How Long Can Cooked Bacon Be Left Unrefrigerated? The Ultimate Guide

Bacon is one of America’s most beloved breakfast foods. The crispy, salty, smoky flavor of sizzling bacon is simply irresistible to many of us. Whether enjoyed on its own, on a sandwich, in a salad or crumbled on top of a burger, bacon makes almost any dish better.

But there’s nothing worse than spoiled bacon. That slimy texture and funky smell is enough to turn anyone off. So an important question for any bacon lover is: how long can cooked bacon be left out unrefrigerated before it goes bad?

I did some extensive research on bacon food safety and uncovered the facts on how long cooked bacon lasts outside the fridge. In this ultimate guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about proper storage times, signs of spoiled bacon, and more tips to keep your bacon safe, crisp and delicious

How Long Can Cooked Bacon Be Left Out?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cooked bacon should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

After cooking, perishable foods like bacon enter the “Danger Zone” between 40°F-140°F. This is the temperature range where bacteria can quickly multiply and make you sick.

So within two hours of cooking, bacon should be refrigerated or frozen to slow bacteria growth. The USDA recommends throwing away bacon that sits out for more than two hours.

Here are some other USDA food safety guidelines for cooked bacon:

  • Refrigerate cooked bacon for 3-5 days maximum.
  • Freeze cooked bacon for 1-3 months maximum.
  • Do not store cooked bacon on the counter overnight.
  • Do not leave cooked bacon in a hot car or picnic cooler for over 2 hours.

The USDA two hour rule applies no matter how you cook your bacon – pan-fried, baked or microwaved. It also applies to other cooked meats like sausage, ham and deli meats.

Bottom line: Resist the urge to snack on bacon straight from the stovetop or let it cool on the counter. Within two hours, head straight to the fridge.

Can You Leave Cooked Bacon Out Overnight?

It’s never a good idea to leave cooked bacon out on the counter overnight.

Bacteria starts multiplying rapidly between two to four hours out of refrigeration. Leaving bacon overnight gives bacteria an all-access pass to your food.

According to food safety experts, bacon left overnight poses a high risk of causing food poisoning. Potential bacteria include salmonella, E. coli, listeria and bacillus cereus.

Symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Headaches and fever
  • In severe cases, paralysis or death

To avoid this miserable fate, make sure to store any leftover cooked bacon in the fridge before heading to bed.

And never reheat bacon that’s sat out overnight to try and make it safe. Bacteria can’t be killed through cooking at that point. Play it safe and throw spoiled bacon straight in the trash.

How Long Does Cooked Bacon Last in the Fridge?

Cooked bacon that’s properly stored in the fridge will last 3-5 days.

To maximize fridge life, make sure to seal cooked bacon in an airtight container or plastic bags. This prevents contamination and slows down bacteria growth. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil if not storing in a container.

Also keep your fridge temperature at 40°F or below. The colder the better for food safety.

Here are signs that bacon has gone bad in the fridge:

  • Slimy or sticky texture
  • Grey, green or white discoloration
  • Rancid or sour smell
  • Mold growth

When in doubt, remember the old adage: “When it smells bad, it IS bad.” Your nose knows best! Discard expired bacon to avoid getting sick from bacteria.

Can You Freeze Cooked Bacon?

Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of cooked bacon. Properly frozen, cooked bacon lasts 1-3 months in the freezer.

To freeze:

  • Cool cooked bacon completely, about 30 minutes
  • Wrap strips tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Remove as much air as possible.
  • Place wrapped bacon strips in freezer bags or airtight containers.
    -Freeze immediately at 0°F or below.

For best flavor, use frozen bacon within 2-3 months. Label bags with dates for easy reference.

To thaw frozen bacon, refrigerate overnight in the sealed package. For quicker use, microwave 5-10 seconds at a time, checking after each interval.

Avoid refreezing bacon more than once, as the texture will degrade. Make sure to cook thawed bacon until sizzling hot before eating.

Freezing gives you the flexibility to enjoy bacon whenever the craving strikes!

Other Ways to Store Cooked Bacon

If you have leftovers, here are some other good storage methods for cooked bacon:

  • Vacuum seal – Using a vacuum sealer removes oxygen to prevent spoilage. Vacuum sealed cooked bacon lasts 4-6 weeks in the fridge.

  • Canning – Home canning cooked bacon in mason jars lets it last up to 1 year. Follow proper canning instructions carefully.

  • Curing/Smoking – You can cure and smoke leftover bacon using salts, sugars and smoke to extend shelf life. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

  • Oil – Fully immersing cooked bacon in oil inhibits bacteria growth. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Tips for Handling Cooked Bacon Safely

Beyond monitoring fridge time, here are some tips for handling cooked bacon safely:

  • Cook bacon thoroughly until crispy to kill lingering bacteria.
  • Never leave bacon to cool on the stovetop or countertops.
  • Use clean utensils and prep surfaces to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Wash hands and sanitize kitchen surfaces after handling.
  • When reheating, cook until steaming hot, at least 165°F.
  • Don’t let raw bacon drip on other foods during cooking.
  • Keep pets away from raw and cooked bacon to avoid spreading bacteria.

Play it safe, and you can confidently enjoy bacon knowing it won’t make anyone sick.

FAQs About Storing Cooked Bacon

Let’s recap some common questions about how long cooked bacon lasts unrefrigerated:

How long can you leave bacon out after cooking?

Only 2 hours maximum according to USDA guidance. Refrigerate or freeze within this timeframe.

What happens if you leave cooked bacon out overnight?

Bacteria can grow rapidly, causing a high risk of food poisoning when bacon sits overnight at room temp.

How long does cooked bacon last in the fridge?

3-5 days in the fridge in an airtight container. Toss when you see signs of spoilage.

Can you freeze cooked bacon?

Yes, freeze for 1-3 months for best quality. Make sure to wrap tightly in freezer bags or containers.

Is it safe to reheat bacon left out for over 2 hours?

No, bacteria may have already grown on bacon sitting out over 2 hours. Reheating won’t make it safe.

Can you store cooked bacon in the fridge unsealed?

It’s best to seal in an airtight container. Uncovered, it may dry out, absorb odors and spoil faster.

What happens if you eat bad bacon?

Eating spoiled bacon can cause food poisoning, with symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, headaches or fever in severe cases.

How can you tell if cooked bacon is bad?

Signs include an off smell, slimy texture, discoloration, and mold spots. Trust your senses – if bacon seems off, toss it.

The Bottom Line

There you have it – a complete guide to how long cooked bacon lasts unrefrigerated and the best practices for safe storage.

The key points to remember are:

  • Refrigerate or freeze cooked bacon within 2 hours
  • Never leave bacon out overnight
  • Store properly in fridge for 3-5 days
  • Freeze for 1-3 months
  • Look for signs of spoilage like smell and slime

With proper handling, you can feel confident that your bacon stays fresh, delicious and safe to eat. So go ahead and enjoy those irresistible crispy bacon strips on breakfast sandwiches, burgers and salads without worry. Just be sure to strictly limit time outside the fridge and follow smart storage guidelines. Happy snacking!

Frequency of entities:

  • 2 hours: 7
  • overnight/counter overnight: 5
  • 3-5 days: 3
  • 1-3 months: 3
  • refrigerate/refrigeration: 10
  • freeze/freezer: 8
  • bacteria: 7
  • food safety: 4
  • food poisoning: 3
  • spoiled/spoilage: 5
  • airtight container: 3
  • crispy: 2
  • delicious: 1
  • irresistible: 1
  • salty: 1
  • smoky: 1
  • beloved: 1
  • ultimate guide: 1

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