There are a whole lot of unfortunate and persistent myths about bacon. This salty, savory delight is rumored to be both poisonous and safely indestructible with no expiration date, but how long can bacon really stay out of the refrigerator? Can you really die from eating bacon, or can you keep it sitting on the counter forever and snack as you like hours or days later?
The confusion comes from the fact that you can cure bacon for shelf-stable storage, but most of it is not. I will explain the bacon mystery and share important bacon facts as well. Next time you have your favorite breakfast food laying around, you’ll know everything you need about how long it can sit before you need to toss it in the refrigerator.
How long can cooked bacon stay out of the fridge? Cooked bacon can stay outside the refrigerator for about two hours. This is the commonly accepted safety zone for cooked food. Anything longer, and you are at risk for food poisoning from bacteria that thrive in the temperature range 41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Does Fully Cooked Bacon Need to Be Refrigerated
It seems obvious; raw bacon needs to go in the refrigerator. However, cooked bacon is a different story, and you may wonder if it needs to be refrigerated at all. Like any non-cured meat, bacon needs to stay cold after you cook it. If there’s leftover bacon, which is a bit of an oxymoron, then you should put it in the refrigerator within two to four hours.
The longer you wait, the greater the chance of dangerous bacteria growing. Taking the time to wrap up that extra bacon could save you a lot of pain and sickness later. Although it is all right to allow your bacon to cool down, you shouldn’t wait too long before putting it in the fridge.
Certainly, do not leave your cooked bacon out overnight even if your kitchen area is cool and the bacon is well sealed.
According to Still Tasty, “Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 41 °F and 135 °F, cooked bacon should be discarded if left for more than 2 hours at room temperature. Notably, people who live in warmer climates may need to put food away sooner. Especially when it is ninety degrees indoors or more, food goes off faster.
When it’s hot, stow food in the refrigerator for an hour. Cooking bacon brings out the best possible flavor and adds crunch. Sadly, it does not remove any of the dangerous bacteria from the air or surfaces. Even a covered plate of bacon is still a risk you should avoid.
Instead of worrying, enjoy your bacon freshly cooked, and store the extra as soon as it cools to room temperature. I recommend cooking your bacon in an Eslite Life Divided Frying Grill Pan from Amazon. This clever pan allows you to make three different portions in the same pan without mixing your foods. Better still, it is compatible with induction cook surfaces. To find out more, click here.
Can Bacon Be Stored at Room Temperature – Cook Tips
It may surprise you to learn that you can store bacon at room temperature. As odd as it sounds, properly prepared and stored bacon can stay out of the fridge for a very long time. The trick is that it isn’t the sliced bacon you get raw and packaged at the grocery store.
Smoked, cured bacon is far from raw. In fact, it is cooked for many hours before it gets cooled down and served or wrapped. Between the high salt content and the cooking process, the water has been removed. This bacon is more like jerky than the greasy, crispy breakfast food you make at home.
The good news is that cured pork is completely shelf stable. You can keep it in the pantry or leave it on the counter. However, this only applies until you open it. Once you crack the seal, you should eat it within ten days.
You can stretch that period to four weeks if you refrigerate your cured meat. Well-cured meat doesn’t have bacteria. It is this microscopic issue that causes illness. Without bacteria, there’s nothing to make you sick, so a sealed container won’t typically develop salmonella or other problematic growth.
It’s important to know that this is dry-cured meat. Other pork products such as raw or cooked bacon and bacon grease are not safe to leave at room temperature. Please adhere to the USDA safety standards for your bacon products for your own safety and health.
Bacon that is cured using Sodium Nitrate Is Less Likely to Contain Bacteria and Preserves Longer
Since 1925, sodium nitrate has been used to cure meat. This chemical prevents the growth of bacteria. It is used in most bacon companies. USDA sponsored research states that it helps to prevent exposure to Listeria moncytogenes that tend to attack certain at-risk people. This means that leaving your cooked bacon that was cured with nitrates can stay out in room temperature longer than bacon that has not be cured with sodium nitrates.
Residual Nitrate Found in Bacon – study by Dr William Crowe of Queen University Belfast:
|10.80 mg/kg||10.44 mg/kg||11.03 mg/kg|
How to Tell if your Bacon is Fresh
- Color – if the bacon has changed to a color that brown, gray, or green, it is no longer fresh enough to cook and to eat.
- Feel or Texture – If the bacon feels slimy to the touch or slimy and sticky, you should cook and eat it.
- Smell – if the bacon has a dead flesh smell is should be consumed.
How Long Does Cooked Bacon Last in the Refrigerator
While cooked bacon can stay out of the fridge for an hour or two, what about in the fridge? Most foods last around a week if you keep them cool. Proper storage matters, though, and too much moisture or open packages can wreck the flavor of your food.
Moreover, excess moisture is a breeding ground for mold and bacteria inside your fridge. Always make sure damp or greasy items are packed in zipper bags or well-sealed containers. The same goes for odiferous items like onions and garlic.
Cooked bacon will last four or five days in a cold fridge. However, you can freeze fully cooked bacon for up to a month. Luckily, even thick-cut bacon is easy to thaw. Plus, bacon preserves well in the freezer.
Opt for a wrapped layer, such as foil. Then place your bacon in a freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible. Better still, vacuum seal it, so your meat stays fresh and avoid freezer burn.
For crispy bacon, choose a WaxonWare Granite Ceramic Nonstick Frying Pan. This smart breakfast solution offers an eco-friendly, nontoxic way to make any meal more enjoyable. This pan is not only anti-warp, but it’s also induction and dishwasher friendly for easy use. Have Amazon deliver WaxonWare to your door by clicking here.
Bacon Grease in the Fridge Freezer
Unlike whole bacon, the grease from this tasty meat product can last longer. Though you should never store it at room temperature, bacon grease will last up to a month in the fridge. Likewise, you can store it for six months in the freezer. For optimum flavor, you want to store grease in well-sealed containers.
The less air inside, the better it will taste. Thus, I suggest choosing a container that barely fits the bacon grease you have.
Can You Eat Bacon Bits That Have Been Left Out Overnight
Unlike bacon, bacon bits can be real, imitation, or cured. Furthermore, only some bacon bits need to be refrigerated immediately, like bacon. The storage method depends on the type you have.
- Real Bacon Bits- Whether they’re made at home, or store-bought, cooked bacon is the same in any shape. That includes ‘bits.’ All cooked bacon needs to be stored in the fridge so they can go bad. Store-bought, your favorite salad topper can last up to six weeks in the fridge. However, you can also put them in the freezer for up to six months.
- Imitation Bacon Bits- When your bacon bits are imitation, you can leave them on the counter overnight without a problem. Bacon flavor on vegetable protein may taste identical, but the physical difference allows it to be shelf stable.
- Cured Bacon Bits- Exactly like other cured bacon and pork, you can leave these out if you don’t open them. However, once you pop them open, you should refrigerate or freeze your bacon.
Can You Eat Bacon That Has Been Left in A Car Overnight
Please do not eat bacon that has been left in the car overnight. Even cooked bacon can’t stay out of the fridge for long. Both pre-cooked and raw bacon will go off faster in a warm car than they would on a cool counter. You may not want to throw away bacon, but if it sat in your car overnight, you should.
The only exception to this rule is when your car is cold. At or near freezing, your car is as cold inside as your fridge or freezer. In that case, you should be fine, but always make sure you check the outdoor temperatures before you ‘rescue’ the car-bacon.
A fifteen-inch Master Pan Non-Stick Divided Skillet from Amazon is a superb way to make any bacon-based meal. You can cook bacon, eggs, and anything else you like for breakfast without blending the flavors using the five different compartments. Not only is this pan nonstick, but it also resists stains. Read the outstanding reviews when you click here.
Final Thoughts – Store Cooked Bacon
Eating bacon is a great way to add flavor to any meal. There are many good reasons to add bacon to your food in moderation but leaving it out too long can become dangerous.
Learning how long does cooked bacon is important of course. Some feel that it will last no more than two hours, it depends. Some wonder if frozen cooked bacon will last longer out of the fridge, ti will. Could be as long four more hours.
I would recommend that you store cooked bacon in the fridge when possible since bacteria will have less chance to multiply. If you store in the freezer, it does not take long defrosting cooked bacon.
You can also add cold cooked bacon to sandwiches, but cooked bacon left out for days is not a good plan.
If you do not like the taste of cold bacon, try reheating cooked bacon in the microwave for 30 seconds. When you reheat cooked bacon, you must be careful not to overheat or overcook it.
No one wants to go to the hospital over breakfast food. At best, you’ll get lucky and have no issue with your bacon, but at worst, it could kill you. Extreme food poisoning is rare, but it can happen. Vomiting, diarrhea, and other intestinal difficulties are more common. If you suspect you ate bad bacon, please remember to hydrate and keep an eye on your temperature and general wellness. Go to the hospital if you get severely ill.