Bacon! Everyone’s favorite breakfast treat (and lunch, dinner, and snack!). If it’s been sitting in the fridge for a while, sometimes we might ask ourselves the question, does bacon go bad? 🥓
It may not be as straightforward as you think, so let’s explore this idea together.
As with all organic kitchen items, bacon is a perishable product and does eventually go bad.
It is, however, better placed than most to withstand the sands of time and stay fresh enough to satisfy those cravings that I know you have.
Since bacon is a cured meat (cured in this sense simply means brined in a solution of salt), the shelf life tends to be significantly increased when compared to other consumables.
Generally, bacon comes pre-cooked and cured directly out of the factory, however for the purpose of this article we will assume that uncooked means raw from the store and cooked means post-cooking at home.
So, the answer is yes, bacon does go bad.
Let’s take a deep dive into how much time you have when dealing with different situations of God’s gift to breakfast.
Does cooked bacon go bad?
It is recommended to consume leftover cooked bacon within 4 to 5 days from the date of cooking.
(Knowing what I’m like with bacon, it shouldn’t be an issue.)
Also, is there such a thing as leftover bacon? A concept that is hard to fathom.
How long does uncooked bacon last?
First things first, how often have you bought a meat item from the store that doesn’t have a use-by date.
This is always the best way to determine if your uncooked bacon is still ready to get crispy.
If you don’t have access to the manufacturer’s date, uncooked bacon can last quite a while, provided it stays in the refrigerator at safe temperatures.
The US Department of Agriculture lists uncooked bacon to remain ready to go for up to 4-6 weeks.
How long does cooked bacon last?
As we discussed in the previous section, cooked bacon should last for around 4 to 5 days from the date that you fried it up.
In terms of freshness, I would recommend not leaving it for more than a day or so, as it tends to get very dry and rubbery in the fridge.
How to tell if uncooked bacon has gone bad
If you no longer have the packaging to use as a guide, then you have several handy tools up your sleeve to deduct whether you are good to go.
Smell – Take a big old whiff of our salty treat, it’s going to be blatantly obvious if something’s up: sour, old paint, turpentine, general unpalatable smell, are all ways to use your nose to determine that it’s time to throw old bacon out.
Generally, fresh bacon has a very mild, slightly smoky aroma.
Observe – Are there any noticeable abnormal colors on your bacon? Usually, scary molds like to show themselves off with bright blue and pink colors. Always better to avoid this situation. (Note though that in large scale factory production nitrites are used to aid in preserving, which can produce a slight ‘green’ effect through the bacon, which is totally fine).
Touch – Old bacon tends to get a bit slimy when it is on the way out. It is a bit of an art to be able to tell whether it is still ok in this situation, but it’s better to be safe than sorry (when in doubt, throw it out).
How to tell if cooked bacon has gone bad
If you feel you need to ask yourself the question, that’s probably a good indicator that you might be in dangerous territory.
Generally, though, there are similarities to checking uncooked bacon that we mentioned before, however, there are slight differences:
1. Smell – A timeless tool for checking all food. If you pull your face back in disgust, it’s bad; throw it away.
2. Observe – Keep an eye out for those pesky molds, sometimes a white mold can be present which is more difficult to see and can be masked by the natural colors of our meaty friend.
3. Touch – Old, cooked bacon tends to get dry and stiff the older it gets. If it’s on the edge of being okay to eat, fair chance it won’t be that enjoyable anyway.
How long can uncooked bacon sit out?
Why do you want to leave it out? The longer it sits out, the longer time it spends traveling down the highway to the temperature danger zone. Tom Cruise refrigerates his bacon.
For this situation, we can use the simple 2-hour/4-hour guide:
- For less than 2 hours you can throw it back in your refrigerator
- 2 to 4 hours you should use it immediately
- For more than 4 hours you should throw it out
How long can cooked bacon sit out?
The 2-hour/4-hour guide can also be used for cooked bacon, so make sure you refrigerate before 2 hours and eat it straight away for 2 to 4 hours.
In my experience, you probably don’t need to throw it out as soon as it hits four hours, but just make sure you are careful by not pushing the limits too far.
This is particularly true if you live in a place that has a high ambient temperature and humidity, as this can accelerate the rate of bacterial growth.
It’s always best to use an element of caution when dealing with food safety to avoid putting yourself or any of your loved ones at risk of getting sick.
It’s rare, but why risk it?
How long can you use bacon past the use-by date?
Hot tip: Don’t use bacon after the use-by date unless you enjoy the fruits of gastroenteritis.
In all seriousness though, refer to our handy three-step deductive process that was outlined in the previous sections to understand how to test if your bacon has gone bad.
While bacon is cured and has plenty of preservatives and salt, it’s still a raw food.
Some kitchen items tend to spoil very close to the use-by date that is provided by the manufacturer, however, some items will be ok for a significant period after.
Because bacon is a cured product and likely mass-produced with some elements of preservatives added, there is a fair chance that the use-by date that is provided could be conservative, and your bacon will still be good to go.
(Note that there is always a small amount of risk to this so it’s always good to be careful).
Here’s a list of our Bacon How-To articles:
Tips on storing uncooked bacon
It’s always recommended to store all meats in the refrigerator, with an airtight covering to reduce the risk of drying out.
If possible, you can extend the time that bacon will last by keeping the time that it spends back out of the fridge to a minimum.
The less time it spends at an elevated temperature, the less risk there is for the bacteria that cause spoilage to grow.
If you have the capability, then you can always try to emulate the professionals and invest in a vacuum sealing machine.
These hot little numbers use the power of a vacuum to suck all the air out of the vacuum sealing storage bag so that you have an airless and airtight bacon package (if you need any birthday gift ideas, then look no further!).
Lots of bacon is packaged this way when sold on grocery store shelves.
This is just the way to keep it fresh after you’ve started using that original packaged bacon.
Since oxygen, which is a primary component of the air around us, is one of the main factors that promote bacterial growth, your bacon will end up lasting much longer than if you just kept it in an airtight container.
You may have already noticed that the bacon you buy comes in a vacuum-sealed packet.
Note that there is a range of vacuum sealing machines out there, with varying levels of quality.
The machine linked above will do just fine for simply storing foods, however, if you really want to get into some serious cooking, take a look at a chamber vacuum sealer.
This unlocks new worlds to your cooking adventures. Think compressing, fermenting, marinating, and pickling.
And if you are a fan of cooking with bacon grease, check out our best FAQ on how to tell if bacon grease has gone bad.
Tips on storing cooked bacon
Like uncooked bacon, cooked bacon should be refrigerated in an airtight container or wrapped to achieve a similar effect.
As I mentioned previously, the shelf life of cooked bacon is only 4-5 days at a maximum.
There’s more storage tips for cooked bacon available.
Ways to Use Bacon
Thanks for coming to our website and using our FAQ pages! Since you are here, we’ve listed six delicious bacon recipes to satisfy your cravings:
Your new favorite appetizer, snack or anything else. A bit of salt, sweet, and a kick, too (if you want).
These are fun to make and fun to eat!
Sugar, Bacon, Spice, and all things nice! What more could you want.
Crack out the cowboy boots baby and grab the bourbon!
Spread this delightful little treat all over your bread.
A massive list to help you with bacon-inspired meals!
Make your special someone’s heart melt with these romantic snackies.
Level up Christmas Lunch or anytime. I mean, it’s bacon time anytime.
If you’ve ever wondered how to make pancetta bacon, this is your chance!
Focus in on the delicious starters made better with bacon!
The bottom line
As with all things in life, bacon does indeed go bad over time.
When dealing with raw bacon, make sure you adhere to manufacturer use-by dates and use the smell, observe, and touch tests to check for freshness.
Generally, uncooked bacon will last for up to 6 weeks.
Cooked bacon does go bad and needs to be consumed within 4-5 days from the date of cooking.
Utilize the handy smell, observe and touch tests that we mentioned, and remember that what you are
looking for is slightly different when compared to uncooked.
If all else fails, the simplest way to make sure your bacon is safe to eat is to buy it, cook it and eat it all on the same day!
More bacon! Moar, moar!
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- Raw, uncooked fresh bacon
- Vacuum sealer machine
- Vacuum sealer bag
- Portion your uncooked bacon so it fits into the vacuum-sealer bag.
- Place bacon in a vacuum-sealer bag according to directions.
- Seal according to machine directions.
- Move vacuum-sealed bag with bacon to the refrigerator.
- Keep unopened or use within four weeks.