January 11

Does Bacon Go Bad? 3 Obvious Signs

Written by: Michael

11  comments

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At one time or another we've all indulged in a fat, juicy slice of bacon. There's truly nothing like it. But for most of us, we eaten bacon sporadically. We pull it out for those special occasions, and then,

We forget about it!

A lot of us probably have a pack of bacon aging in our fridge at this very moment.

But then the day comes...

You crave the fatty, savory, sweet crunch of a perfectly cooked piece of bacon. You shuffle through the fridge and there it is, the long lost pack of bacon. 

Before you go tearing into that package like a raving lunatic, let’s answer a critical question:

Does bacon go bad? and if so, when, and how can we tell?

The simple answer:

Yes, of course bacon has a shelf life. But figuring it out may not be as simple as reading the label. Knowing for sure requires a three-step test, which we've detailed below. 

Enjoy!

How Long Does Bacon Last in the Fridge?


package-of-bacon

Bacon that has been opened will last approximately 1 week in the fridge before it begins to spoil (1).

Unopened bacon can last 2 weeks or more in the fridge, however ALWAYS check the expiration date on the package.

The amount of days your bacon will stay fresh will depend on the type of bacon and how it was processed. 

Signs Your Bacon has Gone Bad


While there are many methods to detecting rancid bacon, three of our senses will always guide us on determining whether or not our bacon is still good.

  1. 1
    Look: Unpack your bacon with a set of clean hands. Look to see if there is any discoloration, such as brown, gray, or a green and blue tinge. Any of these signs are indicative of rotten bacon. Also, look for tiny little mold spots. These are an easy indicator of bacon-gone-bad.
  2. 2
    Smell: Take a nice whiff of your bacon. If you smell anything other than fresh meat, like sour, fishy, rotting odors, toss immediately. If you have to question the smell, chances are your bacon has started the deterioration process. Best to throw it out. 
  3. 3
    Touch: If you're still not completely convinced at this point, it's time for the final test. With clean hands, touch your bacon and feel for a slimy or sticky layer around the outside. If the texture is abnormally slimy, it’s a no-go. While this will depend on the type of bacon, you'll notice the difference. It isn't subtle.  
bacon
pig-snout
washing-hands

If a week has passed since the sell-by date, it’s best to toss it. While it may be edible, I recommend buying a fresh pack and having zero doubts about the quality. 

If your bacon doesn’t have a sell-by date, use the "look, smell and touch" test. If anything is questionable, throw it out. 

Pro Tip:

If you think your bacon has gone bad, wrap it in plastic or foil and throw it away to avoid a smelly garbage or contamination of other foods or surfaces. Thoroughly wash your hands and any surfaces used after handling.

Bacon Storage


slab-of-raw-bacon

How to Preserve Bacon

Storing bacon for optimal preservation means keeping it cool, and keeping it away from oxygen. The easiest way to do this is to keep your bacon in a sealed bag in the fridge

  • Unopened bacon can be kept in the fridge for 1-2 weeks
  • If you put fresh bacon in the freezer, it can last up to 6 months

If you cook your bacon, it can be stored in the fridge (in a sealed container) for one week. You can reheat it, or use it in recipes throughout the week. 

Can You Freeze Bacon?

Freezing your cooked bacon is another option. When cooking, take bacon off heat slightly early, just before it gets crispy. Lay it out on a paper towel to absorb excess fat, and once completely cooled, it can be stored in freezer bags for up to 3 months.

Remove as much air as possible from bags to avoid freezer burn or contamination. Vacuum Sealing can also be used after opening to ensure a tight seal and minimize air getting in. 

Be aware that keeping bacon in the freezer can change the taste, harbor freezer burn, and cause fat rancidity. Use no longer than two months after freezing for the best quality taste.

Depending on the type of bacon you buy, these time zones can slightly differ.

Always use the "look, smell and touch" method to properly judge your bacon.

The Different Colors of Bacon


White Bacon

White bacon, also known as salt pork, is a type of extra-fatty, unsmoked bacon, often used as a flavoring agent in recipes. It is mainly white in color, due to its high fat content. Because it is cured with salt, it will last slightly longer in the fridge. Only a small amount is needed as a base for soups, stews, sauces and vegetable dishes. 

Black Bacon

Black bacon is cured pork that is darker in color and is highly prized for its taste and quality. O'Doherty's Fine Meats in Northern Ireland claim to have invented "black bacon" in 2004, named for their black pigs. It can also be made with black treacle and molasses, which gives it a sweet flavor. Because it is cured with salt, it will last much longer than raw bacon when stored properly in the fridge.

Green Bacon

"Green Bacon" doesn't actually refer to the color of the meat, but rather the type of recipe used to make it. It is an unsmoked, slightly cured pork belly made with salt and spices. No nitrates are involved, which means it is fresh and will last for a much shorter time than heavily cured, smoked bacon...up to 5 days after opening and 1-2 weeks (unopened) when stored properly in the fridge, or frozen for up to 6 months. 

Green Sheen on Bacon

Although it might seem out-of-the-ordinary to have a green sheen on your slab of bacon, it is usually not a cause for concern, as long as there are no other abnormalities (mold, slime or a bad smell). The green sheen you will often see on bacon is caused by the curing process. This is called"nitrate burn" and happens when the nitrate used during the preservation process reacts with a protein in the animal blood called myoglobin.

Is the Green Sheen Safe?

Yes, as long as there are no other abnormalities with your bacon, the slight green sheen is no cause for concern and only a reaction to the curing process. 

Iridescent Bacon

The iridescence, or rainbow-like sheen that you might see coating your bacon, is caused by the phenomenon called "nitrate burn" which happens during the curing process. It goes hand-in-hand with the "green sheen" that we mentioned above. Although it looks funky, if your bacon is in otherwise good shape, the iridescence is usually no cause for concern, and will not affect the taste.

Be aware that it is possible for this sheen to be due to microbial growth if the bacon is old. If you wipe the iridescence with a paper towel and it disappears, it could be safety hazard and should be discarded. 

How to Store Turkey Bacon


Check the expiration date, but turkey bacon can last up to 2 weeks. Keeping it in a sealed package in the fridge with minimal exposure to warm temperatures and oxygen, you'll find that turkey bacon can last a few weeks. Turkey bacon can also be frozen, the same as any other type of bacon, for up to 6 months.

If you're skeptical, we recommend doing the look, smell, touch test. If you're still unsure, we recommend throwing it away. It's just not worth the possibility of getting sick. 

Cooking Your Bacon


cooking-bacon

Bacon can be cooked in an oven, microwave, or stovetop. Pork products should always be prepared to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (62.8°C).

Bacon is safest when cooked until slightly crispy.

Be aware that bacon cooked excessively may become hazardous due to an increased amount of nitrosamines (carcinogens). You don’t want to be eating these for breakfast. If your bacon is black, you’ve cooked it too much. 

How to Know if Your Bacon is Done

Any pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F. If you don't have a thermometer, look for color deepening throughout the bacon. 

The muscle (pink portions of the strips) should turn dark purple(red)/brown.

 The fatty, white portions should thicken and become less transparent.  

Can you eat cooked bacon that has been left out overnight?

cooked-bacon-bits

To be on the safe side, cooked bacon should be wrapped and refrigerated within 2-4 hours. The degree of your room temperature definitely plays a role. If you live in a very warm place, don't risk it and toss any bacon that isn't eaten after a few hours. In warmer, humid climates, bacterial growth will happen much quicker.

Depending on the exact environment, it can be possible to leave bacon out in room temperature overnight and safely eat it the next day, but it can be hard to tell if bacterial growth has started. It's better to be safe than face a bout of food poisoning. 

What Happens if you Eat Bad Bacon?


Eating raw bacon, or bacon that has gone bad, can increase your risk of toxoplasmosis,
trichinosis, and tapeworms. Undercooked or raw meat of any kind increases the risk of food poisoning by harboring viruses, bacteria and parasites. 

Eating-Bad-bacon

Every year 48 million people in the United States get food poisoning, many of these from raw or rotten meat. It's always best to ensure you're cooking is fresh and free of any strange discoloration, smells or textures.

Always store your bacon correctly to decrease the chances of getting sick.

If you eat bacon that has gone bad, you may  symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chest pain, and dehydration, which can ultimately lead to hospitalization. Food poisoning from pork may come on quick, or take weeks to surface. 

Some Interesting Facts About Bacon


bacon-in-a-pan

Bacon has long been praised for its ability to spark taste buds in a uniquely delicious way. The mouth-watering pork we love so much, can be traced back to 1500 B.C. when the Chinese started curing pork belly with salt.

Speculation exists that the Romans and Greeks later learned about bacon production and curing through conquests of the Middle East.

The Romans ultimately improved pig breeding and spread pork production throughout their Empire. During medieval times, bacon and bacon fat were essential ingredients used by Anglo-Saxons for cooking.

A Pig’s Journey to North America


Christopher Columbus was said to have deliver eight pigs to Cuba for his demanding princess. Hernando De Soto, a Spanish explorer, brought 13 pigs to Tampa Bay in 1539, and the Native Americans found they loved the taste of pig.

Three years later, after De Soto was killed during his rule, his men had over 700 pigs...thus, the pork industry in America had begun.

During World War II in America, bacon fat that was left over from home cooking was brought back to the butcher and ultimately donated to the war effort. Because pig meat was an affordable means of food, it was used in high quantities for cooking and making incendiary devices and explosives.

Last year, the foodservice industry in America used 13,000 pigs worth of bacon to serve their guests.

We can see that pig production has come a long way!

In Conclusion


Bacon is a delicious type of protein that many people enjoy often. To get the freshest bacon, buy high-quality pork-belly. If you're interested in making your own bacon, the Grilling Dad made a pretty impressive post. 

Bacon must always be stored properly at the right temperature, and cooked thoroughly (sooner rather than later, after purchasing). Use your senses to determine if you’re in the clear or need to head to the store for a new pack.

If you have any doubt that your bacon isn't good, it’s best not to risk it. Any doubt...toss it out! 

Cheers Guys,

Michael

Founder of Robust Kitchen


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About the author

Michael spends his days eating, drinking and studying the fascinating world of food. He received his Bachelors Degree in Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis and spent much of his time at the school brewery. While school proved to be an invaluable experience, his true passion lies in exposing the hidden crannies of food for the cooking laymen.

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  1. Dear,Dear. Michael- l am 76yrs old and am ashamed to say you have taught me a lot about bacon safety. I am passing this info on a my grandkids asap. By the way, you have a beautiful smile and eyes.

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