Since it’s a processed meat product, turkey bacon should keep longer than fresh whole turkey. The question is, how long is turkey bacon good in the fridge, and is there anything you can do to help it maintain its quality?
How Long is Turkey Bacon Good in the Fridge?
An unopened package of turkey bacon can keep for up to 14 days past its “sell by” date, but it’s better to use it within a week. You can also store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Once you’ve opened the package, you have just a few days to cook it off. Cooked turkey bacon should last for 3 to 5 days in the fridge and 2 months in the freezer.
Is Turkey Bacon Really Bacon?
When it comes to bacon, there’s something of a gray area in terms of the definition.
“Regular” bacon is a pork product. The type that we’re most used to seeing on supermarket shelves is trimmed from the hog’s belly. However, you can make bacon out of the loin or even the cheek—it will just have a different consistency.
The term “bacon” can also be used to refer to any product that’s been cured and smoked to resemble the most common type. Turkey, chicken, and plant-based products like tempeh can be used to mimic the flavor and texture of the real thing.
Is Turkey Bacon Healthy?
Yes and no. Since turkey is leaner than pork, turkey bacon is lower in calories and saturated fat. That means you can swap it for pork bacon if you want a more heart-healthy alternative.
Turkey is also a great source of protein, and it contains a number of other essential vitamins and minerals. However, in order for the meat to resemble bacon, it needs to be pumped full of sodium and other additives.
In short, all processed meat products—including turkey bacon—should be consumed in moderation. You’re on the right track if you use turkey bacon more often than the pork variety, but it should still be considered an indulgence, not a staple of your diet.
How Long is Turkey Bacon Good in the Fridge?
If you have an unopened package of turkey bacon in the fridge, it should keep for up to 14 days past the “sell by” date printed on the package.
We don’t usually advocate using the “sell by” date as a guide. These dates are in place to remind the store how long to display the product before rotating the stock. When that date has passed, it doesn’t necessarily mean the product is bad.
In this case, though, you can use that date to remind you about how long the turkey bacon has been in your fridge. If it’s been sticking around for longer than 2 weeks past the sell by date, it might have outlasted its best qualities.
Although the meat might still be fine after it’s been in the fridge for a couple of weeks, we nonetheless recommend that you cook it off as soon as possible. Try to buy turkey bacon no more than 7 days before you plan to eat it.
After you’ve opened the package, the meat will be exposed to the air. That means it will spoil faster than it would have if you’d kept it in the wrapper. Once opened, you should cook the turkey bacon within 3 to 4 days.
Once it’s been cooked, turkey bacon should keep in the fridge for an additional 3 to 5 days. That means that if you’re approaching the 7-day deadline, you can buy yourself another few days by cooking it off.
We think it’s best to cook the entire package of bacon at once to reduce the risk of spoilage. For ideas on what to do with your leftover turkey bacon, see the separate section below.
How Long Will Turkey Bacon Keep in the Freezer?
Let’s say you’ve had an unopened package of turkey bacon in the fridge for a few days, but you aren’t going to be able to eat it anytime soon. Can you freeze it instead?
Freezing turkey bacon won’t do it any harm, but you should thaw it within 3 months. Otherwise, the flavor and texture will start to deteriorate.
It’s also fine to freeze the turkey bacon after it’s cooked. In this case, it will start to go downhill a bit sooner. Try to defrost and enjoy your cooked turkey bacon within 2 months.
How To Cook Turkey Bacon
Did you know that the shelf life of cooked turkey bacon can depend on the cooking method? You want it to retain plenty of moisture so that it doesn’t dry out in the fridge. If it’s too dry, you may wind up throwing it out instead of eating it.
We’ve found that pan-frying and deep-frying are the best ways to help the turkey bacon maintain an appealing texture. However, both come with trade-offs.
Turkey bacon is leaner than pork bacon, so it’s more apt to stick to the pan when you pan-fry it. On the other hand, deep-frying it can negate the low-fat qualities that make turkey bacon so appealing in the first place.
Grilling isn’t the best method for turkey bacon. You can cook pork bacon on the grill, but this product is so lean, the grilling process will dry it out. By the time they’re cooked, the strips may resemble turkey jerky more than anything.
Proper Storage Practices
Never keep meat products at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. This rule applies whether the meat is cooked or not.
Once you’ve cooked the turkey bacon, wait for it to cool. Then wrap it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Unless the leftovers are going straight into the freezer, we prefer the plastic wrap. Bits of foil can tear off easily and stick to the bacon.
Set the wrapped bacon in an airtight container. You can also use a zip-top bag. This package should go in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 5 days.
The refrigerator temperature should be set below 40 degrees. A temperature range of 32 to 38 degrees is preferable.
If you’re freezing the bacon, label the container or zip-top bag with the date and the contents of the package. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Frozen turkey bacon should thaw overnight in the fridge. If you take it out of the freezer at the last minute, pop the slices directly in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Make sure to remove any plastic wrap beforehand.
How To Tell if Turkey Bacon is Bad
Although processed meat has a longer shelf life than non-processed meat products, it can go bad like anything else. Even if the sell by date hasn’t passed you by yet, there’s always a chance that the turkey bacon is no longer fresh.
Start your test by giving the turkey bacon a visual inspection. It should be pink to pale peach in color, sometimes with a few white streaks here and there. Gray or brown discoloration is a sign of spoilage.
Even worse, if the product has actually begun to grow mold, there may be fuzzy-looking blue or white patches on the meat. If you notice any of these warning signs, discard the turkey bacon right away.
Sometimes, the slices might be slightly brown around the edges, but the meat is still fine to consume. You can check by testing the texture and smell of the product.
When it’s fresh, turkey bacon is slightly springy to the touch. The surface should be soft and moist, but not slimy or sticky. If you notice a slimy film on the surface, it means that lactic acid bacteria is feeding on the meat.
The smell test is the most reliable and prevalent method in determining whether meat is still fresh. Give the turkey bacon a hearty sniff. If it’s bad, there’s a good chance that the foul odor will let you know right away.
Uses For Turkey Bacon
If you’re having a hard time deciding what to do with your leftover turkey bacon after it’s cooked, fear not. The product is as versatile as regular bacon, and you can work it into more dishes without worrying about excess saturated fat intake.
Here are a few of our favorite uses for turkey bacon:
- Crumble the strips and use them as a topping for creamy soups
- Make a Cobb salad with shredded iceberg lettuce, diced chicken, hard-boiled eggs, sliced tomato and avocado, and chopped scallions, then top with crumbled turkey bacon, blue cheese, and a mustard vinaigrette
- Mix turkey bacon and peas into a creamy Parmesan sauce, then toss with spaghetti and grilled chicken for pasta Carbonara
- Add to your favorite chicken salad recipe
- Use to top a bowl of hearty steel-cut oatmeal
- Pair with romaine lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, toasted white bread, and mayonnaise for a turkey bacon BLT
The Bottom Line
Turkey bacon will keep in the fridge for longer than a thawed whole turkey, but it won’t last indefinitely.
The meat may start to go downhill within a week, even if it’s still technically safe to consume. Keep that in mind the next time you put turkey bacon on the shopping list.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!