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How long does bacon keep?

I have some really good bacon we bought about a month ago. We used some but have most of a package left. How long does bacon keep? I've never been clear on that. It seems like it should keep a good long while because it's smoked (months?) but I don't think it does.

What do you think?

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  1. karykat,

    I never keep bacon for more than a day or two without cooking it. From working at a butcher shop for two years I know to be wary with meat when it changes in color at all. I find that cooked bacon keeps for a very long time (I usually will eat a pound in just a few days, but it's kept up to three weeks), whereas raw bacon turns color very quickly. You want your bacon to be pink. When it starts turning gray is when it should hit the pan - at the latest.

    When bacon is smoked it is smoked in it's entire, unsliced entity. When that happens, a sort of skin or shell is created on the outside (like when you sear a steak, or fry a french fry) that kills bacteria and allows the meat to have a longer life because everything stays on the outside of the "skin." This changes, though, as soon as the meat is cut, like prosciutto. Meaning, a leg of prosciutto can be kept for months but a slice of prosciutto only a few days.

    I say ALWAYS err on the side of freshness. There's so much to do with bacon. If you need ideas http://baconporn.me/ is amazing. But, nothing beats bacon drenched in an amazing maple syrup.

    Chers!

    1 Reply
    1. re: PeteFore

      I thought the color change was somehow related to exposure to oxygen and was somewhat cosmetic. How is that related to safety or taste? I imagine exposure to oxygen, and color change is a measure of growth of bacteria ?

    2. Bacon will last a long time in the fridge -- eventually mold will develop, but until then, it's fine. Basically, if it looks good and smells good, it's good.

      1. cook it up.
        if it smells funky, toss it.
        future reference: freeze usable-size portions when you get a new package; wrapped in freezer paper, then foil, then put in freezer bag ziplock.

        3 Replies
        1. re: alkapal

          1 week is about it 2 weeks it smells funny to me. Like alkapal I freeze. I do all mine that way 4 slices per small baggie and that way ready when I need it. Much safer. I don't bacon much after a week usually.

          1. re: alkapal

            ...ditto...freeze [well-wrapped] portions...

          2. I agree with pete, once a package is opened it doesn't keep very long. I always wrap it carefully, squeezing out all the air I can manage, wrap it twice, and still find that opened packages may last only 5 to 10 days, 10 is really pushing it. It turns grey, develops an off, funky, unpleasant porky odor, and once that happens it gets tossed.

            Unopened pakcages of bacon should be good till the sell-by date or a bit later. If you're wanting to keep bacon that you've opened, freeze the rest. It thaws out very quickly.

            1 Reply
            1. re: janniecooks

              "only 5 to 10 days"

              Whew! Then you're not really with Pete who states he keeps bacon only 1 or 2 days.

              I think "a day or two" is really not sensible.

              i agree with those who freeze portions of bacon. I mostly keep for flavor add in, so I wrap 3-4 half rashers in plastic and store in freezer bag.

              I think commercial bacon stays usable with good flavor and texture maybe two weeks after opening, bearing in mind that maybe two weeks contains the implication maybe not two weeks.

            2. There's a Farm Market and Smokehouse near Shamokin, PA that has the most wonderful bacon on Earth! We have a summer cottage near there (Elysburg) and spend several weeks there each summer. I always bring home at least 20 pounds of their smoky bacon.When I get it home, I wrap it in one pound packages and use my FoodSaver to vacuum pack and then freeze it. I use most of it myself, but always pass some around to my friends. It lasts all year in the freezer, and a one pound package will last for weeks in the fridge. By the way, the name of the market is Masser's.

              1. I'd lean toward discarding this lot and think about 'granny bacon' for the future. This is a technique I adapted from Elizabeth Hodgeman's "Beat This!' book (I think...it was a very long time ago that we integrated this idea into our kitchen).

                Take a pound of bacon and divide it into the lots your family uses most often (full strips for breakfast, halves for sandwiches, 'bits' for salads). Place on and under papertowels and microwave until PARTIALLY cooked (limp). Cool on fresh paper towels to eliminate grease. Seperate into indiviudal freezer bags. When you need some, just microwave to desired state of crispness.

                This not only makes adding a bit of smokey deliciousness easy, it eliminates a lot of the fat without sacrificing taste and it keeps a LONG time!

                1. Thanks for all these ideas. I never like to take chances with food so I think the bacon I have will go into the garbage and I'll start over. (Making a lentil soup with chestnuts that has some bacon or prosciutto so I will need to pick some up for that.) Freezing is a great idea. I think we waste more than we should, largely because sweetheart and I aren't coordinated. So he buys things that I don't have an immediate use for and vice versea. Time to get coordinated!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: karykat

                    I agree with tossing what you described in OP.

                  2. I cook a whole pound of bacon at once by baking it. Lay the slices out on a cookie sheet with edges (bun pan) and bake it until it is about 3/4 done. Drain it on a stack of newspaper with paper towel on top and sop off as much fat as possible. Store this in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. When you want a couple of pieces of bacon, wrap them in a paper towel and zap for 30-60 seconds. Very handy.

                    1. In my house, bacon lasts about an hour...

                      Then I have to cure some more.

                      1. I know this is an older question, but I could not find a definitive answer here, so I called Kraft Foods regarding my Oscar Mayer Bacon and was advised that once open it is good for 7 days.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: skynyrdgirl

                          Well of course they say that: they want you to throw out your bacon and buy more, and they don't want to get sued by idiots who ate bad bacon and got sick. The whole reason that bacon was developed was to preserve the meat, even at storeroom temperature, long before there was refrigeration. Our ancestors took various kinds of preserved pork across the prairies in covered wagons! Once it's been sliced it won't keep as well, but it still will last a long time in the fridge. If it looks okay (and doesn't have mold) and smells okay it's okay.

                          1. re: skynyrdgirl

                            Personally, I use the sniff test as a guide which seems to work out to about 10 to 14 days for opened packages of bacon. Shelf life seems to vary (10 to 14 days) depending upon how wet (how much brine) the bacon has in the package. Also, I noticed the off-odor doesn't cook out of the bacon.

                          2. It can keep for months if it's kept cool and dry. (unsliced; not talking about Oscar Meyer bacon here, but I would be willing to experiment with it)

                            Wet, in the fridge, and/or wrapped in plastic, it gets moldy.

                            If there's just some superficial mold, you can scrape it off.

                            1. P.S. Don't waste bacon fat by sopping it up with paper towels and throwing it away. If you don't want to use it for cooking, give it to a pet or to the birds, or put it in your compost (small amounts is fine).

                              1. Next time you might want to try this: open the new pound of bacon, lay all of it on a big pan with edges (not a cookie sheet because fat would spill all over your oven), and bake it until it is nearly done. Lay it on paper towel with several thicknesses of newspaper underneath to catch extra fat that may drain off. Now when you want to use it, you just have to microwave it for 30-60 seconds. You can put it in the freezer where it will keep for months. Baking bacon is also the easiest way to cook it for a crowd.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Querencia

                                  Baking is a great way to do it. When I buy bacon, I just pull out what I need and then freeze the rest. I wrap the remainder in 2-4 slice "groups" separated by parchment paper and then it's easy to pull out a portion at a time.

                                  1. re: GutGrease

                                    Another way to freeze discrete portions of raw bacon is to roll up individual slices and freeze on a cookie sheet, then toss them into a freezer baggie for IQF bacon. I only do this with a few slices, so I have them for barding meatloaf and chicken breasts. The rest of the package gets laid out on a sheet pan and baked at 375 for 15 or more minutes, depending on thickness of slices, until thoroughly rendered and ALMOST brown throughout - it will become so as the pan sits on the countertop cooling enough to handle it. Bacon cooked to this degree will keep in the fridge for at least 6 weeks. It sometimes takes me that long to use it up. But a package that has been opened but left in the fridge uncooked turns rancid and gray if kept much longer than a week. I've cooked and eaten it at that stage and though it doesn't cause illness, it doesn't taste or smell good.

                                    I HAVE microwaved bacon, because Jacques Pepin recommends it. The taste is fine but the texture is leathery rather than crisp. I always save bacon grease, so rather than using paper towels I laid the bacon on a plate and placed a piece of parchment over it to keep fat from spattering all over the interior of the microwave. The fat gleaned this way, when chilled, is softer and paler in color than what I pour from the sheet pan after oven-baking, or out of a frying pan.
                                    And it has much less flavor than bacon grease from the stove or oven.

                                2. when you are baking bacon, roll it in brown sugar first then bake.

                                  OMG. Pig Candy. OMG

                                  1. Turkey bacon - one week, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap & then placed in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.
                                    Regular pork bacon - 2-3 weeks, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap & then placed in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.

                                    1. For the future, when I buy a pack of bacon, I roll out a loooooong piece of parchment paper, lay one piece of bacon across on the "short" end of it, fold the bacon-ed part of the paper over on itself to cover that slice, and continue, until I run out of bacon or parchment paper. I pop the whole thing in a gallon zip-lock bag and into the freezer. Then when I just need one or two pieces for a recipe or breakfast for one, I can unroll it a bit at a time and take off just what I need, roll it back up and put it in the freezer again.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: LauraGrace

                                        That is a great tip. I use a similar method with both bacon and pancetta, or anything sliced, using plastic wrap.

                                      2. I discovered about a week ago that bacon will definitely NOT last six months in the refrigerator after it has been opened.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ricepad

                                          Yeah - 6 months opened in the fridge is expecting a bit much - lol!!

                                        2. Since this thread is still going- how about high quality, but artisan ( no use-by date) bacon, unopened in the fridge? I bought it on sale, and it was shipped frozen, but thawed when I got it, and I didn't want to refreeze. Any thoughts?

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                            I never hesitate to refreeze as long as it's been kept at a safe temp. I don't know if that's foodie orthodoxy or not, but I've never had a problem.

                                              1. re: LauraGrace

                                                I agree. I don't believe smoked bacon suffers from loss of flavor/quality that refreezing can cause in other meat products.

                                              2. If the colour is good (unchanged) and the smell is right and if it has been kept in the fridge, I cook it and have never had a problem.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: heathercheryl

                                                  Yet another storage question.....I have several of packages of high-end bacon with a sell by date of approximately two months ago. The packages are unopened and in the fridge (as I forgot to put them in the freezer). They are vacuum packed and the color looks fine (without opening I don't know about smell).. Based on what I'm ready on this thread I assume no one would advise human consumption...however, since an animal had to die for this, would anyone recommend cooking for the pets in the household? I could cook all the contents and then freeze for distribution as treats. I just hate to waste food, especially when something had to give it's life. Thoughts?

                                                  1. re: susienew

                                                    Unless they smell bad when you open them (unlikely), I would eat them. Seriously. The chances that bacon in a sealed package is carrying any pathogens that will make you sick are minimal.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I'd agree. If it looks and smells good and it's been sealed up this whole time? I'd eat it.

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        Perfect, thank you all so much! All good advice!

                                                      2. re: susienew

                                                        I would have no problem eating your bacon. I would NOT recommend feeding anything to a pet that you've adjudged to be unfit for human consumption. If it's not safe enough for me to eat, it's not safe enough for the dog. I love my dog too much to take that chance. (Yeah, I know he licks his butt and all...)

                                                        1. re: susienew

                                                          I'd have no problem with either eating that bacon, or popping it into the freezer now. First off, "Sell By" doesn't automatically mean the item is unfit for consumption afterwards. Secondly, smoked products like bacon really do have a pretty darn long shelf life in the fridge & freezer.

                                                          1. re: susienew

                                                            Susienew-

                                                            NEVER FEED A DOG PORK OF ANY KIND! My dad used to work for a vet, he told me about an Asian lady who brought her deathly ill dog in, but because the lady didn't speak English, they had a hard time figuring out the problem.... Until the dog stayed overnight. She brought in his "lunch" which was (fully cooked) bacon. I do not know why, but like chocolate, pork is bad for dogs (and I assume cats, but cat owners probably eat tofu bacon - that's probably ok).

                                                            1. re: DarkBurd

                                                              No, pork is not in itself a problem. I'll bet the farm that what the dog had was pancreatitis, which is triggered by consumption of a high amount of fat. The source does not matter. Veterinary hospitals (I worked in one, in addition to raising and showing pedigreed cats for 30 yrs and being a research animal tech) expect to see dogs with pancreatitis following Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Either uninformed people overfeed their pets with leftovers and trimmings from turkeys, hams, or beef tenderloins, or the dog steals food from the table or trash. Pancreatitis is very painful and potentially deadly. Treatment involves hospitalization, fasting, and supportive IV care.

                                                        2. Bacon seems to last forever in the fridge or at least as long as I usually keep a package which isn't long since we use it a lot. I have noticed that it depends on the bacon, the regular stuff I buy at Wegmans keeps a while but anything that's uncured or cured with nitrates from celery salt starts to smell weird after probably 3 weeks or so.

                                                          1. This is why God invented freezers.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                                              Yes you can freeze it of course but I think the point was if I don't use it immediately can I keep it in the fridge and for how long which has been answered. I usually buy several lbs at once, freeze all but one, it defrosts quickly when I forget to take out a new pack. I know some repackage when they get home either cook it all and freeze or layer 3 slices or so divided by parchment.

                                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                I'm pretty sure no "God" invented the freezer...

                                                              2. I regularly keep open packages a week or more without any problem.

                                                                Not grocery store bacon but I once had a mess of triple smoked bacon (much dryer and much more smoked than normal) and I had that in the fridge for several months

                                                                1. I've kept bacon in the fridge for over a month and used it successfully. Use the senses that you developed through evolution to identify something unfit for consumption - does it still look like bacon? Does it smell like bacon? If the answer is yes, then go ahead with confidence.

                                                                  I do usually freeze unused portions of bacon, but I also usually have 2-3 packages open at any one time - different types and qualities for different purposes. Some make it into the freezer, some don't. I've rarely pitched bacon, and when I did, it was because it was green.

                                                                  Between the salt, the nitrate, and the smoking, bacon has a pretty long shelf life.

                                                                  1. Regular store bacon – and this includes that fancy Nueske's – is wet-cured and prone to spoilage. So-called "country" bacon is dry-cured, and needs at most just wrapping in butcher paper and refrigeration. Any mold can simply be wiped off; the traditional method is a napkin or paper towel and a bit of vinegar. There used to be several brands of this available in Southern grocery stores, but I was depressed on my last visit to Nashville to find they've all been driven out by Smithfield. Here in SoCal I order mine online from Broadbents; a 4-5 lb slab unsliced, which is my preferred style, is under $30 including shipping. There are other suppliers, too, but this is my favorite. It lasts several months, no problem.

                                                                    1. It is not the smoke that allows bacon to last. It is the salt cure. The salt is what allowed pioneers to keep meat w/o refrigeration. We age our beef in the name of better tasting steaks.