It takes a few more minutes to do it, but it’s easier when you need to thaw it. Place the slices in an airtight container or freezer bag.

You can safely thaw frozen bacon in the refrigerator or microwave. Never thaw it on the countertop or at room temperature since harmful bacteria can survive and grow.

How Do You Tell If Bacon Goes Bad?

As much as you love it, just like other meat products, bacon also goes bad. It’s not very difficult to tell if bacon has spoiled. You can always rely on your nose and eyes.

First, check the visual signs for a discolored or rotting part. Fresh bacon has a natural pinkish color. If it turns gray, greenish, or brownish, that’s an indication that the cured meat is going off. The same goes if it looks slimy or sticky.

Next, give the meat a sniff. If it smells rancid, sour, or rotting, it’s another reason to trash the bacon. As usual, whenever in doubt, it’s better to stay on the safe side.

If you have spoiled bacon, remove it immediately from the refrigerator before it contaminates other foods. Clean the space thoroughly before placing other food items.

Most harmful bacteria don’t alter the appearance or taste. If the bacon has been sitting in the refrigerator longer than the recommended time frame, it’s also advisable to toss it out.

How Long Does Bacon Last?

You can easily find a “use-by” date on the package. This information is a good start to estimate a period in which bacon retains its freshness.

If you’re asking whether expired bacon is safe to use, it depends. If the package is unopened and properly stored, it might still be edible for a few days after the recommended date. But that’s about it.

Generally, freezing salt-cured meats is not recommended as the meats tend to go rancid quickly. It doesn’t mean you can’t freeze bacon. Of course, you can! (*)

An unopened, vacuum-packed of bacon can be frozen up to 4 months. After opening, you can prolong the shelf life up to a month by freezing it. (*)

Cooked bacon keeps only for five days in the refrigerator and up to a month if frozen. How long does bacon last in the fridge and freezer? Here you go:

BaconPantryRefrigeratedFreezer
Uncooked bacon (unopened)Use-by date + 5 to 7 days1 month
Uncooked bacon (opened)7 days1 month
Precooked bacon (refrigerated, unopened)Use-by date + 5 to 7 days1 month
Precooked bacon (refrigerated, opened)4 to 5 days1 month
Precooked bacon (shelf-stable, unopened)Use-by or best-by date + 7 days3 months
Precooked bacon (shelf-stable, opened)5 to 14 days–    
Cooked bacon (leftover)4 to 5 days1 month
Dry-cured bacon slices10 days1 month3 months

This table is a general guideline to estimate the shelf life of each type of bacon available in the store. The actual shelf life depends on the ingredients, preparation methods, and storage conditions


FAQs

Can you get sick from bad bacon?

Spoiled bacon is no longer fit for consumption. Bad bacon is not palatable, and the safety aspects might have been compromised. If the contaminating bacteria are pathogenic, you can get sick from eating spoiled bacon.

Can I eat raw bacon?

No, uncooked or raw bacon is unsafe to eat. Bacon may contain harmful bacteria that can make you sick. Instead, you need to cook bacon thoroughly to kill the bacteria. For store-bought precooked bacon, it is safe to eat right from the package. But, you may want to reheat it to enhance the taste.

Can you get food poisoning from bacon?

If bacon is partially cooked, not all bacteria are killed and increase the risk of food poisoning.

Final Thoughts

As with other meat products, bacon eventually goes bad. Proper storage is a must to maintain its quality and safety.

Raw and cooked bacon has to be refrigerated all the time. Precooked shelf-stable bacon can be kept in the pantry until you open it. Once the package is open, it should be kept refrigerated. Bacon has a limited shelf life. Consider freezing it to extend its shelf life up to a few months.

If bacon is discolored, looks slimy, and smells rancid or rotten, these are obvious signs that it has gone bad and no longer safe for consumption.

Up Next: Does bacon grease go bad?

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