How to Tell If Bacon Has Gone Bad: Quick and Easy Tips

Bacon, a delectable treat adored by many, has a signature salty taste and crispy texture that keeps it ever-popular. With Americans consuming an average of 18 pounds per person annually, bacon often disappears quickly from our homes. However, on occasion, a forgotten package might be pushed to the back of the fridge, or perhaps your family’s appetites fall short of the quantity purchased. When this happens, determining whether your bacon is still good to eat becomes crucial.

While Coleman Natural Hickory Smoked Uncured Bacon is made with natural ingredients and contains no artificial preservatives, it won’t stay fresh forever. To help you assess the safety of your bacon, we’ve put together a few key pointers on packaging inspection and four telltale signs that it’s time to part ways with that pack.

Key Takeaways

  • Always check the expiration date and packaging condition before consuming bacon.
  • Be aware of the four signs that indicate spoiled bacon, such as off-color or sliminess.
  • Learn the proper way to store and handle bacon to maximize its shelf life and safety.

First Thing’s First: Check the Date

While examining bacon, make sure to first look for a date on the package. Many companies voluntarily include a “use by” or “sell by” date even though it’s not mandatory by the USDA.

Sometimes, you may come across a five-digit Julian date code in the format XX-XXX. The initial two digits signify the year (e.g., 24 denotes 2024) and the last three digits represent the day of the year. For instance, 001 implies January 1, and 365 refers to December 31. Hence, a code of 24-025 translates to January 25, 2024.

Now, it’s essential to identify if it’s a “sell by” or “use by” date. Although most bacon packages will display a “sell by” date, having a “use by” date is not too rare.

But what do these dates mean?

A “sell by” date assists grocery store staff in managing inventory, ensuring that you receive fresh products. If your bacon bears a “sell by” date, make sure to consume it within a week after the mentioned date, or freeze it for up to a month.

Conversely, a “use by” date (or “best if used by” date) signifies when a product will start losing its peak quality. The USDA recommends discarding bacon that has passed its “use by” date.

Carefully Inspect the Packaging

Your unopened bacon might be spoiled despite being within the “use by” or “sell by” date. This can happen due to packaging damage during transportation. Remember, these dates assume that the bacon is vacuum-sealed and stored properly. If air finds its way into the package, spoilage begins.

Before buying bacon, make sure to carefully check the packaging. Ensure it’s well-sealed and shows no signs of spoilage. If you have an opened package in your refrigerator, it’s important to store it properly to avoid spoilage.

Four Indicators Your Opened Bacon Has Spoiled

1. Odd Odor

Bacon should have a mild, smoky scent, but if you notice a strong foul or sulfuric smell, it’s an indication that your bacon has gone bad. This unpleasant aroma is caused by bacteria, yeast, or fungi that may be present, producing odors themselves or causing the bacon to release undesirable smells.

2. Unpleasant Texture

Uncooked bacon usually has a soft and firm texture. If you touch your bacon and it feels slimy, it’s an indication that bacteria have started breaking down the meat. To avoid any health risks, it’s best to discard slimy bacon.

3. Discoloration

Healthy bacon features white fat marbled with pinkish-red meat. Spoiled bacon, on the other hand, may appear green, gray, or brown. This change in color is a result of bacteria or fungi colonization. If your bacon has turned a different color, it’s time to discard it.

4. Presence of Mold

While most bacteria and fungi are invisible to the human eye, moldy spots can sometimes develop on the surface of bacon. If you see any mold or growth, it’s a clear sign that your bacon has gone bad. It’s not recommended to cut off the visible mold and use the remaining bacon, as there’s a possibility that mold has spread throughout the bacon, even if it’s not visible.

By paying attention to these four signs such as the smell, touch, color, and presence of mold, you can determine if your opened bacon has spoiled or if it’s still suitable for consumption.

How Long Is Bacon Safe to Eat After Opening?

Storing Bacon in the Freezer

Once you open a pack of bacon, it becomes exposed to the air and microorganisms that may cause spoilage. Even if you seal the pack after opening, the process of spoilage has already started. Therefore, it is recommended to consume the opened bacon within a week if it’s stored in the refrigerator.

However, if you want to preserve the bacon for a longer period, you can store it in the freezer. Before placing the bacon in the freezer, ensure that it is sealed in an airtight plastic bag to prevent exposure to air. Uncooked frozen bacon can retain its taste and quality for up to a month if stored properly. Freezing the bacon at 0°F or lower can extend its shelf life beyond a month, but doing so may affect the texture and make it susceptible to freezer burn, resulting in compromised quality.

If you find yourself with surplus bacon, consider using it in various dishes instead of just breakfast. For instance, try making Corn and Bacon Chowder as a quick dinner option or Air Fryer Bacon-Wrapped Sweet Potatoes for snacking during movie nights or sports events. For a filling lunch, you can whip up a Herb Pork Cubano Sandwich in just five minutes.

How Long Can You Store Cooked Bacon?

Cooked bacon can be safely stored in the refrigerator for four to five days. If you have more cooked bacon than you can consume within a week, consider freezing it. Frozen cooked bacon maintains its delightful taste and texture for about a month.

There are numerous ways to enjoy leftover cooked bacon. Not only is it an excellent snack on its own, but it also adds a delectable touch to dishes like Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Scones, Maple Bacon Coffee Cake, and Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Keeping Bacon Fresh and Tasty

Methods to Prolong Cooked Bacon’s Lifespan

To keep your cooked bacon from going bad and maintain its freshness, consider these storage methods depending on how soon you plan to enjoy the leftovers:

  • Storing for a few hours: If you’d like to serve your already cooked bacon in a short period, preheat your oven to 200°F and place the cooked bacon on a center baking rack. This method will keep your bacon crispy and warm.
  • Preserving for up to a week: To maintain freshness for four to five days, place the cooled bacon in a shallow, airtight container or resealable plastic bag, then store in the refrigerator at 40°F. Removing excess air from the storage container helps maintain the bacon’s taste and texture.
  • Saving for a month or longer: If you desire to keep cooked bacon fresh for up to a month, store it in the freezer. First, let the bacon cool to room temperature, then use an airtight or resealable plastic bag for the best results. Freezing extends the life of your cooked bacon while preserving its flavor and crispiness.

Always remember to properly store bacon to enjoy its savory and delicious taste for the maximum possible time. Storing cooked bacon using airtight containers and refrigeration or freezing techniques will help prevent spoilage and keep it ready to eat when you crave it. Just grab your bacon from the storage of your choice, reheat if necessary, and enjoy!

What Happens If You Eat Poor-Quality Bacon?

Eating bad bacon might lead to a foodborne illness, especially if it contains harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. To minimize the risk of getting sick, pay attention to the expiration dates, be aware of the symptoms of spoiled bacon, and always opt for high-quality bacon from a trusted source.

In case you experience nausea or any other signs of food poisoning after consuming raw meat, be sure to reach out to a healthcare professional right away.

All-Natural Bacon Your Entire Family Can Enjoy

When you choose bacon, opt for high-quality, natural options such as sugar-free Applewood smoked uncured bacon. This type of bacon comes from crate-free, American family farm-raised animals. You can trust that the bacon is free from antibiotics and added hormones, making it a top choice for American Humane Certified Pork.

This delicious bacon is something you and your entire family can happily enjoy, knowing that it comes from a responsible, ethical source. If you’re interested in trying out more unique options, why not sample some Canadian bacon or pancetta?

Remember, selecting all-natural bacon is not only better for you, but it also aligns with ethical farming practices. So, dig in and savor every bite!

Frequently Asked Questions

Recognizing Off-Color Bacon

Bad bacon may have a dull, grayish, or greenish tint. Fresh bacon should be a bright pink or reddish color with creamy white fat.

Unopened Bacon’s Shelf Life

Unopened bacon can typically last about one week past its expiration date. However, always check for signs of spoilage before consuming.

The Smell of Spoiled Bacon

Spoiled bacon usually has a sour, rancid, or musty odor. Trust your nose – if it smells off, don’t eat it.

Sliminess in Bacon

Slimy bacon is often a sign that it has gone bad. If the bacon feels slimy or sticky to the touch, it’s likely spoiled.

Identifying Unsafe Cooked Bacon

Inspect cooked bacon for changes in color, texture, and smell. If it appears discolored, feels slimy, or has an off odor, it’s best to discard it.

Consuming Spoiled Bacon

Eating spoiled bacon can lead to foodborne illnesses, such as food poisoning. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. If you suspect you’ve eaten rotten bacon, it’s important to seek medical attention if symptoms become severe or persist for more than 24 hours.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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