Does Bacon Go Bad?

So you bought an extra pack or two of bacon on a sale a week ago, and today you’ve started wondering: does bacon go bad? As a bacon lover, you usually eat it way before it begins to deteriorate, so you never needed to find out how long does it last.

Or perhaps you’ve seen pre-cooked bacon on a shelf in the supermarket and were caught off guard that it wasn’t refrigerated. Maybe you even wanted to try it out, as it sounds super convenient, but you wanted first to check if shelf-stable bacon is actually a thing.

Either way, if you have any questions regarding bacon storage, shelf life, and going bad, this article is for you. In it, we talk about raw bacon, pre-cooked bacon, and of course the bacon you’ve cooked yourself at home. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on.

Bacon on a grill pan
(credit:Elin B)

How To Store Bacon

Let’s start by talking about raw bacon. Like ham, or pretty much any other raw meat, you should store it in the fridge. Choose a far corner of the refrigerator for best results.

Once you open the package, you need a way to wrap the bacon, so it doesn’t dry out and leak the smell to other foods in the fridge. If the original package is resealable, feel free to use it. If not, there are a couple of options. Putting the package in a freezer bag is my favorite because it’s convenient and doesn’t generate any waste. But you can also wrap it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap if that’s your preference.

Once you’ve cooked the bacon and you need to store the leftovers, the fridge is the way to go as well. An airtight container or a freezer bag are the obvious choices here. Once again, remember always to keep the bacon sealed tightly.

Now let’s talk about that store-bought pre-cooked bacon. It comes in two varieties: the shelf-stable one I mentioned in the intro and the one that requires refrigeration. And as you have probably figured out, you store it the same way it’s stored in the supermarket.

The shelf-stable one can sit at room temperature, in the pantry or kitchen. Just make sure it’s not near any heat sources or in sunlight. Once you open the package, you should refrigerate the leftovers. The refrigerated variety should always sit in the fridge. Just like with raw bacon, pre-cooked bacon should, too, be well wrapped to retain quality for longer.

Burger with bacon, and fries
(credit: Robin Stickel)

Can You Freeze Bacon?

It won’t come as a surprise that you can freeze bacon. And it freezes pretty well.

Tip

Remember that cooked bacon freezes better than raw one. So if you’re not in a hurry, it pays to cook the bacon first. That comes with the bonus of the bacon being ready to go right after thawing.

Okay, so you’ve got your bacon ready. Now think about how you plan to use it. If it’s a big chunk, maybe it’s better to cut it into a few smaller ones. Or perhaps slicing or cubing the bacon would make sense, so it’s prepped for when you need it. This step is optional, but I find that if the food in the freezer is already prepped, I have a much easier time choosing it instead of what’s available in the fridge.

Once you’re finished with that additional prep, it’s time to freeze the bacon. Transfer the chunks, slices, or cubes into freezer bags or airtight containers. Try to pack into each container only as much as you use within a few days. Or if you like convenience, for one meal. The last thing to do is to add a label with name and date to each bag. Once everything is ready, chuck it all into the freezer.

When it comes to defrosting, the fridge is the ideal choice, but there are also other ways to do that in less time.

Bacon and egg breakfast muffin
(credit: Margo Brodowicz)

How Long Does Bacon Last

Once again, let’s start with raw bacon. It’s usually vacuum sealed and comes with a use-by or best-before date. And that date is a pretty good estimate of how long it will retain quality. Of course, you can get away with storing it a few days past that date, but that’s about it. Once you open the package, the bacon should keep quality for about a week. Or less, if you’ve opened it after the date on the label.

Once you’ve cooked the bacon, it can last for about 4 to 5 days in the fridge. If you won’t be able to use it within that period, freeze it.

Last but not least, precooked bacon. The shelf-stable variety comes with a best-by date, and you can easily keep the pork meat around until that date, and then a week or maybe two more. Once you open the package, finish the product within 4 to 7 days. The guidelines for refrigerated precooked bacon are quite similar.

 PantryFridge
Raw bacon (unopened) Use-by + 5 -7 days
Raw bacon (opened) 5 – 7 days
Cooked bacon 4 – 5 days
Precooked bacon (sold refrigerated, unopened) Use-by + 5 – 7 days
Precooked bacon (sold refrigerated, opened) 4 – 5 days
Precooked bacon (sold unrefrigerated, unopened)Best-by + 1 – 2 weeks 
Precooked bacon (sold unrefrigerated, opened) 4 – 5 days

Please note that the periods above are estimates only.

Grilling bacon
Image used under Creative Commons from Didriks

How To Tell If Bacon Is Bad

This is one of those things where your intuition won’t let you down.

You certainly will know that the bacon is bad when it is. It will smell awful (pretty difficult to miss that), it will be slimy, and its color will slowly change to brown, grey, or maybe even green. If you notice that any of these things start to happen, it’s probably best to throw it out right away.

If you already store bacon way past the estimates outlined above, discard it, even if it seems to be okay. And as usual, the old rule: when in doubt throw it out applies to bacon too.