If you’re like most Americans, chances are you have a package of bacon lying around in your fridge right now. And, since you came here, you’re probably wondering how long you can keep it there before it goes bad.
Bacon—a cured meat from the pig’s belly or backside—is a perishable food that you should keep in your fridge, where it will stay good for just over a week, or in the freezer, where it will maintain its best qualities for a couple of months or so.
For those of you who like their guidance a little more specific, here it is:
An unopened package of raw bacon typically lasts for 7 to 10 days in your fridge before it starts to spoil. Cook and eat the bacon shortly after opening it, as its shelf life decreases to about 5 days.
Frozen in its original packaging, unopened bacon will stay safe to eat indefinitely. However, frozen bacon will only keep its best qualities for 2 months, after which it will start to lose some of its meaty aroma and flavor. Simply said, the sooner you eat it, the better.
If you buy your bacon from the butcher, then the slab or slices will be wrapped neatly in butcher paper, a type of thick paper that’s made from wood pulp, which protects raw meat from spoilage and keeps it from catching odors from the rest of the foods stored in your fridge.
Keep it there and make sure to eat or freeze it before it gets sticky and smelly (here’s how to tell if bacon is bad).
Though there’s more than one kind of bacon at the grocery store, most store-bought bacon tends to come in thin, narrow strips, approximately 8 to 10 inches long, stacked on top of one another, and sealed in a vacuum. One side is see-through; the other, where the label is printed, isn’t.
Packaged this way, the bacon looks good on the refrigerated shelves—that’s for sure—but it can be kinda tricky to open.
Most of the time, when I hold the package firmly with my two hands and pull on the perforated fold on the side, the plastic cover will peel away almost effortlessly.
Every now and then, however, when I’m in the middle of cooking, my hands will be wet from washing veg or greasy from applying oil to my frying pan. Then, opening the package the conventional way turns into Mission: Impossible.
That’s when I reach for my chef’s knife and cut through the package lengthwise, being careful not to cut into the bacon strips. As soon as I’ve broken the vacuum seal, I fold over the plastic wrap and carefully separate the individual pieces of bacon.
How to Store Opened Bacon
Once you’ve opened a package of bacon, there’s usually no way for you to reseal it. This, especially if you bought more bacon than the recipe calls for, leaves you with two options:
You can cook all of the bacon strips at once, storing the leftovers in the fridge. Or you can take only as many strips as you need, then refrigerate the remainder of the bacon raw. There are ups and downs to each, and which one you go for ultimately comes down to personal preference.
As Peggy Filippone at The Spruce Eats points out, it’s nice to have cooked bacon on hand, whether you pat it dry with paper towels and crumble it in a food storage container or store the strips in a resealable freezer bag.
Frozen bacon crumbles are my favorite. They’re not only a great way to add flavor to soups, stews, and sauces, but they’re also great for sprinkling on salads or adding to tortilla fillings or nacho dips.
The important thing is not to let the bacon, raw or cooked, sit on the counter or dining table for too long. Room temperature—or “the danger zone,” as the USDA descriptively calls it—promotes bacterial growth, and bacterial growth leads to spoilage.
Cooked bacon shouldn’t be left to sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours as it can spoil. Instead, store any leftovers in the fridge, sealed in a ziplock bag or an airtight food storage container, where they will stay good for 3 to 4 days.
To refrigerate raw bacon, seal it in a ziplock bag or a food storage container and place it on the back of the bottom shelf of your fridge. That’s the coldest area where the temperature is the most stable, which will maximize its shelf life.
The same rules apply to freezing bacon.
Some bloggers will tell you to wrap the bacon in parchment or wax paper instead. While that’s a valid way to refrigerate bacon, by the time you get to eat it, everything in your fridge will have picked up and aroma (and aroma carries flavor) of bacon, which may be a good or a bad thing.
How to Thaw Frozen Bacon
The safest way to thaw frozen bacon is to transfer it to the fridge, at the back of the lowest shelf where it’s coldest, overnight. If you’re defrosting a big slab and you’re worried that juices may drip down from it, place it in a deep plate or large bowl that will catch them.
The fastest way to defrost bacon is in the microwave. Place the slab or strips of bacon on a microwave-safe plate, then defrost for 60 seconds. Open the microwave, flip to the other side, and repeat for another minute. Thicker strips or slabs of bacon may take longer to thaw. Repeat in 60-second intervals as many times as necessary.
Cooked bacon should be reheated and eaten immediately after thawing. Raw bacon, a highly perishable food, shouldn’t be left to sit at room temperature and should instead be cooked shortly after defrosting.
How to Reheat Cooked Bacon
There’s more than one way to reheat cooked bacon, though my personal favorite is in a hot frying pan.
The trick is to cook the bacon for 2-3 minutes less than you’d normally do, then pat it dry, let it cool down, and store it in the fridge. Then, when it’s time to eat it, grease a cast iron or stainless steel skillet lightly with oil, preheat it on medium for 4-5 minutes, and reheat the bacon for 2-3 minutes per side in it.
To reheat cooked bacon in the microwave, Lakeside Smokers recommends lining a microwave-safe plate with a paper towel to absorb the juices, placing the bacon strips on top, and covering them in a second towel to keep them from splattering all over. Reheat on high for 10-15 seconds.
To reheat cooked bacon in the oven, preheat your oven to a temperature of 350°F for no less than 30 minutes, arrange the bacon strips, separated from one another, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and cook for 5 minutes.