So, how long can cooked bacon sit out? The USDA recommends consuming food within two hours after cooking it. This is called the two-hour rule and applies to cooked bacon be it pork or turkey bacon. Letting cooked bacon sit outside the refrigerator for more than two hours puts it in the danger zone.
One of the most elementary lessons I learned in culinary school was food safety, especially when it comes to food storage. I’ve seen how bad it can get if food is not stored properly, so I have always been cautious of letting cooked food sit out. However, during a recent dinner conversation with some friends, I found out that most of them had mixed views regarding how to handle cooked bacon.
So I decided to discuss how long cooked bacon can sit out, and include some tips to adopt when storing bacon. I will also talk about how to reheat stored cooked bacon and give you a few ideas on what to do with that delicious bacon grease.
Your cooked bacon can sit out of the fridge for a maximum of two hours before you have to discard it. If you cannot consume it in that time, store it.
It is best to store leftover bacon either in the refrigerator or freezer to slow down the growth of bacteria and preserve its flavor. Despite your storage method, the USDA advises that you stick to the sell-by dates provided by the manufacturer. Let’s look at how:
To store cooked bacon in the refrigerator, simply grab a shallow airtight container and lay your bacon slices carefully one after the other with butcher paper in between each slice. Try to expel excess air in between the slices by using your palm to pat them down.
This technique makes it easy to take out the slices you need, leaving the rest of the cooked bacon virtually unexposed to air.
Alternatively, place your cooked bacon slices in a zip lock bag and make sure to remove excess air before putting it in the fridge at temperatures below 40°F.
Freezing cooked bacon as individually wrapped bacon strips is the best way to ensure it stays safe for months. This is because most bacteria will not thrive at 0°F. Instead, they are rendered inactive.
Freezing bacon in individual wrappings and putting them in heavy-duty freezer bags makes it easier to defrost only the strips that will be consumed.
So how do you thaw frozen bacon? These three methods will get the job done:
Thawing in the refrigerator requires that you plan ahead because it is a long and slow process. Take your cold, cooked bacon out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. This temperature rise should start defrosting the frozen bacon.
It should take between 4-8 hours for them to be fully thawed, depending on the size and whether it is sliced.
Cooked bacon thawed in the refrigerator will stay safe for around 7 days. If you still can’t consume it in that time, you can pop it back into the freezer.
You can also thaw cooked bacon in the microwave but you have to use it immediately. This is because microwaving leaves some areas of your bacon warmer than others.
Keeping partially cooked food is highly discouraged since some bacteria won’t be destroyed.
Defrosting cooked bacon in the microwave is as simple as putting your bacon in a microwave-safe dish and pressing the defrost button.
If you have to refreeze the bacon, cook it first before storing it in an airtight container. This is because it has been exposed to temperatures above 40°F where bacteria proliferate.
Frozen cooked bacon can also be defrosted in cold water. To do this, put the bacon in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge it in cold tap water.
The bag keeps the water from getting into the bacon and prevents air from being introduced into the bacon.
With time, the water will get even colder, so it helps to change it every half hour to keep the thawing process moving. Plan to use it immediately after it is fully thawed.
If you let cooked bacon sit out longer than is recommended, it can cause food-borne illnesses that come with unpleasant symptoms. Here are a few things to look out for, to know for sure if your cooked bacon has gone bad.
Freshly-cooked bacon has a great, subtle, smoky smell that invites you to slap it on a slice. However, when it goes bad, it develops a rancid, sour smell that is hard to miss.
The smokey smell can at times mask this foul odor so it is better to rely on other signs of spoilage alongside the smell.
Cooked bacon has a rich reddish-brown color that features tantalizing streaks of fat. When it goes bad, the color turns green or gray. This is evidence of fungi. If you spot this anywhere on your cooked bacon, it might suggest that more parts of it are unsafe to eat. Toss it right away!
Freshly cooked bacon has a crispy texture while spoiled bacon feels slimy and sticky to the touch. This is evidence of lactic acid and should not be consumed.
Reheating cooked bacon is easy and takes at most 10 minutes. There are several ways to do it with different cooking gear.
You can reheat cooked bacon in the oven by placing the bacon slices on the oven rack with the baking sheet below it. Let them cook for around 10 minutes at 400°F. This technique ensures that you can collect all the bacon grease in case you hope to use it in other recipes.
You can also lay the pre-cooked bacon slices in a toaster oven and cook them for about 5 minutes at 350°F.
If you are in a hurry, reheat your precooked bacon in the microwave. Lay the bacon slices in a microwave-safe dish and set it on high for a minute. For extra crispy bacon, heat for about two minutes.
To reheat your pre-cooked bacon using a skillet, place the skillet over medium-high heat and let it heat up. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil and place your bacon slices. Fry for a minute on both sides until the fat starts to sizzle.
Using a pair of tongs, take out the bacon slices and lay them on a paper towel lined plate to absorb any excess grease.
To reheat bacon in the air fryer, start by preheating it to 375°F. Lay foil paper on the bottom of the air fryer basket and place the slices you wish to reheat. Give it about 5 minutes for nice, crispy bacon.
Right off the bat, never pour the grease down your sink because it can clog your pipes and mess up your plumbing. If you prefer to get rid of it, use a paper towel to soak it up and throw the towel away.
I love incorporating grease from cooked bacon into other meals to add rich, bold bacon notes to other foods. With that in mind, below are simple mind-blowing recipes that you can try:
Try spreading a small amount of grease on your pizza crust before you add a layer of tomato sauce. It yields a tasty, savory crust that is to die for.
A smokey, meaty twist is a welcome addition to roasted veggies. The next time you are stirring your roasted vegetables, drizzle a little leftover bacon grease and taste the magic.
Baked potatoes pair well with a savory taste so why not use grease from your cooked bacon?
Grease from bacon blends seamlessly with creamy dishes. My personal favorite is creamy pasta prepared with less than a tablespoon of grease. Don’t take my word for it, try it.
The grease can also be used to add a smokey taste to popcorn. All you have to do is pour a dash of it into a saucepan and let it heat up before putting in the popcorn.
Bacon grease contributes a nice flavor when used to fry burger patties, plain eggs, and omelets.
How long uncooked bacon can stay good out of the fridge depends on whether it is cured or uncured. Cured bacon has a longer shelf life than uncured bacon.
Bacon that hasn’t been cured has no additives to lengthen its shelf life and should not be left to sit outside the fridge.
Cured bacon, on the other hand, is cooked for hours before it is packaged for distribution. This means that it is shelf stable. Shelf-stable bacon should be stored at 85°F and below. The pink curing salt used to process it removes moisture from the meat making it more like jerky.
Uncooked dry-cured slab bacon can sit out overnight without going bad. It can last up to 3 weeks out of the fridge and between 4-6 weeks when stored in the freezer.
Contrary to what the wordage suggests, both types of bacon belong in the cured meat category. The difference is in the ingredients used to cure them.
Cured bacon makes use of added nitrates and nitrites during the curing process to prolong its shelf life, whereas uncured bacon does not contain any added nitrites. Instead, it utilizes ingredients like celery and beets that are high in natural nitrates.
This distinction is why the USDA demands that uncured bacon be clearly labeled on the packaging as, ‘Uncured Bacon, No Nitrites or Nitrates’ followed by, ‘Not Preserved Keep Refrigerated below 40°F’.
If you frequently cook bacon, consider switching to uncured bacon that has no added nitrites and nitrates.
The main concern with cured bacon is the additives that can be harmful to your health. Nitrites can react with proteins called ‘amines’ present in the bacon forming nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic, meaning, they have the potential to cause cancer.
Exposure to high temperatures required when cooking bacon creates the optimum conditions for the formation of nitrosamines.
Although nitrates are present in vegetables like spinach, beets, and celery, we usually don’t cook them at high heat nor are they rich in amino acids.
Raw bacon should be kept in the fridge at 40°F and used within 7 seven days. If 7 days is a tight period for you, wrap the raw bacon in portion sizes and freeze it.
Just like with any other food, eating bad bacon or raw bacon increases your chances of contracting food-borne illnesses and parasites. This is called food poisoning.
The most common parasite that should deter you from eating spoiled or improperly stored bacon is Trichinella which causes trichinosis.
Trichinella enters the body when you consume spoiled meat and meat products like bacon, pork, and chicken. The parasite then produces larvae which are notorious for taking up residence in the body tissue, especially the muscles.
Mild symptoms of trichinosis include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Severe symptoms include headaches, fever, chest pain, chills, skin rashes, and constipation.
If you suspect you ate bad bacon, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Foodborne illnesses are easy to treat with a short recovery period
No. Do not eat cooked bacon left out overnight. It is not safe for consumption and can lead to food poisoning.
When it comes to raw bacon, cured bacon can sit overnight without going bad but uncured bacon can not.
To recap, how long can cooked bacon sit out? Only two hours. If the temperature is 90°F, you only get one hour to store or eat cooked bacon.