Bacon's balanced blend of salty, smoky and sweet flavors makes it unusually hard to resist, even within the alluring world of cured pork products. That creates good reasons for freezing it, whether you binge regularly on bacon or ration yourself rigorously to a few slices a week. Families that use lots of bacon often load up the freezer when it's on sale, while abstemious weight-conscious diners might portion a single pound into multiple small portions. Either way, the freezer life for bacon is flexible.
Most bacon is freshness-dated at its packaging plant, giving retailers a date at which the product's quality can't be guaranteed any longer. As long as the bacon has been handled properly, it's still perfectly food safe at that stage. But bacon near its sell-by date isn't the best candidate for freezing. It's better to choose bacon with a distant freshness date, so you'll have the maximum usable life once it's thawed. Food safety isn't an issue while your bacon is in the freezer, because freezing halts the progress of spoilage and bacterial activity. From that perspective, its freezer storage life is essentially infinite, but the same can't be said for its quality.
The pork industry and its related boards offer a very conservative estimate of bacon's freezer storage life. Experts recommend that bacon be frozen in its original packaging and used within one month. At that stage, it should not show any ill effects from being frozen and thawed. If your freezer maintains a consistent temperature, your bacon should retain most of its quality for as long as six to eight months. Over time, its fats might begin to develop off-flavors because of enzyme activity, which slows but doesn't stop in the freezer. Bacon out of its original packaging deteriorates more quickly and should be used within a month or so.
It's a Wrap
To gain the maximum storage life from your bacon, wrap the original packaging in another layer. Enclose it in a heavy-duty freezer bag or plastic film wrap, squeezing out as much air as possible. An outer wrapping of heavy-duty foil is optional but can also extend the bacon's storage life. If you're opening a package of bacon and freezing it in individual portions, vacuum-seal each portion or place it in its own airtight bag. Place the individual portions in a larger freezer bag or airtight container, for added protection and to keep them from getting lost in your freezer. Label and date the packages, so you know how old they are.
Practice Safe Thawing
The best way to thaw a full package of bacon is to leave in the refrigerator for 12 to 14 hours. That way the bacon remains at a food-safe temperature as it thaws, giving you the maximum refrigerator storage time. When you'll be cooking the entire pound of bacon immediately or you're thawing a single portion, place the wrapped bacon in cold water for 10 to 30 minutes until it's thawed and can be separated. Then cook and use the bacon normally. If you find that the bacon has begun to develop off flavors or become freezer burnt, remove any remaining packages with the same date and discard them.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.