Processed meats have a longer shelf life and can generally be kept at room temperature for an extended period of time.
But how long can bacon be left out of the fridge? Does it follow the same regulatory guidelines as other cured meats?
Or should you treat it as any other type of raw meat when it comes to food safety?
Read on if you’re eager to find out how long bacon can sit out and more.
How long can bacon be left out at room temperature?
In order to understand how long a piece of bacon can be left out at room temperature, we first need to distinguish the different types of bacon that are available.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of bacon you can find at your local supermarket:
Regular bacon and dry-cured bacon.
Each of these types is processed differently, so they don’t have the same shelf life and stability.
Regular mass produced bacon undergoes a process known as wet curing before it hits store shelves.
Wet curing increases the shelf life of uncured bacon by slowing down microbial and fungal growth.
After the bacon is cured, it gets processed in a commercial oven for a few hours before getting sliced and packaged.
Once regular bacon gets packaged, it is stored at a temperature of 40°F / 4.4°C or less to prevent spoilage.
Dry-cured bacon, on the other hand, is prepared by rubbing the pork belly with salt, nitrates and seasonings.
As the salt and nitrates penetrate the meat, they draw out the moisture and dry the bacon.
When the bacon is cured, the dry rub gets rinsed off and the meat is hung for smoking.
After the bacon gets smoked, it is sliced and ready for packaging.
What type of bacon you have will affect how long it can sit out at room temperature.
Regular raw bacon can sit out for 2 hours at room temperature, while sliced dry-cured bacon can be left out for 10 days. If you have a slab of dry-cured bacon, you can keep it for up to 3 weeks in your pantry. These guidelines apply to both sealed and opened raw bacon.
The reason for the storage differences between the two types of bacon is their water concentration.
Since regular bacon is brined, it has a higher amount of water than dry-cured bacon.
This gives bacterial and fungal microorganisms an opportunity to grow, multiply and eventually spoil it.
It is also the same reason why regular bacon tends to shrink when it’s cooked.
So if you’ve accidentally left out your uncooked bacon overnight, it’s best to toss it out unless it’s dry-cured. Even if it was sealed. Sitting out for a whole night is enough for the temperature to bring about a bacteria bloom in regular raw bacon.
Having said that, cooked bacon, regardless of its variety, shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
In any case, the best way to keep regular bacon fresh is to stash it in the refrigerator. When kept in the refrigerator, regular bacon can last for up to 7 days.
How to tell if your bacon has gone bad?
There are a couple of things you could check if you’re worried that your bacon is past its prime.
The first thing you can do is check the color of the bacon. If you notice any form of discoloration such as gray, brown, black or white spots then you should discard it.
You should also look out for the presence of slime or other textural changes.
Here’s what unspoiled raw bacon looks like:
Another thing you must do to check if your bacon has gone bad is to check its smell.
If your bacon exudes a sulphuric odor or just smells off, then it’s best to take it safe and throw it away.
Eating spoiled bacon can cause all sorts of unpleasant reactions such as nausea, vomiting and fever.
Which is the last thing anyone wants to deal with.
How to freeze bacon and store it for later use?
If you’ve accidentally stumbled upon a huge bacon sale and now you have more than you can eat, then you can store your bacon in the freezer.
All you need to freeze bacon is a baking sheet, some parchment paper and a few ziploc bags.
- Tear a large piece of parchment paper and lay it on top of the baking sheet.
- Separate each piece of bacon and place it on the sheet so they’re roughly an inch apart.
- Roll them into a spiral and place the sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Take the sheet out of the freezer, and put the bacon rolls into a ziploc bag and keep them in the freezer.
Since bacon has quite a lot of fat, it can become rancid if it’s kept for too long. Due to this, it’s best to keep bacon frozen for no more than a month.
My short recap
Even though all types of bacon are cured, you need to be careful when leaving bacon unrefrigerated.
For regular raw bacon this means leaving it for no more than 2 hours at room temperature, regardless if it’s sealed or not.
Dry-cured sliced bacon, however, can last for up to ten days as long as it’s stored in a dry, cool place.
Nevertheless, if you notice any unusual colors or smells, you should throw away your bacon even if it’s still within these timeframes.
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