Just as I was thinking of cooking up some bacon pasta the other day, I noticed that something about the bacon laying around in my fridge was off. I picked up the top slice and it felt weirdly sticky and slimy.
Suspecting what the case might be, I set out to do a little research on the Internet. Here’s what I found (and what I ended up doing).
Why does bacon get slimy?
If a piece or slice of raw bacon feels sticky to the touch, has moldy spots on its surface, or has caught a grayish color with tints of green or blue, it has most probably gone bad. The best thing to do is discard it as it’s no longer safe to eat.
Always toss raw bacon—as well as any other red meat or poultry—in the bin as soon as you suspect that it’s spoiled because it might contaminate other foods in your fridge.
Old bacon gets slimy because of lactic acid bacteria, also known as Lactobacillales. Even though lactic acid bacteria is the same type of bacteria used for making fermented drinks like yogurt and kombucha, signs of its excess growth on meat indicates that the meat has gone bad.
Bacon turns from pink to gray over time because exposing raw meat to air for prolonged periods of time triggers a chemical reaction that discolors it.
When raw bacon becomes sticky, gray, or moldy, it’s past its expiration date and is no longer safe to eat (especially uncooked or undercooked).
Though cooking raw bacon to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) will kill most bacteria and parasites, it’s recommended that you throw bacon away if you suspect it’s gone bad.
What to Look for When Buying Bacon
I learned a lesson that day, folks. Those slices of bacon were sitting in my fridge for only a day and a half.
When I was at the grocery store, I decided to not pay attention for one minute when I was ordering bacon at the meat counter… and I got the old meat.
Next time, I’m going to be one of those picky and annoying customers. At least now I know why they behave that way in the first place!
Which leads me to my next question… How can you tell when bacon is fresh?
Fresh bacon smells naturally and pleasantly meaty. Its meat has a pink color and the fat on it is white or yellow. It feels elastic and fatty—not sloppy and sticky—to the touch.
In doing my research, I found some really good tips over at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s website.
“When buying bacon,” the USDA advises, “look for slices with long veins of lean pink meat and a relatively small amount of fat. If the package bears an expiration date, purchase the package before the date expires. Take the bacon home immediately and refrigerate it at 40 °F (4.4 °C) or below. Remember, always refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours.”
How to Store Bacon in Your Home
Always keep bacon in the fridge for short-term or in the freezer for long-term storage.
|Storage||Avg. Temperature||Max. Time|
|In the open||68 – 72°F (20 – 22°C)||2 hours|
|In the fridge||40°F (4°C)||7 days|
|In the freezer||0°F (-18°C)||6 months|
Don’t leave raw bacon out in the open at room temperature for more than 2 hours or you’ll have to throw it away.
Bacteria multiply the most between 40°F (4.4°C) and 140°F (60°C). Depending on the location and season, the average room temperature is anywhere between 68 and 72°F (20 and 22°C).
Unopened vacuum-sealed packages of bacon are safe to eat when kept in the fridge and consumed before their expiration date. Once you’ve opened a package of raw bacon, wrap it tightly in butcher paper or tin foil and store it for up to 7 days in the fridge.
You can freeze slices of raw bacon for long-term storage. Coil the slices up so that they look like small snails and place them in an airtight container before putting them in the freezer for up to 6 months.
How to Thaw Bacon
The safest way to thaw bacon is to move it from your freezer to your fridge, letting it defrost overnight. It can take the bacon anywhere between 12 and 24 hours to defrost depending on the thickness and length of the bacon slices or bacon piece.
If you want to thaw bacon faster, put it inside a ziplock bag and submerge the bad in a bowl of cold tap water. As the bacon thaws, change the water every 30 minutes. Make sure that the bag is not leaking water. Otherwise, bacteria from outside can get into the bacon (and the meat itself will soak up water—coming out soggy and unappetizing).
Thaw bacon in the microwave only if you plan to cook it immediately after. Some areas of the bacon will become warm and begin to cook as the meat defrosts in the microwave.
To thaw bacon in the microwave, place it on a microwave-safe plate and defrost it in 1-minute intervals. Use a plate or bowl deep enough to catch any liquid that comes from the meat without dripping into the microwave. Depending on the size of the bacon, it should take you anywhere between 1 and 3 intervals to defrost it.
Should I Wash My Hands After Handling Raw Bacon?
Yes, you should wash your hands with soapy water and for at least 20 seconds after handling raw bacon. Contrary to what most people believe, raw bacon is essentially raw pork, and can often harbor harmful bacteria and parasites on the surface.
It’s a good idea to wipe down any working surfaces, like the countertop and your cutting board, and utensils that came into contact with it. To learn more, check my posts on why you shouldn’t eat bacon raw and why washing your hands after touching raw bacon is a must.
The Bottom Line
When the bacon strips in your fridge turn smelly, slimy, and/or grayish, it’s time to throw them out. Next time, eat the bacon sooner or store it in the fridge for as long as 6 months.
Knowing how to select bacon at the grocery store is just as important as knowing how to store it when you get home. Look for bacon strips that smell fresh and meaty and that have a red to pinkish color. The best bacon strips have more meat than fat on them.