How Long can Cooked Bacon Sit Out?

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Who doesn’t love bacon? From the traditional pork bacon or turkey bacon, every strip is the most delicious thing possible. Then there’s the smell when you fry bacon that can drive any meat lover crazy! But once cooked, the best would be to eat your bacon without delay. So how long can cooked bacon sit out?

The advised is that you should not leave it outside for too long once you have cooked your bacon. But then again, bacon is not like other food items because it is cured. Once cooked and left out at room temperature, you can expect it to last for some time, though its taste, texture, and quality will be compromised. 

How long can cooked bacon sit out? Attributes of cooked bacon

cooked bacon

Bacon is every meat lover’s delight. Be it on a breakfast plate, in a bowl full of creamy pasta, or on top of a delicious cupcake - bacon simply rules.

People love to fry it to different levels of crispiness. It hardly matters how you cook bacon. It tastes incredible in every possible way. But how long does it sit out?

You see, agencies that set the standards for food safety, like the Food Safety and Inspection Service in the US, are of the opinion that bacteria can grow on cooked food between 40 F and 140 F. So, food items should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, after which it should be discarded. 

It’s one thing when cooked bacon doesn’t stay uneaten for more than a few minutes. But leaving aside all hungry bacon devourers, the general advise is that you follow the same rules for bacon, too, and either refrigerate or eat cooked bacon within two hours instead of letting it sit out at room temperature.  

Yet, it is important to remember that bacon belongs to cured meat category of food. 

Uncooked bacon is preserved with salt and sodium nitrites. That is a method of curing bacon. Cured bacon prevents the growth of bacteria. Also, when cured bacon is fried, all the moisture is removed from the meat strips. 

So, most of the time, cooked bacon does not go bad if left out on the counter overnight. Some users even vouch that cooked bacon can sit out of the fridge for a couple of days, as long as it is not contaminated. However, this does not apply to “uncured” or unpreserved bacon without nitrites.

It is better to keep an eye on your cooked bacon once it has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours. If it starts to smell off or develops a slimy layer on top, that’s not a good sign. You should also look for signs of mold. If any of these happen, discard the bacon with a heavy heart.  

But the fresher your cooked bacon is, the better it will taste. Cooked bacon left outside will eventually get cold and change in texture. It can become chewy. If you reheat bacon in the microwave, it can turn leathery. So, even if it’s not unsafe, cooked bacon that’s left out for too long won’t be tasty enough.

Also, note that you can buy cooked bacon from the market. This is either shelf-stable or refrigerated when you buy it. Both of them can last in the pantry until the "use by" date set by the manufacturer if the pack is left unopened. But the shelf-stable version of cooked bacon should be stored below 85 F. 

How Long Does Cooked Bacon Last in the Refrigerator and Freezer?

How long can cooked bacon sit out

The most common way of storing cooked bacon is refrigeration.

If you store cooked bacon in the fridge, it can last for 4-5 days.

In this case, we are talking about store-bought bacon that has been unpacked and cooked. But to enjoy cooked bacon at the best quality and highest safety, you should store it properly.

For best results, you must refrigerate bacon as soon as possible. It’s best if the bacon is refrigerated within two hours of getting cooked. In this way you can extend the shelf life of cooked bacon ca. It needs to be packed in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and then kept in an proper container before refrigeration.

As for cooked bacon that you purchase from the shop, take a look at the instructions provided by the manufacturer to know how long you can keep it in the refrigerator, whether it is shelf-stable or refrigerated at the time of buying.

Shelf-stable bacon lasts for 5-14 days once the package is opened.   

You can also keep cooked bacon in the freezer. In fact, freezing bacon helps extend the shelf life of cooked bacon for the longest time.

Cooked bacon remains in its best condition for 2-3 months when frozen properly. 

​​​​But it still remains edible and safe beyond that time, though the quality starts to drop. 

Thawing Cooked Bacon That's Frozen

After freezing cooked bacon, you have to thaw it first before you can reheat and heat it. If you thaw cooked and frozen bacon in the refrigerator, you can keep it in the fridge again for another 3-4 days.

But if you defrost it in cold water or the microwave, you cannot send the bacon back to the refrigerator.

Reheating freshly defrosted bacon that was cooked before is safe. In fact, the whole point of freezing cooked bacon is to keep it safe. But once defrosted, you should not leave it out in the warm environment of the kitchen - or even at room temperature.

There are three ways to thaw cooked bacon:

  1. Leaving it in the refrigerator

  2. Keeping it in water

  3. Defrosting it in the microwave

All three are safe methods of defrosting, though thawing in the fridge is considered the safest option. It is a long and slow process, which means that there is no drastic change to which the meat needs to be exposed. After thawing it this way, you can still leave it in there like that for a week before cooking it.

Defrosting cooked bacon in cold water is faster than doing so in the fridge. Make sure that the bacon is in a leak-proof package to keep out bacteria in the environment or the water in which it is thawed. A pound of bacon will get defrosted in an hour. But ensure that it’s cooked immediately after that.

The fastest way of defrosting cooked bacon that’s frozen is in the microwave oven. It will take a few minutes to complete the process. But because it is so fast in heating the meat, some parts of the meat may start to cook. Therefore, you should not leave such bacon out and cook or reheat it right away.

Signs of Cooked Bacon Gone Bad?

Sometimes, cooked bacon can sit out overnight without going bad, and you can enjoy it without worrying. But other times, it can go bad earlier.

It is essential for you to check for the signs of spoilage. It’s not difficult to understand when cooked bacon goes back if you know how to trust your senses. 

Rely on your eyes, nose, and touch to detect if cooked bacon has gone bad.

  • The first thing you will notice when it starts to get spoilt is the smell. It will begin to give off a sour odor or simply smell a little off. 
  • The next change is in color as it turns grey or green. Spoilt bacon can also develop mold or white or black spots. 
  • When cooked bacon goes bad, it can also develop a slimy texture. We can also look at this the other way round. Since cooking cured bacon strips the meat of all water or moisture content, slime on bacon clearly indicates that it has gone bad. 

If you notice any of these signs, discard the bacon.  

Average Shelf Life of Raw Bacon

How long can raw bacon sit out

So far, you have read about cooked bacon, whether it’s cooked at home or store-bought, pre-cooked bacon. Let’s now talk about raw bacon, as well. Several factors affect its shelf life, like where it is stored and whether it is packed. Raw bacon should not be allowed to sit out for more than 4 hours.

An unopened pack of bacon cured with salt and nitrite stays in its best condition for 1-2 weeks at less than 40 F and four months if frozen. Bacon cured without nitrite stays good in the fridge for three weeks and for 6 months if frozen. Once opened, raw bacon lasts for 5-7 days in the refrigerator and 3-6 months if frozen.

Other than regular bacon, there are different bacon varieties like canadian bacon, pancetta, and turkey and beef bacon. Their shelf life can differ slightly. For instance, canadian bacon stays in its best condition for 3-4 days at less than 40 F and 4-8 weeks in the freezer, after which its quality declines. 

As for pancetta, beef bacon, or poultry bacon, the shelf life is pretty much the same. They all stay good for about a week at less than 40 F and for a month in the freezer. All of the storage periods mentioned for freezers are about the quality of bacon because frozen bacon is safe for consumption indefinitely.

How to Tell if Raw Bacon has Gone Bad

So you have some raw bacon that you have been thinking about cooking and devouring for a while now. But it has been a while since you bought the bacon. So, what do you do? You check if the bacon is in good condition or if it has the tell-tale signs of spoilage, like smell, texture, and color. 

To be honest, the signs of spoilage in raw bacon are not that different from those of cooked bacon that we discussed above. Look for odd or sour smells that will remind you of rotten food or meat. Also, check if the meat is going greenish or greyish or if there is mold. Slimy bacon is also a clear sign of spoilage. 

If you see any of these on your raw bacon, it’s time to throw away the bacon.

Even if you do not see any of these signs but find that it tastes off, you should discontinue eating the bacon. Otherwise, you can get seriously ill.

After all, throwing away delicious bacon is better than falling ill by eating food gone bad.

Can Bad Bacon Make You Sick?

Can bad bacon make you sick

Like any other food item, bacon can make you ill, too, if you eat it after it has gone bad. So, don’t try to ignore minor signs of spoilage and eat bacon anyway. Food poisoning from bad pork is one of the most common side effects.

What’s worse is that you will never know when the problem will start to surface. Food poisoning from eating bad bacon can happen immediately afterwards. Or it can start to show up after a few weeks!

Apart from food poisoning or diarrhea, you can also get other digestive problems from bad bacon. You can get nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and severe discomfort from this.

Spoilt bacon can also be the source of salmonella, E-Coli, Yersinia, and other bacteria. It can contain parasites like tapeworms, toxoplasmosis, and trichinosis. You can get fever and chest pain. It is important to throw away bacon that looks, smells, feels, or tastes even slightly off.

Here’s a tip for you to keep your environment hygienic.

When you realize that the bacon, whether cooked or raw, has gone bad, wrap it properly in foil or plastic before you discard it. That will ensure that your garbage does not start to stink. It will also prevent harmful microorganisms from spreading.  

A Little about Bacon. Types, History, Preparation

So, it has been established that you, like other meat lovers, love to eat bacon. But do you know anything about this delightful meat?

Traditionally, when we mention bacon, we refer to cured meat obtained from pork belly. Bacon is also derived from other parts of the animal's body, which is mentioned in the name.

Apart from the popular streaky bacon version, which contains fat and fiber, you can find many other versions of bacon. One of the most popular is Canadian bacon, which is round slices of loin meat. Bacon is also derived from other animals like turkey or beef from different parts of the animals' bodies.

You will be surprised to learn that bacon is no modern concept in the world of culinary arts. Historians believe that bacon has been around since the early Romans or Greeks enjoyed it.

In fact, keeping pigs as a domesticated animal for food has been around since 7000 BC. Today, it's a favorite across the world. 

Preparing bacon starts with the skinning of the pork belly and trimming off of ragged edges. The meat is cured in salt and nitrite, after which the heat-processing step begins. In a large convection oven, this process takes about 6 hours. Smoked bacon gets its flavor from wood chips or liquid smoke extract. 

Finally, bacon is kept at 40 F or less before it can be sliced and then packaged. The curing process using salt and nitrite prevents bacterial growth on the bacon while keeping it at a low temperature increases its shelf life so that the delicious meat trains at its best condition for the longest time possible.

Conclusion

When it comes to cooked bacon, it is always the best idea to follow the rule of thumb as applicable for any cooked food. This means that ideally, you should refrigerate or eat cooked bacon within 2 hours of cooking. But since cooked bacon is cured meat without moisture, it can likely sit out for hours!

But even if it sits out, it should be secured properly, so there's no chance for cross-contamination. You should also check it for signs of spoilage. As for pre-cooked bacon bought from the store, you should follow the "use by'' date. Cooked bacon is heavenly, but if it goes bad, it causes serious health problems. 

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