Did you know that improperly stored bacon can go bad even before its expiration date? Bacon is a delicate food and many factors can impact its quality and taste, including proper packaging and storage.
Unopened raw bacon can last for 2 weeks in the refrigerator and 8 months in the freezer, while raw bacon that was opened and resealed can last for up to a week in the refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer without getting spoiled. Cooked bacon has a shorter shelf-life and can last for up to 5 days in the refrigerator and about a month in the freezer.
It is highly recommended that once the packaging of bacon is opened or cooked, you should consume it immediately. But are you often left with raw or cooked bacon and wonder what you should do with the rest of the content? Calm down! Here’s everything you need to know about how to store bacon and how to improve its shelf life.
How To Tell If Bacon Is Bad
Bacon is a highly perishable food item. If you consume bacon that has gone bad, there are fair chances of food poisoning, which may include symptoms like fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, headache, nausea, and body ache.
Fortunately, if bacon gets rancid, you can easily identify it with some clear indications. Here are certain signs that will help you determine whether the bacon has gone bad or is still safe to consume:
- Color – The color of the bacon should be pink with the outer fatty layer being white or yellow. If the bacon has a tinge of brown, gray, green (moldy flakes), or blue, then the bacon is spoiled. The color change is because of exposure to air and microorganisms.
- Smell – Spoiled bacon will have a fishy, sour, pungy, or unpleasant rotting smell. The smell is due to the rancidity of the meat and bacterial contamination.
- Touch – If you touch the bacon and it feels slimy or has a sticky sheen around it, then consider it as spoiled. Accelerated microbial activity and release of lactic acid from certain types of bacteria cause this slimy texture.
How To Store Bacon
Before you learn how long bacon lasts in the fridge, it is of crucial importance to store it scientifically. When stored right, there is an improvement in the shelf-life of the meat.
Storing Raw Bacon
- Always check the sell-by-date and ensure that you pick the freshest stock of bacon.
- To restore opened bacon, store it tightly in resealable plastic or zip-top bag/ aluminum foil/ several layers of plastic wrap. If you practice a clean lifestyle, you can also store the bacon in an airtight glass container.
- If you intend to use the bacon within a day or two, then the bacon may also be wrapped in a paper towel and stored. This helps in absorbing the excess moisture produced from the bacon.
- Check the bacon regularly, especially when you are storing it in the refrigerator. If you see signs of spoilage, discard it immediately to avoid contamination with other food.
- If the packaging was opened, then do not restore the bacon to its original packaging. Instead, place it immediately in an airtight, resealable bag.
- Whenever you are storing bacon in a bag or container, try to carefully remove excess air or vacuum seal the pack.
- Salting and splitting are good techniques to preserve the quality, tenderness, and texture of the meat.
Storing Cooked Bacon
- Since bacteria grow rapidly between 40℉ to 140℉, cooked bacon should always be stored within 2 hours of cooking.
- Use a shallow airtight container or a plastic wrap to store cooked bacon.
- If you have bacon strips, then arrange each strip between layers of paper towel and place the paper towel in a large zip-top bag.
How Long Does Bacon Last In the Fridge
Though bacon is usually cured before packaging, one must be careful about the expiration dates. Unlike other kinds of meat that have expiry dates on their label, bacon usually has a ‘sell-by-date’ on the package.
However, the sell-by date is not a true indicator of whether it is safe to consume when the date is passed. One can safely consume the meat even after the expiration of the mentioned date and if not stored properly, the meat may have gone rancid even before it reached your table.
How Long Does Cooked Bacon Last In The Fridge
Cooked bacon has a shorter shelf-life than unopened bacon. If the bacon was not smoked properly, there are high chances of rapid spoilage. As clearly mentioned by the USDA, cooked should not sit out for more than 2 hours. When cooked bacon is stored under appropriate conditions in an airtight container, it can last for up to one month in the freezer and about 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Bacon grease can stay for 6 months in the refrigerator and up to 9 months in the freezer.
How Long Does Unopened Bacon Last In The Fridge
Normally, an unopened package of bacon will last for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Once you open the package, the air and microorganisms shorten the shelf-life of the bacon. Raw bacon in an open package will last for about a week past the expiration date. You should reseal it immediately (preferably, vacuum pack it) to preserve its quality. This shelf-life applies to all types of bacon, including pancetta or turkey bacon.
How Long Does Raw Bacon Last In The Fridge
Raw bacon that has been opened and then properly resealed can last up to a week in the refrigerator and it can stay up to 6 months in the freezer. Out of all the available storage options, vacuum-packed bacon can be stored for the longest time in the freezer.
The recommended storage time ensures that the meat is preserved at its best quality, however, if you do not worry much about the quality and taste, the meat will still be safe to eat beyond this time, especially if stored in the freezer.
How To Defrost Bacon
It is important to thaw or defrost bacon before you start cooking it. When the bacon is thawed properly, the meat gets cooked evenly and there is no splattering of the juices. There are several ways of thawing bacon. Some of them are:
- Relocate the frozen bacon to the fridge and let it thaw overnight.
- Defrost the bacon under running water or place it in cold water for about 30 minutes.
- If you are short on time, then you may use the microwave method for quick defrosting. For this, set your microwave to defrost setting (or power reduced to 30%) and allow the bacon to defrost in increments of 45-60 seconds. Closely monitor and try to separate the slices with the help of a knife in between the increments. Make sure to remove any plastic packaging before microwaving.
If you are using slab bacon, then you should check the ends and discard any darkened or dried parts before cooking the bacon.
Let’s have a quick look at how long you can store bacon in the fridge and a freezer.
|In the Refrigerator||In the Freezer|
|Unopened Bacon||2 weeks||8 months|
|Raw Bacon Opened & Resealed||1 week||6 months|
|Cooked Bacon||4-5 days||1 month|
When storing bacon in the refrigerator, be very sure to tightly pack it to eliminate chances of any bacterial or fungal contamination. You may also label it with a date. Do remember that certain varieties of bacon, such as dry-cured bacon, have an extended shelf-life. Although bacon lasts for several months in the freezer, the sooner you consume it, the better will be the quality and flavor of the meat.
Scot has loved smoking food in his free time for the last few years. Each major holiday or off-weekend, Scot spends days testing and prepping new recipes for perfection.