Bacon is a delicious addition to a breakfast fry-up, but if you’re saving it for a special weekend treat, you need to know how long it will stay edible for.
You may assume that because bacon is cured it has a long shelf-life, but does bacon go bad? How long does it last for and how do you know if it’s spoiled?
Bacon is a fragile product. Both high in water and fat, it is at high risk of bacterial contamination. Due to the high sodium content, bacon has a lower risk of going moldy.
Bacon should be used within two weeks of purchase when kept in the fridge – one week if you have already opened the packaging. Frozen, bacon is best consumed within two months, although will be good for up to four months.
SEE ALSO: How To Tell If Pork Is Bad
Bacon Shelf Life & Expiration Dates
Bacon will often come with a sell by date rather than a use by date. If there is a printed use-by date, you should always abide by this.
If there is a sell by date, you have around seven days from this date to use or freeze your bacon.
- Bacon – Unopened – Stored in the fridge, packaged bacon will last one week beyond the sell by date. If frozen, around four months.
- Bacon – Opened – Packaged correctly and stored in the fridge, use your bacon within one week or store it in the freezer for up to four months.
- Cooked Bacon – Should stay good stored correctly in the fridge for seven to ten days, or in the freezer for up to six months.
- Bacon Bits – Unopened, this product should be edible for up to six months past the printed date, either in the fridge or freezer. Opened, store for up to six weeks in the fridge or six months in the freezer.
- Canadian Bacon/Back Bacon – This is best consumed within three to four days if kept in the fridge, and will be best quality in the freezer for between four and eight weeks.
- Dry Cured Bacon, Sliced – This is one of the few bacon products that can be stored in the pantry (before opening) and can last 10 days if kept at room temperature. In the fridge, you have four weeks to use it, and in the freezer, up to three months.
- Dry Cured Bacon, Slab – Because the protective layer hasn’t been compromised with slicing, this product can last about three weeks in the pantry, four to six weeks in the fridge, or three months in the freezer.
How Long Can Cooked Bacon Sit Out?
Regular bacon, cooked or uncooked, should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria grows rapidly in compatible environments at temperatures between 40 to 140F. If you’ve left your bacon out for longer than this at room temperature, it should be thrown out.
You have even less time if you are in a warm climate or the room is heated.
Dry cured bacon can remain out of the fridge for longer because it is more resistant to bacterial growth. If stored at room temperature, it will be good out of the fridge for up to 10 days.
How Long Does Bacon Last In The Fridge?
Fresh or raw bacon will keep for a week in the refrigerator. Once cooked, it is safe to keep for another week. It may lose some crispness once cooled, but should work well in salads and sandwiches.
If your bacon isn’t sealed or packaged, ensure you keep it in an airtight container within the fridge.
Bacon can also be frozen, but won’t stay good indefinitely in the freezer.
It’s important to take care with bacon when thawing. The safest method is to slowly bring the temperature down by moving your bacon from the freezer into the fridge, where it will stay good for up to one week.
If you use cold water or a microwave to defrost your bacon, you must cook with it immediately, don’t store it in the fridge or freezer again after defrosting.
How To Tell If Bacon Is Bad
Bacon lovers will easily be able to tell if their bacon has turned bad. Even if you’re not a regular user of bacon, the odor and appearance of the meat are excellent indicators of freshness.
- Check the bacon use by date. As mentioned above, you have seven days after a bacon sell by date to use the product, however, if there is a use by date printed, you should consume or freeze the product before this date.
- Look at your bacon. Fresh bacon should be pinkish or reddish with white streaks of fat. It should look ‘bright.’ If you see the colors start to dull, or change to greyish, brownish or even develop a green tinge, the meat is bad and should not be consumed.
- Feel your bacon. Any slimy feeling indicates the bacon has gone bad. If you can feel sliminess when you touch the meat, dispose of it immediately and wash your hands!
- Smell. Your nose will tell you when your bacon is turning. The odor will be rotten, sour and rancid. If you even detect a slight ‘off ‘smell, don’t take the risk of eating the bacon.
What Does Bad Bacon Look Like?
Bad bacon will lose its fresh, pink-red hue and will start to turn grey, brown or maybe even slightly greenish. The flesh will also look dull, losing its healthy sheen.
Bacterial growth may also show up as green or black dots.
What Happens If You Eat Bad Bacon?
Bacon goes bad in two ways: bacterial growth can make it dangerous, and rancidity can make it smell nasty.
While high temperatures kill many bacteria, some can survive and make you very sick.
Eating bad bacon puts you at risk of food poisoning from a variety of bacteria – including E. coli; Staphylococcus aureus; Toxoplasmosis gondii; Campylobacter; Yersinia and Listeria.
Trichinosis is also a high risk, particularly with undercooked pork products.
All the above bacteria can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and fatigue – food poisoning is at best highly unpleasant and at worst downright dangerous, so don’t take any unnecessary risks when it comes to storing and handling bacon.