Pork chops are a lean, tender, and versatile cut. The next time you find a good per-pound price, you might want to stock up. Can you freeze pork chops before or after cooking—and if you do, for how long? Let’s find out.
Can You Freeze Pork Chops?
Pork chops freeze well and defrost quickly due to their small size. Try to freeze them as soon as possible after bringing them home. Raw pork chops should keep for 4 to 12 months in the freezer, but if the meat is cooked, it’s better to defrost and reheat them within 2 to 3 months.
How Long Do Pork Chops Keep In The Fridge?
When raw pork chops are stored in the refrigerator, they should stay fresh for 3 to 4 days. Keep an eye out for signs of spoilage, such as a sour smell, a sticky or slimy texture, or green or white patches. If you notice any such signs, discard the pork.
Sometimes, the pork chops may turn brown in spots. This happens as a result of their exposure to oxygen, and doesn’t necessarily mean the meat is spoiled. As long as you don’t notice any of the other warning signs described above, you should still be able to cook the pork as planned.
Remember that your refrigerator should be set to a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The span between 40 and 140 degrees is known as “the danger zone” because bacteria thrive and multiply at these temperatures.
Go ahead and freeze any raw pork chops that you don’t plan to cook right away. Check the freezer temperature to be sure it’s set to 0 degrees or lower, and store the meat until you’re ready to cook it. For tips, see How Long Do Pork Chops Keep In The Freezer, below.
After cooking, pork chops will keep for another 3 to 4 days. It’s fine to store the cooked meat in the freezer if you don’t think you’ll have a chance to eat it within that time frame. Again, discard the meat if it shows any obvious signs of spoilage.
How Long Are Pork Chops Good After Their Sell-By Date?
You might be interested to learn that sell-by dates aren’t in place due to federal regulations. Instead, food processors and retailers opt to put this information on the package to remind them to rotate their stock.
Of course, all meat will spoil eventually if it’s not stored in the freezer. Therefore, you can use the sell-by date as a guideline once you’ve brought the product home.
Try to cook off the pork chops within 3 to 4 days of the sell-by date. This is a good rule of thumb for any fresh pork, beef, veal, or lamb product. Poultry and ground meat, on the other hand, should be cooked or frozen within 1 to 2 days of the purchase.
How Long Do Pork Chops Keep In The Freezer?
Frozen meat should keep indefinitely as long as the freezer temp is set below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. However, smaller cuts like pork chops might start to exhibit signs of freezer burn if you attempt to store them for longer than 12 months.
To help the meat retain its texture, try to defrost and cook raw pork chops within 4 to 12 months. It’s fine to thaw and refreeze them without cooking them first, but be aware that the meat will dry out a bit more every time you repeat this process.
After the meat is cooked, you should defrost and reheat the leftovers even sooner. That’s because the cooking process removes a great deal of moisture from the pork. Since it will dry out even more when it’s frozen, it’s better to thaw it earlier rather than later.
For optimum texture and flavor, reheat frozen cooked pork chops after 2 to 3 months. They won’t spoil if you store them in the freezer for longer than that, but they may have an unpleasant straw-like consistency.
How Do You Prepare Pork Chops For The Freezer?
If the pork is still in its original packaging, you can add it to the freezer without unwrapping it. The sell-by date should be able to tell you how long the package has been in there.
Otherwise, seal the pork chops in a zip-top bag, forcing out as much air as you can. You can also use a layer of plastic wrap or freezer paper, topped with another layer of sturdy aluminum foil.
Once the meat has been tightly wrapped, label the package with today’s date, the number of pork chops that are included in the package, and whether the chops are raw or cooked. If this is the second time you’ve frozen the pork chops, mention that as well.
Note that if you’re freezing cooked pork chops, you’ll need to make sure they’ve cooled to room temperature or below before you wrap them. Condensation will cause ice crystals to form in the package, contributing to freezer burn.
What’s The Best Way To Defrost Pork Chops?
It’s preferable to defrost frozen meat in the refrigerator, on the bottom shelf. That way, it will stay as cold as possible while still allowing the meat to thaw.
Place the package on a dish with sides high enough to catch any liquid that might drip out as the pork chops are thawing. Set it toward the rear of the fridge. Most pork chops should be ready to cook within 24 hours when thawed in the fridge.
We recommend cooking the defrosted pork chops as soon as possible after thawing. However, they might keep for as long as 3 to 4 days, depending on how fresh they were when you froze them.
If you choose to defrost pork chops in a cold-water bath, make sure they’re sealed in water-tight zip-top bags. Set them in a large container filled with cold water for 30 minutes, then drain and refill with more cold water. At this point, they should be fully defrosted and ready to cook.
Note that you need to cook the meat right away if you’ve thawed it using the cold-water method. It’s not safe to refrigerate it after it’s been defrosted in this manner.
The same rule applies for meat that’s been defrosted in the microwave. We try to avoid this method, but if you have no choice, use the lowest possible setting and check the meat every 1 to 2 minutes. Otherwise, it might cook through in patches while the rest stays frozen.
Do You Have To Defrost Pork Chops Before Cooking?
Here’s another reason why we shy away from using the microwave to defrost pork chops: You don’t have to defrost them at all before cooking them off.
To cook frozen pork chops, add about 50 percent to your estimated cooking time. Thinly sliced chops that would only take 10 minutes to cook should take around 15 minutes if they’re still frozen when you put them on the grill.
Be careful when cooking thin cuts of meat from their frozen state. It’s easy to overcook the meat before the outside has had a chance to sear properly. The pork chops are done when their internal temperature hits 145 degrees.
How Do You Reheat Frozen Cooked Pork Chops?
A great way to reheat frozen leftover pork chops is to put them in a rimmed baking sheet with 2 to 3 tablespoons of chicken stock, sherry, or leftover cooking juices. Seal the tray with a double layer of aluminum foil and set the oven or smoker to 350 degrees.
When the oven or smoker is hot enough, add the pan to the cooking grate. Let the pork chops reheat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest chop registers at least 145 degrees. Serve warm.
Tip: If the pork chops were slathered in barbecue sauce when you froze them, brush on a bit more just before serving.
The Bottom Line
Freezing pork chops is an excellent way to plan ahead. It can also save you money if you were able to score a decent bulk price. The key is to freeze the meat within a couple of days and defrost it before too much time has passed.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!