Home Nutrition How Long Does Bacon Last?

How Long Does Bacon Last?

Written by Charmaine Canlas, RPh

Bacon is a popular addition to any meal.

You can have it for breakfast, complement your meals, and add it to your burger or sandwich.

Several households keep it as a regular addition to their grocery list. Some may stock a few amounts of it in their fridge.

Unfortunately, bacon can quickly spoil if stored improperly or left too long uneaten.   

When preparing home-cooked meals, it is essential to have fresh and good-quality ingredients.

Not only will this ensure great tasting food but also impact your health.

The risks of contamination of food and ingesting harmful bacterias can impose dangers to anyone who consumes it. 

Ensure the food you’re serving is safe by knowing how to distinguish between fresh bacon and bad bacon.

It may not be as simple as checking an expiration date because bacon is usually labeled with a sell-by date.

On top of that, different factors can influence whether bacon will spoil at a later or earlier time than what is indicated on its package.

To get the best out of your pack of bacon at home, you should know how to store it properly and when is the best time to cook it.

Does Bacon Go Bad? 3 Obvious Signs

What is Good Quality Bacon?

Bacon is cured belly of young pigs between 6 to 7 months old. Most bacon sold in the United States is streaky bacon.

These are long narrow slices of pink meat with white fat. Other types of bacon are American-style Canadian bacon which are round slices of pink meat from the loin.

Different meats can also be used, such as turkey meat and beef cuts.

Bacon is high in water and fat, making it easy to spoil. There is an increased risk of bacterial contamination.

However, bacon has a lower chance of growing mold due to the high sodium content of the meat.

Knowing if the bacon you are serving is of good quality is essential for cooking a healthy meal for your family or yourself.

Cured meat like bacon is often perceived not to go rancid quickly, but this is not the case.

Good bacon is sold fresh with only the necessary ingredients for curing raw meat. Choose a brand of bacon that uses high-quality meat from humane and sanitary facilities for raising pigs.

Tasty bacon can also be obtained from fresh meat at a local meat shop and curing it after.

Unnecessary additives and chemicals will interfere with its taste and the nutrition it offers.

The production and consumption of processed meat such as bacon are increasing.

They are sold using advanced preservation technology such as modified atmosphere or vacuum-packed conditions. This method prolongs the shelf life of bacon.

Contamination of bacon is strictly monitored during the production of the meat.

A careful selection of meat trimmings, syringing of other ingredients, packaging, and handling is determined to prevent the risk of immediate spoiling when sold on retail shelves.

The risk of contamination and spoilage is much higher once the product is out of the stores and in the hands of consumers.

3 Ways to Tell that Bacon is Bad

Improperly stored bacon can spoil quickly and become contaminated with Salmonella and E.coli. Old bacon that’s been forgotten in the fridge for too long should be checked regularly.

Leftover bacon that is not appropriately sealed also holds risks of going rancid early.

In addition, the temperature of storage condition, moisture content, and exposure to oxidation are essential contributors to its freshness.

If bacon is kept out too long at room temperature before being placed in the fridge or freezer, the expiration date will not be accurate and may come earlier than indicated.

Meat is one of the most perishable produce. Bad bacon has a suitable environment for growing a wide variety of microorganisms.

The breakdown of fat, protein, and carbohydrates in bacon is the result of the change of its sensory characteristics.

There are three ways how to tell if bacon is bad. These are the detectable effects of food spoilage which is a naturally occurring process.

You can use your basic senses and common knowledge on meat spoilage and the qualities of bacon.

This includes utilizing:

1) Sense of Sight

Fresh bacon should have the natural pink color of meat with white or yellowish strips of fat.

Comparably, bad bacon has a dark brown or gray color meat and may have a hint of green or blue color. Oxygen exposure on the meat leads to a chemical reaction leading to a change in appearance.

The formation of hydrogen peroxide will cause green discoloration. Oxidative discoloration of cooked meat during storage is also affected by light exposure.

Moreover, the headspace volume or the amount of air in its container that can cause oxidation will contribute to its spoilage.

2) Sense of Smell

Bacon has a distinct and pleasant aroma.

Fresh bacon will have the same smell whether it is on a plate or the packet. It will be pretty easy to distinguish the smell of fresh bacon from a bad one.

Spoiled meat will have a sour smell or even be fishy and rotting. However, the off-odor of vacuum-packed meat such as bacon is less intense.

If the bacon smells weird with a sour, acid aroma this is caused by lactic acid bacteria.

3) Sense of Touch

Fresh bacon should have a moist and soft texture if it feels slimy to the touch and has a gooey gloss around it.

Lactic acid bacteria that form in spoiled and raw bacon causes a slimy consistency or a sticky texture. Remember to wash your hands after touching spoiled bacon.

Vacuum-packed meat such as bacon is more likely to form ropy slime contamination.

The stretchy, ropy slime is found between the surface of products and the packaging or slices of meat.

Slime production gives an opportunity for bacteria to grow due to its moist layer.

What is Bad Bacon?

If your bacon fails to pass all three freshness tests, it is a sign to throw it away.

Even if you have tried bad bacon before and have not experienced anything unpleasant, it doesn’t mean you’ll be lucky every time.

There are risks and consequences of eating bad bacon. Like other meats and poultry, pork frequently contains bacterial pathogens that are destroyed by cooking.

Never undercook bacon to avoid the risks of contracting any bacterias, parasites, or viruses.

The Cause of Bacon Spoilage

Bacteria is responsible for meat spoilage which turns bacon bad.

If it smells sour, feels slimy, and has discoloration of the pink meat this is caused by a species of bacteria.

Spoiled meat products have a high risk of being contaminated with various species of bacterias. An excessive amount of food is wasted due to these despite the modern preservation of food.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization declared that one-third of food produced is wasted due to spoilage.

The cause of this is usually attributed to physical damage, chemical reactions, pests, and microbial growth.

The characteristics which indicate that bacon has gone bad are dependent on its glucose, lactic acid, nitrogenous compounds, and free amino acids.

Cured meat such as bacon is susceptible to spoilage because of these qualities.

The type of bacteria that contaminates the meat and its oxygen affinity will be variable.

Lactic acid bacteria are widespread in nature; they are common contaminants of fresh bacon and also of cooked bacon.

Vacuum- and modified atmosphere-packed fresh bacon or cooked bacon are easily compromised by strains of lactic acid bacteria.

They are the Specific Spoilage Organism of products stored under these packaging conditions.

The research presents data that the influence of storage conditions and composition of bacon is dependent on the selection, growth rate, and activity of bacteria present.

The predominant species of bacteria are Brochotrix, Carnobacterium, Enterobacters, Lactobacillus, Pseudomonas, and Shewanella.

A study conducted on vacuum-packaged sliced bacon in four separate manufacturing plants was evaluated in a survey on shelf-life characteristics of bacon.

It concluded that prolonged storage time is the main contributor to bacon spoilage regardless of the variations of bacon brands.

Symptoms of Eating Bad Bacon

Do not attempt to taste suspected spoiled bacon.

Use the 3 mentioned ways to distinguish bad bacon.

It will taste sour and will cause food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning may include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, and stomach ache.

Mild poisoning may resolve on its own with only harmless symptoms.

Food poisoning can become dangerous and will be caused by viruses, parasites, and bacteria.

These organisms can compromise your health.

Diseases such as toxoplasmosis, trichinosis, and tapeworm infection manifest from eating undercooked and rotten meat.

If you accidentally consume a large amount of bad meat, consult a healthcare provider for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms to look out for are severe abdominal pain, blood vomit, high fever, extreme dehydration, and drowsiness.

Generally, bacon itself can also pose a risk in a few lifestyle diseases such as heart disease and obesity. Its high-fat content and cholesterol can lead to an unhealthy diet.

The right way to consume bacon is to have it in moderation and maintain a healthy lifestyle. You cannot deprive yourself entirely of delicious food.

If bacon is eaten at the right proportions, its benefits will outweigh its downsides.

Shopping for Bacon

When purchasing a pack of raw bacon from a store, always check the expiry date on the packaging. The packaging may be labeled with a “use by” or “sell by” date.

Select the package with the farthest date of expiry.

You can find good bacon for later use on the back of the rows, but if you plan to consume the bacon in a few days, you can select some on the front row.

There are different brands of bacon, and each of them can have ingredients other than bacon.

There can be preservatives, flavoring, or food dyes to enhance its color.

Check these ingredients and look up available options. Some types of bacon can have fewer unnecessary ingredients and are healthier.

The basic ingredients commonly used are for curing the meat; anything else is just additives.

Your best option is bacon produced locally that uses very few preservatives and chemicals to enhance its taste.

Fresh bacon will taste better if it is not doused with artificial flavor.

Before you get that bacon from the store fridge, see to it that you don’t get it too early. This will have your bacon warmed up under a pile of other grocery items.

Get your frozen or wet goods as the last item before paying at the counter. Put them in a separate basket on top of your groceries.

Once you get home, do not leave it out for too long. Immediately store your bacon in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you have a cooler in your car for frozen goods, that would be an efficient way to keep your fresh meat products cold.

Proper Storage and Preparation of Bacon

If you plan to stock up on bacon, you need to practice proper handling, storage and regularly check its quality and condition.

Proper storage of leftover bacon, cooked bacon, or raw bacon will maximize their shelf life and quality before consumption.

1) Unopened and uncooked bacon

Keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. This bacon will last for 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Bacon will last for 6-8 months in the freezer if you freeze it.

Immediately store it upon purchase. Even if it is sealed and newly bought, it can lose its freshness if left too long out with other groceries.

If you are going to freeze bacon, you can also wrap it with aluminum foil.

2) Opened and uncooked bacon

Enclose it with paper towels and a resealable plastic bag for opened bacon before storing it. You can also use aluminum foils or plastic wrap as long as it’s well wrapped.

This will prevent excessive moisture from spoiling the bacon quickly.

Opened bacon and uncooked bacon can last for one week in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer. Minimize the exposure to air of opened bacon.

Smooth out the bag for minimal air or use a vacuum sealer before freezing or refrigerating any cured meat.

Additionally, label the wrap to allow you to monitor its date of expiry.

3) Cooked bacon

If you have extra bacon from your last batch of cooking, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days.

Although unusual, you can store cooked bacon in the freezer for 2 months in the freezer. It can help preserve its quality if you wrap it properly similarly to how uncooked bacon is wrapped.

For cooked bacon, you may store it in an air-tight container or freezer bag to ensure that it will not leak.

You can also label the wrap of your cooked bacon and indicate the date it was cooked. Separate into small portions to prevent sticking together and breaking when thawed.

If you decide to store bacon in the freezer, monitor and check its quality regularly. Despite how long bacon can be frozen its fat can still go rancid.

Moreover, the taste and quality can change. Note that before cooking bacon from the freezer, thaw the bacon carefully.

4) Thawing Bacon

Do not defrost bacon at room temperature on a plate or the sink.

You can thaw frozen bacon using different methods to make sure its quality is not affected.

  • You can thaw bacon in the refrigerator. Despite the slow process, it is safely defrosted without breaking. If you plan to cook it in a day or so, you can place it in the fridge overnight. Moreover, you can refreeze your bacon if you decide to cook it for another day.
  • In cold water, you can soak your bacon until it is completely thawed. It is important to keep the pack of bacon in a sealed plastic bag to prevent water from seeping in. This method may be faster but it can also pose the risk of contamination if the bag leaks.
  • Using a microwave to defrost bacon can be useful if you plan to cook it immediately. Nevertheless, this method is not recommended if you will store the remaining bacon for later use.
  • Foods defrosted using the microwave or cold water method should be all cooked before storing again in the fridge or freezer. There is a risk of contamination of bacteria when bacon is exposed to temperatures above 40 Fahrenheit.

What is the Shelf Life of Bacon?

The shelf life of a product is the period of time that the food still has its fresh characteristics. It is linked to the deterioration of bacon, creating a borderline between an unacceptable and acceptable quality of bacon.

The shelf life of bacon will depend on various factors. The type of bacon, storage method, and if it’s still sealed or opened.

Bacon can spoil in 1-2 weeks, even after the sell-by date. This is if it has proper packaging and storage conditions. It can also be frozen for 6-8 months.

The sell-by date is a precaution to encourage people to consume the pack of bacon sooner.

Nevertheless, it is still safe for consumption in the mentioned span of days, provided that it is safely stored and has no signs of spoilage.

However, if the packaging indicates a use-by date, it more likely is unsafe to eat it after the date. Do not confuse the two labels.

The sell-by date is an instruction for the seller, while the use-by date is the expiration date of the product.

An unopened package of uncooked bacon when stored properly will have a longer shelf life.

Even if you opened it for a second and resealed it immediately, the bacon can be stored for later use and not lose its quality.

There are other types of bacon other than regular bacon that is made of pork. Canadian bacon has a shorter shelf life than regular bacon.

If properly stored, it will last for 3 to 4 days in the fridge and 4 to 8 weeks in the freezer. Nevertheless, other types of bacon such as beef or turkey bacon have a similar shelf life to regular bacon.

Tips for Fresh Bacon

  • The best way to store your bacon for long-term use is by freezing it. A temperature of 0 Fahrenheit or lower is the optimal environment for freezing bacon. However, be advised that bacon can lose its fresh quality after 1-2 months.
  • Using aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or ziplock to prevent freezer burn and lengthen its shelf life. If the ends of the bacon turn hard and brown you can remove the hardened ends and cook it as normal.
  • Some people cook bacon and then store it for later use. If you often eat bacon in your daily meals, storing cooked bacon can save you the hassle. You can keep cooked bacon longer in an airtight container. Remove the excess fat off with a paper towel, store it properly either in the fridge or freezer. However, it is better to slightly undercook your bacon so when you reheat your bacon it won’t become overcooked.
  • Cooked bacon bits can be stored the same way and last for 6 weeks in the fridge and up to six months in the freezer. You can add it to your recipes and add some taste to your meals when you get a bacon craving.
  • Thick slabs of bacon don’t freeze well. Its high salt content can cause the fat to go rancid quickly. Nevertheless, you can wrap it in foil or place it in a tight seal container for a few weeks in a refrigerator and not a freezer.
  • Freezing bacon in small strips is more effective. Bacon slices can be arranged and separated on wax paper and frozen for a longer shelf-life.
  • Always check the date on the bacon packet. Consume bacon sooner when it is near the indicated date and arrange your meat products according to their expiry. Put the old or leftover bacon on the front to be easily accessible. Be that as it may, unopened bacon can still become bad earlier than its expiry if it is not stored properly.
  • Spoiled meat can contaminate other meat products around it. Wrap the spoiled bacon before throwing it to prevent the smell from spreading.  

The Bottom Line

Bacon is a commonly packed meat purchased in the market.

These are often perceived to have long shelf lives. However, vacuum-packed and cured meats like store brought bacon are at high risk of spoilage due to bacterias.

Ropy slime formation also increases the opportunity for attracting bacterial growth.

The consequences of eating spoiled bacon can lead from a minor inconvenience to severe food poisoning.

There are several factors to consider when storing bacon.

This may differ from whether you have uncooked or cooked bacon, opened or unopened seal, refrigerator or freezer storage, and the thickness or type of bacon you have.

Nevertheless, you can be sure to avoid bad meat if you follow the correct handling and storage for fresh bacon.

More importantly, distinguishing the signs of non-spoiled bacon from spoiled one is more practical since the rancidity of cured meats can be unpredictable.

Simply knowing the appearance, smell, and texture of bacon will save you from food poisoning.

Healthy cooking means knowing that your ingredients are safe and of good quality. Bacon is cured meat, a staple in breakfast for many.

However, it can go bad if not stored properly. There are factors to tell whether bacon is fresh or bad.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does bacon go bad?

Bacon goes bad due to bacterial contamination. Commonly due to lactic acid bacteria. Exposure to too much air and moisture also makes spoilage quick. Improper storage and handling is a preventable cause of bacon going bad. Signs that bacon has gone bad are eminent to its smell, taste, and texture.

How long does bacon last?

Fresh bacon lasts for up to two weeks in the fridge after its sell-by date and up to 8 months in the freezer. Cooked bacon can last around a week in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer. Despite the indicated shelf life, only eat bacon if it looks perfectly fine.

What do I do if I eat bad bacon?

Eating spoiled bacon can cause food poisoning. If you experience mild symptoms they may go away on their own and be relieved with over-the-counter medicine. However, consult a doctor promptly if symptoms persist or worsen.

How should I cook frozen bacon?

After freezing bacon, if uncooked thaw it over warm water or defrost it in a microwave before cooking. For frozen cooked bacon the same goes as well but only reheat it at low to medium temperature to avoid overcooking.

How long before bacon goes bad at room temperature?

When you get home, place your purchased bacon in the refrigerator immediately. Both cooked and uncooked bacon should not be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. Bacon goes bad at temperatures between 40 to 140 Fahrenheit.

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