So you've just cooked bacon. How long can cooked bacon sit out before it becomes less than savory and edible when compared to its freshly cooked state? Read the article below to find out the truth.
Everyone loves bacon. From turkey bacon to traditional pork bacon, every bacon strip tends to melt in your mouth like meat candy. Also, people love bacon smells as well. Its aroma should drive any self-respecting meat lover crazy, thusly reminding them of morning breakfasts, toast, and scrambled eggs.
After you've cooked the bacon, how long should it last until it becomes less than fresh? Ideally, you should eat the bacon immediately. However, if not the case, how long can cooked bacon sit out?
How Long Can Cooked Bacon Sit Out?
Cooked bacon won't go bad if left out on the counter for hours. Some even claim that cooked (cured) bacon can be left out for a couple of days barring contamination or exposure to bacteria. However, uncured bacon stripes with no preservatives or nitrites tend to spoil easily.
Like bread with no preservatives. Eat your cooked bacon after frying or keep an eye on it once it's been left out at room temperature for more than two hours. If your uncured bacon starts developing a slimy layer atop it or begins smelling funky, it might already be contaminated or filled with bacteria.
Cured Bacon Should Be Safe, Right?
Uncured bacon should definitely not be left on the table for too long. However, traditional cured bacon should survive two hours at least, right? It got loads of preservatives that should still work even after cooking.
Uncooked bacon preservation involves the use of salt and sodium nitrates. This method of curing bacon prevents bacterial growth even at the sweet spot temperature of 40°F to 140°F. Also, fried bacon has all its moisture removed from its strips, which aids in its longevity.
Thawing Cooked Bacon That's Frozen
To thaw frozen bacon that got cooked beforehand, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Afterwards, warm it gently in whatever recipe you're making, from fried bacon for your sandwiches to additional meat for your homemade spaghetti sauce.
You can also thaw the bacon by microwaving it for 30 seconds. While not the most filling of foods, cooked bacon strips serve as an easy cook-and-go type of breakfast. Otherwise, you can crumble it as topping for quiche or other dishes to give them that extra delectability to them.
Average Shelf Life of Raw Bacon
Unopened uncooked bacon can last up to 2 weeks in our refrigerator and 8 months in the freezer. Some claim indefinitely in the freezer, but you shouldn’t be too adventurous with expiration dates. Opened uncooked bacon packs last about 6 months in the freezer and 1 week in the refrigerator.
Shelf-stable bacon won't spoil for 5 days to 2 weeks after its package gets opened. You can keep cooked bacon in the freezer to keep it from going bad. To be sure, freezing your bacon helps extend its shelf life for quite a while as long as it's kept at below zero temperatures.
When frozen properly, cooked bacon can remain perfectly preserved for 2 to 3 months. Afterwards, it remains edible and safe but its quality starts dropping. Kind of like cured cooked bacon left on the dinner table for more than 2 hours.
You should store the shelf-stable version below 85°F to keep it fresh enough to last its "Use By" date. Of course, most people buy the uncooked version in order to get their bacon just the way they want it.
How Long Does Cooked Bacon Last in the Freezer or Refrigerator?
Cooked bacon should be stored by refrigeration. Using this method, you can have it last for 4 to 5 days. You should eat that bacon within that time frame or end up with less than savory results that could get contaminated at worst or taste like paper at best.
This applies to unpacked and cooked store-bought bacon, by the way. Naturally, you should store your cooked bacon properly in order to maximize its tastiness, quality, and safety (as it, you want to make sure it's safe to eat).
Refrigerate ASAP for Best Results
Refrigerate your freshly cooked bacon as soon as possible to preserve its flavor. Wait a little bit for the bacon to cook then refrigerate it within two hours of cooking. This method helps you extend the shelf life of the product.
Additionally, pack your cooked bacon in aluminum foil or plastic wrap then put it in a proper container prior to putting it in the fridge. Bacon left on the serving plate doesn't last as long as properly wrapped bacon.
Signs Your Cooked Bacon Has Gone Bad
It's a gamble having your cooked bacon, even cured bacon, sit out overnight in your dining table because you forgot to put it in your fridge. It could survive and not go bad, in which case you should consume it immediately without worries.
However, the risk of it going bad goes up the longer it stays there in room temperature or out in the open. Check for signs of spoilage before consuming day-old bacon or bacon that sat there for 3 hours, 4 hours, or more.
If it stinks, throw it out. If it gets slimy to the touch, don't eat it. If it causes you nausea to attempt to smell it, you should avoid consuming this bad bacon and just fry a new batch. Don't cry over spilled milk or spoiled bacon.
Watch Out for Mold Formation
You should also search for signs of mold formation. Once you see mold, it's game over. Even though you have to do it with a heavy heart, you should discard your contaminated bacon.
Don't let cooked bacon sit out in room temperature. Actually, even refrigerated bacon won't end up as crispy and delicious after you reheat them via microwave either. Yes, they make bacon by curing the meat. After it's cooked and left to sit out on your table, it should last for a long time.
However, you should eat it as soon as it's cooked because it's more delicious when freshly cooked. The same could be said of many foods and dishes, sure. However, the quality, texture, and taste of bacon tend to be more compromised faster when left to sit out although it remains edible regardless.
Safeguarding Against Bacterial Formation on Bacon
The Food Safety and Inspection Service in the U.S. and other standard-issuing agencies—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also come to mind—believe that bacteria could grow on cooked food that reach temperatures of 40°F to 140°F.
Therefore, you really shouldn't leave food items at room temperature for more than two hours. They should be discarded. Some call this as wasteful of food and that food can still remain good after two hours, but watch out for the signs of contamination before trying them out.
The Fresher the Cooking the Better the Bacon
Obviously, the fresher you've cooked your bacon the better it'll taste. Cooked bacon left out in your dining table or outdoors should get cold then change texture. It becomes less crisp and starts tasting mighty rubbery.
Chewy bacon reeks of disappointment but at least it doesn't reek of mold or bacterial contamination! Reheating your bacon in the microwave to capture its initial cooked crispiness should only turn it leathery, kind of like how microwaving bread wrong turns it as though as day-old bagels or worse.
Therefore, even if it ain't unsafe, you should eat cooked bacon ASAP to avoid it becoming less tasty and more chewy—well, chewier—than before.
How Should You Cook Bacon?
When cooking bacon, people tend to fry it to various degrees of crispiness the same way people prepare their steak from medium rare to well done.
As long as you don't turn the bacon to charcoal, it won't matter how you cook it. It tastes delectably delicious and mouthwateringly savory in every possible way save when you undercook (barely cook) it or overcook it to resemble automobile discharge.
Between those two cooking extremes, bacon remains impressively and consistently delicious. You have to intentionally cook bacon bad in order for it to not come out as delicious. Or you could leave it out in the open for more than 2 hours.
Same Two-Hour Rules Apply to Bacon
The two-hour rule—unlike our childhood's five-second rule of picking up food on the floor before it's contaminated—is actually backed by the FDA, USDA, and FSIS. Leaving bacon uneaten for a few minutes leaves it less savory but still edible.
However, leaving cooked bacon on your dining table for too long could lead to sickly looking bacon. Not necessarily green ham and eggs bad but slimy grey bacon that has become sour and chewy. You could get food poisoning from eating that bad bacon.
To err on the side of caution, any leftover bacon you have cooked should be refrigerated or eaten within two hours. Don't let it sit out in your dining table at room temperature.
Every meat lover should have bacon as part of their top 10 meat dishes. You can eat it on creamy pasta, the breakfast plate, or as a pizza topper. Some might even serve cupcake meat cakes with bacon on top as well.
Regardless, you shouldn't let cook bacon stay out for too long because this compromises their otherwise delicious taste. Instead, eat it immediately. Uncured bacon spoils overnight and starts tasting funky at the two hour mark.