pinterest pixel
Home » Bacon Basics » How to Tell When Bacon Is Bad

How to Tell When Bacon Is Bad

Bacon is so, so good, which is why it’s important to know how to tell when bacon is bad. This guide will help you identify signs of spoilage so you can always enjoy the best, freshest, tastiest bacon.

It’s no secret that bacon is one of the most delicious foods on the planet. But what do you do if you open a package of bacon and it smells funny? Or if the color doesn’t seem quite right?

In this guide, we will teach you how to tell if bacon is bad so that you can avoid eating spoiled meat. Stay safe and enjoy your bacon!

For more great information about bacon, be sure to check out our bacon nutritional guide, our favorite way to cook bacon, and what to do with bacon grease.

Characteristics of Fresh Bacon

Let’s begin by defining the attributes of perfectly fresh bacon.

When it’s fresh and ready to cook, good quality bacon will look plump and have a pinkish-white color. The fat should be white and relatively smooth. The aroma will be clean and smoky.

Now that we know what fresh bacon looks and smells like, let’s take a look at some ways to tell if it is past its prime.

Is Bacon Spoiled? 4 Basic Identification Methods

There are several signs of bad bacon that indicate spoilage:

  • Off color
  • Slimy texture
  • Bad odor
  • Mold growth

If you see any of these signs, you should not to eat the bacon as it may contain harmful bacteria. Escherichia coliformi (abbreviated as E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus are two of the most common bacteria associated with food poisoning.

Bacon that has been spoiled by bacterial growth can cause food poisoning, which may result in symptoms like stomach cramps, severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, high fever and diarrhea.

(Can I just mention that I honestly never imagined I’d be writing a post with the word “diarrhea” in it, but here we are.)

If you are unsure whether your bacon has spoiled, even though it’s painful to think about, it’s best to discard it.

Let’s explore these signs of spoiled bacon in more depth:

Look at Bacon’s Texture

Spoiled bacon will have a slimy texture. <<Shudder.>>

If the slices have a sticky or tacky texture, they shouldn’t be cooked or eaten.

Likewise, if the bacon strips feel hard or rubbery they are likely spoiled.

Check the Color of the Bacon

3 slabs of bacon stacked on top of one another, with the lower slab being darker in color than the others.

The brownish red hue of your bacon should be fresh and natural looking. If the color of your bacon has changed, it may be an indication that it has gone bad. The color changes can range from slight fading of the red-brown color to deeper tones of brown which indicate that the meat has turned.

If the meat looks iridescent, that’s a bad sign too. If you see any discoloration on your bacon, throw it out immediately as this could be an indication of bacterial growth.

Take a Whiff of the Bacon Smell

Just like with any food, you should always take a sniff of your bacon before cooking or eating it. If it has a sour smell or an off-putting ammonia odor, it is spoiled.

Even if the aroma is just slightly off, err on the side of caution and discard it. There’s no need to risk getting sick from spoiled bacon.

Safe Bacon Storage and Handling

According to the USDA, these are the best practices for bacon:

  • When you’re shopping at the grocery store, plan to grab your bacon from the meat cooler just before you check out.
  • Take the bacon home immediately, and refrigerate it at 40 °F (4 degrees C) or below.
  • Use within 7 days or freeze in a freezer with a temperature of 0 °F (-18 degrees C) or below.
  • Keep raw bacon separated from other foods when you’re cooking with it.
  • As with all types of raw meat, be sure to wash utensils, cutting boards, work surfaces and your hands with hot soapy water after handling bacon. 

Average Shelf Life of Unopened Bacon

There are many factors that affect how long any batch of bacon will last: how it was cured, the preservatives used, and how long it has been since it was packed.

Most sealed packages of bacon have an expiration date. In our experience, however, even in a sealed package bacon quality starts to deteriorate after more than a week in the refrigerator.

For best flavor, we recommend cooking bacon within seven days of purchase.

How Long is Bacon Good for After Opening?

Once you have opened a package of bacon, it needs to be used quickly. If you don’t use it all making BLAT sandwiches or Maple Candied Bacon, you can tightly wrap it and store bacon the refrigerator after opening the package; just plan to use it within a few days.

Because the flavor starts to deteriorate slightly after just a few days, if I’m not going to use an opened package of bacon right away I’ll just pop it in the freezer.

It is important to note that spoiled bacon will not necessarily look or smell bad right away. Sometimes the signs of spoilage are only detectable after the meat has been cooked.

For this reason, it is always best to be safe and discard any bacon that exhibits any of the abovementioned spoilage symptoms.

How Long Can Uncooked Bacon Sit Out at Room Temperature?

If raw bacon is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it is not safe to eat.

The bacteria that cause foodborne illness grow rapidly in the presence of oxygen and at temperatures between 40 °F (4 degrees Celsius) and 140 °F (60 degrees Celsius).

How to tell if Turkey Bacon is Spoiled?

Turkey bacon which has gone bad will also have an unpleasant odor. In addition, spoiled turkey bacon will be sticky or slimy to the touch and will have a dull color.

If you see any of these signs, it is best to discard the turkey bacon. Like pork bacon, spoiled turkey bacon can cause food poisoning if consumed.

Therefore, it is important to always use your senses to determine whether your turkey bacon has spoiled before cooking and eating it.

For more information about turkey bacon, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to turkey bacon handling, storage and freezing.

How to Tell if Canadian Bacon is Bad?

Sliced rounds of Canadian bacon on a wooden cutting board.

If you’re not sure whether your Canadian bacon has spoiled, the best way to evaluate it is by its smell. Fresh Canadian bacon should have a slight smoky smell. If it smells sour or rancid, it has gone bad and should be discarded.

Additionally, spoiled Canadian bacon will often be slimy or sticky to the touch. If you see any of these signs, it is best to err on the side of caution and throw out the Canadian bacon.

Tips for Wrapping and Refrigerating Bacon

  • Oxygen is the enemy of freshness, so a tight seal will help to keep it from spoiling. After opening the sealed package, don’t try to reuse the package. Instead, wrap bacon tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Then place it in a resealable plastic bag or shallow airtight container before refrigerating.
  • My favorite way to wrap it is to blot the excess moisture with paper towels, wrap the slab in Press ‘n Seal, wrap that package in foil, and place in a resealable plastic bag.
  • Store bacon in the coldest part of your refrigerator, preferably in the meat drawer.

How Long does Bacon Last in the Fridge?

Typically, fresh pork, turkey and Canadian bacon can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Vacuum sealed packages can be stored in the fridge until the “use by” date on the package. Once opened, all three types of bacon should be tightly wrapped and used within seven days for best quality.

If you don’t plan on eating your bacon within a week, freezing it is a better option.

Tips for Freezing Bacon

  • Freeze only fresh, high-quality bacon.
  • If the bacon is still in a sealed package and unopened, seal it in the package.
  • If the original package was opened, wrap sliced or whole pieces of bacon tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and place inside a resealable freezer bag.
  • If you like, you can separate the bacon into servings and freeze several strips individually for easy thawing of smaller portions.
  • Label and date the package, so you know how long the bacon has been in the freezer.
  • When you’re ready to cook your bacon, be sure to allow it to thaw completely before frying.

How Long Does Bacon Keep in the Freezer?

Pork and turkey bacon can be stored in the freezer and will retain their quality for up to one month.

If you’re not able to use it within 30 days of freezing, you can extend the time but may risk possible loss of flavor and quality. Pork and turkey bacon should be used within three months of being frozen.

How to Safely Thaw Frozen Bacon

To safely thaw frozen bacon, place it in the refrigerator the day before you plan to use it. In the morning it should be thawed and ready to cook.

If you’re in a hurry or forgot to thaw it in the refrigerator and the bacon is still in its original sealed package, you can submerge it in cold water and allow it to thaw slowly. Drain and refresh the cold water as needed.

Microwaving frozen bacon is not recommended for thawing, as this may result in an uneven cooking process and potentially dangerous bacteria growth.

Pro Bacon Freshness Tips

  • If you purchase bacon and need to make a stop after grocery shopping, bring a cooler and ice pack to store your bacon and other perishables until you return home.
  • If you’re freezing bacon, it’s best to do so in moisture-proof packaging.
  • When you’re ready to cook bacon that was previously frozen, be sure it’s completely thawed first.

More Bacon Guides

A pile of microwaved bacon on a crumpled sheet of parchment paper

For more tips about preparing tasty bacon, you might enjoy these articles and recipes:

How to Cook Bacon In the Oven

How to Cook Bacon On the Grill

How to Microwave Bacon

What to Do With Bacon Grease

So, there you have it! These are just a few tips to help you determine if your bacon has spoiled. By using your senses of sight, smell and taste, you can always enjoy the best, freshest, tastiest bacon around.

Got questions? Just ask! I’m happy to help. Did you find this post helpful? Do you have any other tips to share on how to tell if bacon is bad? Let us know in the comments below!

And don’t forget to share this post with your friends on social media so they can learn how to tell if their bacon is bad. Thanks for reading!

Pin for Later

If you use Pinterest to save and share ideas, here’s a handy pin:

Close up of six strips of thick sliced bacon. Text includes post title and: The Definitive Guide - Save for Later.

Nutrition Disclaimer: All nutritional information shared on this site is an approximation. I am not a certified nutritionist, and any nutritional information should be used as a general guideline.

eliza cross

About Eliza & BENSA

BENSA was founded by bacon expert Eliza Cross, author of more than a dozen cookbooks. She has written three bacon cookbooks including the award-winning Bacon Beans and Beer, the bestselling 101 Things to Do With Bacon, and the popular sequel 101 More Things to Do With Bacon. Learn more about BENSA...

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


BENSA as seen in Southern Living, Men's Health, The Denver Post, Daily Meal and other media.