Is Your Turkey Bacon Bad? (How to Tell)

Published Categorized as Food
Turkey bacon gone badJkirsch13 /Depositphotos

These are the unmissable signs that your turkey bacon has gone bad. Don’t ignore them.

Turkey bacon is delicious, that’s for sure! Once opened, it also has a relatively long shelf life compared to other processed meats. Whole or sliced turkey bacon will keep in the refrigerator for 7 to 14 days.

As delicious as turkey bacon is, and as much as we all try to keep food waste to a minimum, spoiled turkey bacon does not just taste worse than fresh. You can get a pretty bad stomachache or, worse, food poisoning if you eat it.

The latter may sound like a cautionary tale. But, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it happens to one out of five Americans every year. Of them, 128,000 wound up hospitalized, and roughly 3,000 die.

That’s the thing about food, you know. It tastes great and it’s good for you—until it isn’t. If you suspect that a package of turkey bacon has been sitting for a little too long in your fridge, here’s how to tell if it’s gone bad.

Signs That Your Turkey Bacon Has Gone Bad

While turkey bacon’s shelf life can vary, it is generally good for 7-14 days after the sell-by date or the date of opening. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and stick to the shorter timeframe.

Determining whether turkey bacon is spoiled can be trickier than pork bacon. Unlike pork bacon, turkey bacon has a strong smell and gamey taste that can mask the foul odor of spoilage, especially during the early stages.

That said, there are ways to tell.

Fresh turkey bacon has a clean flavor of dark poultry with a slight hint of game. It smells appetizing and feels silky, like smooth wet skin to the touch, with or without a thin layer of gelatin on the surface.

If turkey bacon smells conspicuously sour, its color has changed from light pink to gray, or the meat itself feels slimy and sticky, it is most likely spoiled and should be discarded immediately.

It’s simple, really. Your senses (and your common sense) are there to keep you safe. The golden rule is that if it smells off-putting, feels icky, or tastes bad, then it shouldn’t go in your stomach.

Contrary to what some of you may think, reheating or cooking spoiled turkey bacon doesn’t make it edible again. Heat may kill the bacteria that caused the spoilage, but it doesn’t eliminate the toxins they left in the meat. And it’s these toxins that pose a serious risk to your health.

Don’t Rely on the Sell-By Date Alone; It Can Be Misleading

Before you take home the bacon, a number of factors come into play, such as how the poultry was made in the factory and handled in the store, which may cause it to spoil slower or faster than conventional wisdom says.

In some grocery stores, the staff cleans the work surfaces and the blades of the meat slicers more thoroughly than they do in others. Even in the same store, the level of sanitization may vary from shift to shift.

If your turkey bacon is handled on a dirty countertop or cut with a blade that has not been wiped clean, bacteria will be transferred to the surface, and this bacterial transfer can lead to faster spoilage.

Similarly, if on your shopping trip you left the turkey bacon in the trunk of your car a little too long while you were doing the rest of your chores around town, you could have shortened its life by a few days.

Safe Consumption, Handling, and Storage of Turkey Bacon

Raw turkey bacon has been cured but hasn’t been cooked. For safe consumption without the risk of disease, it’s best that you don’t eat it raw and cook it till brown and crispy instead.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soapy water after handling raw turkey bacon, and be sure to sanitize all working surfaces and cutlery by washing them in the sink or giving them a good wipe down with an appropriate cleaning solution.

Turkey bacon, whether opened or unopened, should never be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (if hotter than 90°F outside, that time gets shortened to 1 hour). Otherwise, pathogenic bacteria may multiply in it to a dangerous level that can make you sick.

Vacuum-sealed turkey bacon or packaged sliced turkey bacon can be kept unopened in its original package. Once opened, the meat should be wrapped tightly with butcher paper, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap for refrigeration.

We recommend that you use butcher paper for wrapping turkey bacon. It is uncoated and allows the poultry to breathe as it rests in the fridge. This can increase its storage life by a good few days compared to other wrapping methods, such as tin foil or saran wrap.

How Long Is Turkey Bacon Good For?

In the fridge, turkey bacon will last for 7-14 days. In the freezer, it will stay safe to eat indefinitely (but the bacon will only keep its best texture, aroma, and taste for 6 months before it starts to dry out).

The safest way to thaw turkey bacon is to move it from your freezer to your fridge the night before cooking or eating it. Place the poultry on the lowest shelf of the fridge and toward the back, where it is coldest, in a deep plate or bowl to catch any drippings.

Alternatively, frozen bacon can be thawed in a ziplock bag submerged in a bowl of cold water, provided you change the water every 15-20 minutes or in 20 to 30-second intervals on the defrost setting in the microwave.

Revert to thawing in cold water or the microwave only if you’re short on time and want to prepare the turkey bacon immediately afterward.

If you cooked more turkey bacon than you could eat and you stored the leftovers in the fridge, don’t wait too long to eat them all up; they will only stay good for 3-4 days.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.