Let’s talk about the shelf life and spoilage of bacon.
Say you’ve got some leftover cooked bacon strips in the fridge that you forgot about. They’re there for over a week, and you’re not sure if you can use them.
Does bacon go bad, and if so, how can you tell?
Or maybe you’re opening a fresh package and want to know how long bacon lasts.
If either sounds familiar, you’re in the right place.
Does Bacon Go Bad?
Bacon goes bad. Even if you store it properly, an unopened package will keep for only a week or two, depending on the type, while open bacon lasts about a week refrigerated.
The exact storage periods depend on several factors, such as whether the bacon was cured, the curing method, if it was pre-cooked, and so on. In other words, it’s difficult to give you a one-size-fits-all answer.
But while storage times vary, the signs that your bacon is bad are usually quite obvious. Let’s talk about them.
How to Tell if Bacon Is Bad?
Discard bacon if:
- It’s discolored. Uncooked bacon looks like veins of pink or red meat within white fat. After cooking, that white fat turns yellow or orange. If your bacon has changed color and now looks kind of brown or gray, or there are any other discolored spots, it’s pretty apparent it’s no good.
- It smells off. Let me assume that you know how bacon smells and that its aroma is quite pleasant after cooking. If yours smells bitter or sour, it’s probably rancid, and if it gives off any other foul smell, it’s bad too.
- There’s organic growth on the surface. Fat-based products aren’t known for growing mold, but if your bacon strips haven’t been properly sealed and got contaminated, all bets are off. Look for anything unfamiliar, like off-color dots, fuzz, and the like.
- It’s slimy. Uncooked bacon is fresh and moist, while cooked is crispy. But if yours is seeping or becomes slimy, it’s done for. The same is true for slimy deli meat.
Those are the most common spoilage signs for bacon. But if you notice anything else that seems off, trust your gut and discard the meat. Better safe than sorry.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the shelf life of bacon.
How Long Does Bacon Last?
Unopened bacon typically lasts for a couple of days beyond the sell-by date, maybe up to a week, while open bacon lasts about a week. These periods work for most bacon products, but you can certainly find other storage time suggestions.
Because of that, it’s best to read the product label to learn the specifics for the product you’ve bought.
If you’re buying a slab of uncooked bacon from the butcher, and the slab is wrapped in butcher paper, treat it as open bacon and cook or freeze it within five to seven days. Not being commercially sealed means it’s going to last only so long.
The same applies to sliced bacon that you buy at the deli counter.
Finally, eat or freeze any bacon leftovers within four days of cooking. That’s the same rule that applies to pretty much all types of perishable leftovers.
That said, there are some exceptions to the aforementioned rules.
For instance, shelf-stable cooked bacon might last even a couple of months unopened. That’s why I suggest always reading the label for details.
Finally, let’s talk about storing bacon.
How to Store Bacon
Raw bacon requires refrigeration, so make sure it goes in the fridge immediately once you get home. Cooked bacon, in most cases, also requires refrigeration, but there are shelf-stable products, too. Read the label carefully for storage instructions.
Other than that, make sure your bacon is sealed properly after first opening the package. That means transferring the leftovers into a freezer bag or resealable container.
Shelf-stable cooked bacon typically has quite a long shelf life, but it still requires refrigeration after opening. So it’s a bit different from beef jerky in that manner.
If the storage periods outlined above are too short for your needs, freezing bacon is also an option. And you can freeze both cooked and uncooked bacon, depending on your preferences.
You might consider cooking the bacon if it’s uncooked, storing the rendered fat in the refrigerator, and freezing the cooked bacon. That works well because bacon grease lasts months in the fridge.
Bacon Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thanks for reading this primer on bacon. Here are the takeaways:
- Bacon doesn’t last forever. The typical spoilage signs include color changes, sliminess, and an off smell.
- Unopened bacon keeps for a few days beyond the sell-by date and keeps for about a week after opening. That’s the most common storage period, but what you buy might have a slightly longer or shorter shelf life, depending on how it’s produced.
- Raw bacon and most cooked bacon require refrigeration. There’s also shelf-stable bacon available that can sit at room temperature until you open the package. After opening, refrigeration is usually in order.