When you’re cooking bacon for your family, the idea of leftovers might seem almost unimaginable, but it does happen. If you miraculously have leftover bacon, you might be wondering about the shelf life of this tasty pork and the steps you can take to make it last as long as possible.
The answer might not be as simple as you would think, as different types and cuts of bacon will ultimately require different steps to extend their longevity. To simplify the process, we’re taking a closer look at what you need to know about storing, freezing and thawing cooked bacon — along with a few recipes to use up your excess bacon before it goes bad.
Everything you need to know about making bacon last
Understanding how to correctly store leftover bacon is critical to reduce the risk of spoilage and ensure food safety for your loved ones. This will be key to not only preserving the flavor of each and every bacon strip, but also to guaranteeing your friends and family can enjoy a delicious meal without getting sick.
How long will cooked bacon last?
Regular bacon will last you for up to five to seven days in the refrigerator. Under USDA guidelines, both raw bacon and cooked bacon products should be refrigerated at 40 or below for the best results. This is recommended because the temperature is low enough to minimize the risk of bacteria growth without causing freezer burn.
Keep in mind that although cooked bacon can last for just under a week, the following circumstances have to be met:
- The fully cooked bacon has been stored properly.
- It’s kept in the refrigerator the entire time.
- It’s not past its original expiration date.
Storing your leftover bacon correctly
It’s important to remember that how you store your bacon can make a big difference in extending its shelf life. But, with so many different types of bacon available — from pork bacon and turkey bacon to uncured bacon and more — there’s no one size fits all procedure for storage. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common types of cooked bacon and the necessary conditions to make them last:
- Regular bacon: After cooking up delicious crispy bacon for your loved ones (like this Applewood Smoked Bacon from Hatfield®), let each bacon slice cool completely. Then, refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container or plastic wrap: Make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible to minimize exposure to oxygen.
- Thick-cut bacon: If you and your family enjoy a thicker cut of bacon such as Hatfield®’s Hickory Smoked Bacon (Extra Thick Cut), plastic wrap won’t be enough coverage to store these leftovers properly. Instead, you can use a heavy-duty freezer bag or a few layers of wax paper. Once stored, thick bacon will also last for up to five days in the refrigerator.
- Bacon bits: Sliced-up, home-cooked bacon is a great addition to almost any meal, and with an airtight container, you can refrigerate them for a little under a week. Bacon bits are also known to freeze well, lasting up to six months when stored correctly in the freezer.
What’s the shelf life of frozen cooked bacon?
If you have more leftovers than you can use within the week, you can extend the shelf life of cooked meat by freezing it. With your bacon in the freezer, you can expect the same delicious flavor, texture and all-around quality for about two to three months. It can even remain safe beyond that time! However, it’s best practice to keep a close eye on frozen bacon after the first few months of storage.
Steps to defrost frozen bacon
When you’re ready for your frozen cooked bacon, the USDA notes a few options for defrosting:
- Using the microwave: The quickest way to thaw bacon is by using a microwave, but this approach is best when you’re planning on re-cooking your pork right away. This is because during microwaving, some areas of the bacon can begin to cook and introduce bacteria that can’t be destroyed.
- Letting it thaw in the refrigerator: This will take a bit longer to thaw bacon, so if you want to use this method, make sure you plan ahead. Once fully defrosted, these refrigerated slices will be safe to use for up to seven days.
- Placing it under cold, running water: You can speed up the process by thawing your meat in the refrigerator but it takes slightly longer than using the microwave. Be sure your cooked bacon is in a sealed, airtight container to minimize the risk of introducing airborne bacteria or getting the product wet. Then, submerge the package or container into cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes until completely thawed. Once this is done, your bacon should be re-cooked immediately.
Note: You should never remove cooked bacon from the freezer and leave it to thaw or defrost on the counter or at room temperature.
After your bacon has safely defrosted, you should heat it all the way through until reaching an internal temperature of 145-180°. You might microwave bacon on a paper towel or throw it in the air fryer, but it’s typically recommended to bake bacon for the best results.
How to tell when cooked bacon has gone bad
Like any other spoiled food, eating bad bacon can make you sick. Serious food-borne illnesses like food poisoning can occur if you’ve eaten rancid meat that contains harmful microbes or toxins. So, how can you tell when meat has gone bad?
There are four main signs of spoiled bacon that’s beyond its shelf life:
- A slimy feel when touched: An easy way to test your bacon is by touching it with your fingers. Once cooked bacon starts going bad, it has a slimy feel that can give you a heads-up before discoloration even begins.
- An unusual odor: Fresh bacon or meat will generally have a mild smell or no smell at all. And, although the additives and preservatives used in this popular pork product can slightly mask the smell of decay, rancid meat will smell “off” or strange.
- Discoloration: Instead of the red or pink color of fresh bacon, meat that’s gone bad will be discolored — often taking on a greenish or dull gray appearance.
- Mold or mildew growing on a bacon strip: Lastly, the most obvious clue that your bacon has gone bad is the growth of mold. Once you spot tiny green dots on your bacon, it’s time to throw it away.
With these signals in mind, remember that it’s never a good idea to opt for a taste test to see if your meat has gone bad. Even a small bite can allow harmful germs to enter your body and make you ill.
Recipes to use up your leftover bacon
When you find yourself with extra bacon, you can add it to almost any meal for a quick upgrade — the options are practically endless! If you’re not sure where to start, here are some of our favorite bacon recipes to try:
Recipe 1: Bacon Fig Jam Crostinis With Brie Cheese
When you have leftover bacon to use, consider this simple appetizer that will quickly become a favorite with friends and family. With only five ingredients including your leftover bacon, fig jam, a baguette, olive oil and brie, this easy recipe can be ready to go in just 25 minutes. This is the perfect option when you have a get-together with loved ones and want to make a lasting impression. And, while the recipe serves up to six people, straightforward ingredients and preparation mean you can make as much of this snack as you need — to ensure everyone gets their fair share!
Ready to get started on your next mealtime adventure with bacon? Head to your local grocery store to pick up your favorite Hatfield® products for a simply delicious result!
Recipe 2: Bacon Potatoes Au Gratin With Arugula
For something a bit heartier, try this recipe for bacon potatoes au gratin with fresh arugula. This creamy and delicious potato dish is not only easy to make, but also filling and comforting. You can make it your next main dish for the family, or serve it as the perfect complement to your other favorite sides like roasted Brussels sprouts, cornbread, green beans, a light salad or any other household staple. What’s more, when you have a busy week ahead, you can make this casserole ahead of time so it’s ready to reheat and serve as soon as you need it.
Recipe 3: Warm Bacon Dressing Over Green Beans and Shiitake Mushrooms
Another one of our favorite appetizers with bacon is this green beans and mushrooms starter. While simple to prepare, this dish is packed with flavor that will leave everyone wanting more. All you need are 25 extra minutes, and you can have enough ready for the whole family. Use your bacon of choice, like Hardwood Smoked Bacon or Maple Brown Sugar Bacon (Extra Thick Cut) from Hatfield®, to add the perfect touch of flavor to this recipe. You can even take this dish to the next level by pairing it with delicious sides like creamy potatoes, pasta, roasted broccoli or butternut squash.
Recipe 4: Asian Noodle Stir Fry With Bacon and Shrimp
If you’re looking for a more unique way to use up your excess bacon, consider this recipe that combines noodle stir fry with bacon and shrimp for a delicious blend of flavors you won’t soon forget. Once you’ve gathered your necessary ingredients including uncured bacon, udon noodles, shrimp and a handful of sauces and spices, you only have seven simple steps to complete before this dish is ready to serve. In just half an hour, you can impress your loved ones with crispy noodles and an array of flavors.
Get the high-quality bacon you need from Hatfield®
Bacon has a unique and delicious taste that everyone in the family can enjoy, adding just the right flavor to practically any of your favorite dishes. And, with so many different kinds of bacon available, you can find the type that’s just right for you and your loved ones — whether that be a classic option, an extra thick cut or an uncured alternative.
But, it’s important to remember that not all bacon or pork products are created equal, and when you’re looking for top-tier ingredients that lead to the best results, Hatfield® can help. Hatfield® is dedicated to providing quality pork products while staying committed to our passion for animal care and treating our farmers, the environment and our animals with respect.
We believe mealtimes should be spent not only enjoying delicious tasting food, but also spending quality time with the whole family. That’s why our branded flavorful bacon, hams and ham steaks, boldly seasoned marinated pork and variety of sausages and hot dogs help you minimize your time in the kitchen so you can spend your time with the people who matter most.
If you’re ready to get cooking with irresistible bacon that will leave everyone wanting more, use our store locator to find your favorite Hatfield® products in a supermarket or grocery store near you.