How to Tell If Bacon is Bad? Five Revealing Signs

September 22, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

If your bacon has gone bad, it will look discolored and moldy, smell sour, and feel slimy. You can save yourself the trouble of cooking rotten bacon by using all your senses to examine the meat.

Bacon was one of the first meats I learned how to cook, even before I perfected the recipe at culinary school. This strip of pork is easy to prepare, and the meaty flavor adds a unique flavor to any dish.

Over the years, I’ve cooked numerous packs of bacon for family gatherings, so I know how to handle them and tell if they're still edible or not. In today’s article, I’ll show you how to tell if bacon is bad. You’ll also learn the best ways to store this delicious meat, so it doesn’t spoil quickly.

how to tell if bacon is bad

Five Signs That Bacon Is Bad

You can tell if your pork strips are bad with these five indicators.

Expiration Date

Looking at the expiration date or use-by date on the bacon package is one of the best ways to tell if bacon has spoiled. If the date is close by, you can simply pick another pack from the store's freezer.

The use-by date on a package of bacon serves as an indicator of its freshness. However, if the sealed package is broken, the meat will be rendered inedible regardless of the expiration date.

Discoloration

The discoloration is another indicator that your bacon may be bad.

Fresh bacon should look bright or pale pink with white or yellow streaks of fat. The bacon should look the same as it did when you bought it at the store. So inspect the bacon properly in a well-lit room so you don't eat rotten meat. If your bacon bits appear gray, brown, green, or any other strange color, it's best to throw them out.

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Odor

Your bacon should smell fresh, meaty, and just a little salty, or savory. If you open a package of bacon and it smells sour, it's time to throw it away. A sour smell indicates that the bacteria in the meat has spread, causing the meat to spoil.

However, if you can't tell if the bacon smells good or bad, I advise examining other signs to get a clearer picture.

Texture

When bacon spoils, its texture changes. You can tell if your bacon is still safe to cook by feeling the texture. Edible bacon should feel supple and moist. Grab a single strip and gently squeeze it to feel the texture. Don't cook the bacon if it feels slimy or sticky when you touch it.

While the type of bacon will affect the texture to some extent, any indication of sliminess is a major deal-breaker. The difference in texture between good bacon and spoiled bacon is as clear as day, so spotting rotten bacon is quite straightforward.

Mold

If you see mold on your strip of bacon, it's definitely spoilt.

Bear in mind that it is not advisable to cut off the moldy area and cook the remaining bacon. Even if you can't see any visible signs of fungi, it might have spread all over and can make you sick if eaten.

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How Long Does Bacon Stay Good in the Fridge?

Unopened bacon can be stored in the refrigerator for seven days before being cooked. But keep in mind that some types of bacon might last longer than others. Furthermore, bacon cured without nitrates can last for up to 21 days.

Once a package of bacon has been opened, it's best to eat it right away. If you don't cook all of it, carefully wrap the bacon and store it in the fridge; just make sure you cook it within a few days.

If you're not going to use the uncured bacon within seven days, I advise that you place it in the freezer so it lasts longer and tastes as fresh. Remember that rotten bacon won't always look or smell bad at first glance. The unpleasant signs may occasionally become apparent after the meat is cooked.

Expert tip: If you find a "sell-by" date on your bacon package, it's best to freeze it.

How to Store Bacon?

Your bacon will taste delicious and last for a long time, so long as it is stored correctly. Here are a few tips to help properly store bacon.

  • If you're storing the meat in the fridge, keep it in an airtight container, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil. Note that cooked bacon can last in the fridge for 4-5 days while uncooked bacon lasts for up to 7 days.
  • It is smart to wrap bacon in foil or an airtight container to maintain freshness and avoid freezer burn. Remember to wrap the meat properly so moisture doesn’t seep into it. Moisture can hasten the spoilage of the meat. Note that uncooked bacon can last in the freezer for up to six months while cooked bacon can be frozen for two to three months.
  • Remember to label the foil or container to know how long the bacon has been frozen or refrigerated.
  • In addition, if you have a vacuum sealer, always seal the bag with it before putting any meat in the fridge or freezer. This reduces the risk of bacterial growth, so you don't get sick after you eat it again.

Extra tip: Avoid putting bacon fat down the drain since it can solidify and clog your pipes. Instead, drain the excess fat into a clean jar, allow it to harden overnight, and then store the jar in the refrigerator for about 3 months. You can use the leftover bacon grease to flavor other meals with a delicious meaty taste.

If you don't want to use the leftover bacon grease, let it cool for a few hours, pour it into a plastic container, and throw it away.

How to Thaw Frozen Bacon?

Remove the frozen bacon from the freezer and put it in the fridge the day before you want to cook it. If you forgot to thaw it in the fridge the day before, dunk the wrapped bacon in a bowl of cold water to slowly defrost it. Replace the water every 30 minutes for quicker results. To preserve freshness, make sure you allow the bacon to totally defrost before cooking.

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Why You Should Not Eat Bad Bacon?

Rotten bacon is filled with harmful bacteria that can make you sick if eaten. You expose yourself to e. coli, salmonella, etc., by eating spoiled bacon. These bacteria can cause food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and other distressing symptoms.

That's why you need to know how to effectively identify spoiled meat. If you experience severe food poisoning symptoms, including sleepiness, severe dehydration, and severe stomach discomfort after eating the bacon, I suggest you visit a doctor close to you.

Bad bacon can be difficult to spot sometimes, so checking the meat using my tips can help you avoid getting sick.

How to Safely Dispose of Rotten Bacon?

The first tip for safely disposing of bacon is to put the meat in a resealable plastic bag and throw it out. You don't want spoiled bacon stinking up your kitchen. So, dispose of the smelly bacon in an outdoor trash can.

How to Purchase Bacon?

It is easy to grab a piece of bacon from the store's freezer and add it to your cart. However, buying bacon involves more examination if you want the best quality.

Start by looking for bacon that has only a few ingredients you’re familiar with. It's best that you know what you're putting into your body.

Moreover, a label that says "no nitrates added" doesn't always mean nitrates weren't added. That shows that the bacon was cured with celery rather than sodium nitrate. Like many vegetables, celery has a high nitrate content.

The best bacon should be produced using minimal preservatives and come from boars that were bred ethically. Also, ensure the bacon looks pink, and pay attention to the use-by date on the package.

Expert tip: Make sure the bacon is the last thing you buy on your grocery list so it stays cool on your way home. Warm bacon may cause bacteria to start forming.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I Freeze Bacon?

You can freeze bacon. Ensure, it is kept at 0 °F or lower. The meat should last for 4 months at this temperature. However, it may lose its unique flavor the longer it remains in the freezer.

Also, due to moisture loss caused by freezing, frozen bacon may become tough when cooked, which may impact the flavor and texture.

2. How to Know if Bacon is Fully Cooked?

The best way to tell if your bacon is cooked is by looking at it. First, the whitish streaks of fat will get translucent, and the fat will start dissolving. Secondly, the meat will have a deep brown color.

Make sure you turn over the strips as you fry them, so they're cooked all the way through. If you're not frying the bacon, you can cook it in an oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and place a pan of bacon strips in there. Cook for 10–15 minutes, until the bacon is crisp to your liking.

3. Is It Safe to Eat Bacon That Has Been Left Out Overnight?

Don't eat bacon that has been left out all night. Generally, any cooked meat that has been left out at room temperature for longer than two hours should be thrown out.

This is because bacteria will begin growing on the strip of meat and cause food poisoning. Bacon spoils quite quickly because it is high in fat. So, ensure you pop it into the fridge or freezer immediately after you're done using it.

4. How Do I Reheat Bacon?

You can quickly reheat bacon on your stovetop if you're in a hurry. First, dip the wrapped bacon in water and leave it to thaw completely. Then, set the dial of your burner to medium and heat up a frying pan. Then, place the pieces of bacon in the heated pan. Cook the bacon for a few minutes till it's crispy to your liking, and voila! I typically reheat my bacon for just about 10 minutes.

Conclusion

As you already know, fresh bacon can get rotten over time. So, it is recommended that you pay attention so you can identify if it’s safe. Always follow the producer's use-by dates, and observe the meat's appearance, odor, and texture.

Remember, you can refrigerate bacon for up to a week before it starts going bad. If you won't be using the meat that soon, follow my storage tips and toss it in the freezer. Spoiled bacon can make you terribly sick, so be thorough when examining each strip.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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