You have made the best meal in the world: the one that includes bacon. However, in a classic case where your eyes are bigger than your stomach, there are leftovers and oops! – you forgot to put the bacon in the fridge. Now it’s the next day and you look at it longingly and wonder, “Is this good to eat?”
You should not eat bacon at room temperature for more than two hours. All perishable foods that have been left out for more than two hours are considered unsafe to eat. This is because the bacterial growth begins to multiply. Store your bacon in the refrigerator as soon as it has cooled.
What is a clear indication that the bacon has gone bad? Are there visible signs? What kinds of symptoms can you expect if you’ve eaten spoiled bacon? Keep reading as we will cover the topic.
How long can different types of bacon rest?
The USDA says that it’s unsafe to eat food left in the “danger zone” (40-140°F / 4-60°C) for more than two hours. If it’s hot and your room temperature is above 90°F, the safe, non-refrigerated time window is reduced to just one hour.
That said, cooked bacon is a unique food because it is salty, (usually) treated with nitrites, and has a low level of water activity, which slows bacterial growth.
You’ll need to pay attention to the type of bacon you’ve cooked and the other factors described below when deciding if it’s safe to eat after it’s been left out overnight.
As always, remember that the best rule of thumb when it comes to food safety is: Better safe than sorry.
Dried bacon has been treated with nitrites, which reduces the risk of botulism and slows the growth of bacteria. Still, if the bacon has been left out at room temperature overnight, it’s not worth the risk.
If it’s only for an hour or two, the bacon may be in the safe zone, but we don’t recommend eating perishables that have been out for about 2 hours or more. Because bacon is dry, it can be a bit safer than other foods when you get closer to that 2-hour mark.
However, be careful of cross contamination. If your leftover bacon contains eggs, condiments, or other foods, those foods (which of course haven’t been dried) could develop bacterial growth and cause food poisoning.
Turkey bacon is the healthier alternative to pork bacon, but the same rules apply when it comes to storing leftovers. The safest scenario is that the turkey bacon is placed in an airtight container and moved to cold storage within two hours of cooking.
If you leave it out overnight, the same guidelines apply: You probably shouldn’t eat the bacon if it’s been at room temperature for more than two hours.
Use your judgement: is the room temperature above average? Has the bacon been in contact with other foods and therefore more susceptible to bacterial growth? As always, prevention is better than cure.
Pancetta is Italian bacon that has been cured and salted for up to two months, which removes most of the moisture from the meat. This process slows bacterial growth, making it safer to consume if left out overnight.
As always, play it safe and pay attention to other factors. The USDA says that if cooked food is left out of cold storage for more than two hours, there is a risk of food poisoning.
If the temperature in your room is higher than normal (90°F or higher) or if the food has been in contact with other foods without drying, play it safe and avoid eating leftovers.
If you like bacon, but don’t like the idea of eating animals, vegetarian bacon is a great alternative. However, if you leave it out overnight, it is not safe to eat.
Plant-based bacon is usually made from soy products that don’t last very long outside of cold storage. Unlike animal-based bacon products, vegetarian bacon has not been cured and will go bad if not stored cold.
Follow USDA guidelines on this and store safely in a cool place within two hours of cooking and serving. If you forget to do this, don’t eat the leftovers.
Smoked bacon that has been left out overnight should not be eaten. It has undergone a seasoning and drying process that beautifully enhances its flavor, but also makes meat preservatives less effective.
Strictly follow the USDA safety guidelines here and place the smoked bacon in cold storage within two hours of cooking. If you forget to do this, skip the leftovers; a good excuse to cook more smoked bacon!
If you’ve prepared pork tenderloin yourself instead of bacon, you’ve enjoyed a tender and delicious cut of pork shoulder that has been processed less than traditional bacon. For this reason, if you overdo it, be sure to refrigerate immediately.
If you left pork tenderloin overnight, it is not safe to eat. USDA guidelines recommend cold storage within two hours. So if it stays out, throw it away and don’t risk food poisoning.
What can happen if you eat spoiled bacon?
If you can’t resist the temptation, it is bacon after all! – and you eat leftovers that haven’t been stored properly, you run the risk of food poisoning. Symptoms range from mild abdominal discomfort to more intense cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.
The best idea! If you left the bacon out overnight, play it safe. Throw it away and make a new batch. A hot, crunchy treat with no threat of a stomach ache (unless, of course, you overeat!).
How do you know if bacon has gone bad?
You can tell if your bacon has gone bad with a simple three-step test: check the smell, color, and texture.
Bacon that has gone bad will smell sour, and since we all know bacon smells good, this is a good first taste.
Bad food will also discolor. In the case of bacon, it will lose its pinkish hue if it is not cooked or it will show gray, black or greenish mold spots if it is cooked. Stay away.
Finally, if the bacon has changed texture and become slimy, the risk is not worth it. Cooked bacon that is left out will definitely lose its crispness and might still be good, but watch out for leftovers that have a soft or stringy feel.
What is the best way to store bacon?
Raw bacon is best in its unopened vacuum-sealed bag in the refrigerator or freezer. Once you’ve opened this bag, you’ll want to store any raw, unused bacon in a zip-top bag and immediately return it to cold storage.
Once you’ve cooked your bacon, let it cool completely, then place it in an airtight container and set it aside in a cool place within two hours of cooking.
If you plan to freeze leftovers, wrap individual servings in paper towels, then place in an airtight container. This step will prevent the bacon from freezing and make it easier to reheat.
How long can bacon be stored?
Raw bacon in its original vacuum-sealed packaging is safe to prepare for up to one week after its best-before date. It’s a cured meat with lots of preservatives, so it will last longer than most meats if stored properly.
Once cooked, store in the refrigerator as described above and you can enjoy your leftovers for up to a week. If you freeze your cooked bacon, it will keep in airtight containers for up to 6 weeks.
Bacon is such a crowd pleaser that leftovers are rare, but when you have it, you want to make sure you get the most out of it!
Follow these steps for safety and storage and enjoy leftover bacon in breakfast, salads, and side dishes for weeks to come.
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