For meat lovers, there’s nothing quite as delicious for breakfast. The sizzle and salty aroma get our stomachs growling when someone is cooking bacon. Have you ever forgotten to put the package of bacon, cold, frozen, or cooked away? Everybody hates throwing their favorite food away, so how long can bacon stay out of the fridge?
Uncooked bacon should not be out of the fridge for more than two hours unless it is dry-cured. It allows bacteria in the meat to multiply rapidly at room temperature, which can cause severe illness when consumed. Cooked bacon lasts longer outside the fridge but may lose its flavor and become tough.
Bacon is a firm favorite with most meat lovers and is superb in many meals besides simply being served at an English breakfast.
It takes soups and pasta to the next level and is perfect on pizzas and sandwiches or salads. 99.9% of the time, we all take care to store our foods correctly. But, on the off-chance that you’ve forgotten to put the bacon away, here are some clues to determine whether it’s still safe to eat.
How Long Can Bacon Stay Out Of The Refrigerator?
The length of time it can stay at room temperature depends on several factors. Whether it is cooked or raw, an opened package or still sealed, the type of bacon it is, and its expiration date all factor into discussions around its safety.
However, the FDA and USDA are much stricter regarding food safety rules.
Does Uncooked Bacon Go Bad in Fridge?
Because it is a cured meat, some believe it has a longer lifespan than other types of meat. But there are different methods for curing meat. The type of bacon we find in grocery stores is heat processed in a convection oven instead of the traditional way of smoking the pork belly. The benefit of heat-curing is that it speeds up the process from several days to about six hours.
It is treated with nitrates and salt before going into the oven. When done, the meat gets sliced for packaging and cooled rapidly to below 40°F to prevent the growth of bacteria. According to culinary school rules, fresh meat should not stay unrefrigerated for longer than four hours.
The FDA stipulates two hours as a maximum time.
Bacteria multiply quickly between temperatures of 40°F and 140°F. If the typical room temperature is 68°F (20°C ), harmful bacteria could develop rapidly soon after being left outside the fridge. In warmer climates, this process could happen far more quickly.
Dry-cured bacon is cured for days, which makes it far more resistant to bacteria growth. But this is not typically available in supermarkets. According to the USDA, you can use dry-cured bacon up to ten days later if it’s unrefrigerated.
It will last a month in the refrigerator. If it comes in a slab that you cut up yourself, it can last three weeks unrefrigerated and four weeks in the fridge.
How to Store Uncooked Regular Bacon?
Make sure to follow these steps:
- Check the the average shelf life (sell-by date) when buying bacon to ensure freshness.
- Wrap opened with paper towels to absorb moisture.
- Store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Unopened bacon lasts 1-2 weeks in the fridge and 6-8 months in the freezer.
- Opened, uncooked bacon lasts 1 week in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer.
- Use resealable plastic bags or wrap tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap for storage.
- Regularly check it for spoilage and discard if necessary to prevent contamination.
How to Store Cooked Bacon?
Make sure to follow these steps:
- Allow cooked bacon to cool completely before storing.
- Choose an airtight container or resealable plastic bag (with a vacuum sealer you’re a winner).
- Use parchment or wax paper to separate slices if stacking.
- Store in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C).
- Label the container with the storage date.
- Cooked bacon can be refrigerated for 4-5 days.
- To freeze, wrap individual slices and place in a freezer bag.
- Label the freezer bag with the storage date.
- Frozen cooked bacon can be stored safely for 1-3 months.
- Thoroughly reheat cooked bacon before consuming.
How Long does Bacon lasts in the Freezer?
With the proper storage in the freezer, it can typically last for up to 1 to 3 months. However, it’s important to note that the quality of the bacon may deteriorate over time, so it’s best to consume it within the earlier end of that range for the best taste and texture.
Frozen bacon should not be left outside the refrigerator to thaw. It poses the same risks as the raw one being left outside the fridge. To thaw frozen bacon, leave it in the refrigerator, defrost it in the microwave, or leave it in a cold water bath. You should not use hot water because the bacon will quickly heat up to temperatures suitable for bacteria growth.
How Do You Know If Raw Bacon Is Spoiled?
Many of us would be very reluctant to throw away bacon (or often other foods like onions, applesauce, etc) that has been sitting out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Common thinking is that processed foods are so full of preservatives these days that it’s almost impossible for them to spoil.
This may be true, but there are some tell-tale signs of spoilage that should leave you in no doubt when you need to dispose of bad bacon.
- It will have a bad smell or odors.
- You can see mold building up.
- It is slimy.
- The color of the meat changes from pink to greyish, greenish, or brownish.
- It is long past its best-before date.
If your bacon presents in these ways, you should throw it in the trash. No matter how disappointing that may be, the possible effects of eating spoiled bacon would be worse.
Bear in mind the same applies to different types, like turkey bacon, canadian bacon or most pork products.
How Long Can Cooked Bacon Stay Out Of The Fridge?
Cooked bacon should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Bacteria can grow rapidly in the “danger zone” temperature range of 40°F to 140°F (4°C to 60°C), and leaving it out for an extended period within this temperature range increases the risk of foodborne illness.
If the ambient temperature is above 90°F (32°C), the time limit for leaving cooked bacon out of the fridge decreases to 1 hour. It’s important to note that these time limits are general guidelines for food safety, and it’s always advisable to err on the side of caution and refrigerate promptly.
If you need to serve bacon at room temperature for an extended period, it’s recommended to use a food warmer or chafing dish to keep it at a safe temperature above 140°F (60°C) to prevent bacterial growth.
Diseases Related To Spoiled Bacon
If you’ve eaten bacon that has been left out of the fridge for too long and you start feeling ill, you’ve likely contracted food poisoning. The bacteria continues to grow in your gut and cause an infection. If the bacteria has produced toxins, this will do the same thing.
The symptoms are similar to gastroenteritis or stomach flu:
- Watery or bloody diarrhea
- Severe abdominal pain
- Vomiting and nausea
- Fever or High Fever
- Bloating and gas
- Weakness and body aches
- Chest Pain
- Severe Dehydration
Symptoms typically start between one and three days after eating the spoiled bacon, but even half an hour after the meal or even three weeks later! These can last a few hours or a few days.
Food poisoning can be caused by the following bacteria:
- Salmonella and Campylobacter
- Clostridium Perfringens
- Escherichia coli
- Staphyllococcus Aureus
Food Safety Principles Regarding Bacon
While many of us may use our intuition, rightly or wrongly, the principles that we should adhere to when assessing fresh bacon safety can be summarized as follows:
- “If in doubt, throw it out.” Do not rely on visual evidence or the “smell test.”
- You should discard it if it’s been in the dangerous temperature zone for longer than two hours.
- Follow the USDA Fact Sheet for food safety. It will address most questions that you may have.
- Cooking does not always kill bacteria and may not remove the toxins produced by them.
- When you cook food, you are pasteurizing it, not sterilizing it.
Does Bacon Grease Ruin Pipes?
Bacon fat and other oils can indeed cause damage to pipes over time. When hot grease is poured down the drain, it may initially flow freely, but as it cools and solidifies, it can stick to the walls of the pipes and accumulate.
Over time, the accumulation of grease can create blockages, restricting the flow of water and potentially leading to clogged pipes. This can cause backups, slow drainage, and even costly plumbing repairs.
Additionally, if they make their way into municipal sewer systems, they can contribute to the formation of “fatbergs.” Fatbergs are large, solid masses of congealed fat, grease, and other waste that can cause significant blockages in sewer lines.
To dispose of bacon fat properly, it’s recommended to let it cool and solidify first. Then, you can scrape it into a heat-resistant container, such as a metal can or glass jar, and dispose of it in the trash. But…DON’T DO THAT!
This one is great and has been working wonders for me. Especially if you have to cook big amounts of bacon, don’t throw the fat away!
Store it properly in a jar or plastic bag when is still liquid and freeze it! You’ll have healthy fat to add to other dishes ready when you need it!
How To Use Bacon Grease
Cooking oil substitute
Bacon fat can be used as a flavorful substitute for cooking oil or butter in various recipes. It adds a rich, smoky flavor to dishes like roasted vegetables, sautéed greens, fried eggs, or even for frying potatoes.
Adding a small amount of bacon fat to soups, stews, or sauces can enhance their flavor and give them a savory boost. It works particularly well in dishes like beans, lentils, or braised meats.
It can be used in baking to add a unique flavor profile. It works well in biscuits, cornbread, or pie crusts, giving them a hint of smokiness.
Seasoning or condiment
Solidified bacon fat can be mixed with herbs, spices, or even maple syrup to create a flavorful spread or seasoning. This can be used on bread, as a topping for grilled meats, your chicken leftovers or as a base for a savory sauce.
Saving for future use
If you don’t plan to use the bacon fat immediately, you can strain it and store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator for future cooking or freeze it. It can be kept for several weeks and used whenever needed.
Remember to strain the bacon fat to remove any leftover bacon bits, which can cause it to spoil faster. Additionally, it’s important to use moderation when incorporating bacon fat into your diet due to its high saturated fat content.
By finding creative ways to repurpose bacon fat, you can reduce waste and add a delicious twist to your dishes.
The strict rule is to discard store-bought bacon after it’s been left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Dry-cured bacon originated before refrigeration existed. So it can be eaten even after about ten days of standing at room temperature. It’s tempting to check its appearance and smell, but those tests are not necessarily reliable.
We know it’s tough bringing home the bacon, and you don’t want to throw food away if you can help it. It feels like you’re throwing money away.
But eating spoiled bacon can make you as sick as a dog, so you will have to weigh up whether it’s worth the pain and suffering if you choose to go against the guidelines. Just try to remember to put it in the fridge!