As smoked meat dishes go, pulled pork freezes remarkably well. If you save the juices, you can reheat the leftovers to perfection. But what if you’ve already thawed the meat and want to refreeze it? Will that affect the texture or flavor of the pork?
Can You Refreeze Pulled Pork?
It’s safe to refreeze defrosted meat products, and pulled pork is no exception. However, repeating the freezing and thawing process will cause the meat to lose a lot of moisture. This is true especially when the meat has been shredded beforehand, as is the case with pulled pork.
What Is Pulled Pork?
To make pulled pork, you slow-cook a large cut of fatty pork (the Boston butt and picnic shoulder are your best bets) until the meat is very tender. For maximum flavor, pulled pork should be prepared on the grill or smoker.
Pitmasters will usually season the meat with a spice rub before giving it the low-and-slow treatment. A simple blend of salt and pepper is fine, especially if you intend to get creative with your leftovers.
205 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal internal temperature for pulled pork. When it’s allowed to reach this temp, the meat will be tender enough to come apart easily between a pair of forks or shredding claws.
How Long Does Pulled Pork Keep In The Fridge?
Once you’ve prepared the pork, the leftovers should keep for up to 4 days when stored in the fridge. The refrigerator temperature should be set below 40 degrees. To ensure that the leftovers stay cold, store them on a lower shelf, toward the back of the unit.
Sometimes, it’s obvious that you have more pork than you’ll be able to consume within a 4-day period. If this is the case, we would suggest leaving a few large chunks intact and freezing those instead of shredding them. The pork will retain more moisture that way.
How To Freeze Pulled Pork
When it comes to freezing pulled pork, moisture is the key to success. If you want your leftover thawed pork to be nice and juicy, try to save as much of the cooking liquid as possible.
After the pork has rested for at least half an hour, collect any juices that have collected on the plate or cutting board. Transfer the liquid to a heatproof cup and let it cool, then skim the fat off the top.
Depending on how much juice you have, you can freeze it in a lidded container or an ice cube tray. We prefer the latter method, as it allows you to thaw only as much liquid as you need when reheating the leftovers.
To freeze the pork itself, wait until it has thoroughly cooled. Otherwise, ice crystals will form on the meat, ruining the texture.
Store the pork in zip-top freezer bags or tightly lidded containers. Make sure there’s as little air as possible in each container to reduce the risk of freezer burn.
Label the containers with the date and the contents, then store in a freezer set to 0 degrees or below. Thaw and reheat the pork within 3 to 6 months for best results.
One final note: Try to freeze the meat as soon as possible after you cook it. The same rules apply to reheating the defrosted leftovers. If the pulled pork spends 3 days in your fridge before freezing, then another 3 after you thaw it, it might spoil.
Can You Refreeze Pulled Pork?
We like to thaw and reheat leftover pulled pork just once. Repeating the process multiple times will dry out the meat, giving it a straw-like consistency.
You can offset this problem by rehydrating the leftovers using pulled pork juice, or smothering the meat with barbecue sauce. But the results will never be as impressive as they were when the pork was fresh.
The bottom line is that it’s safe to refreeze thawed pulled pork, assuming that the meat was properly stored the whole time. That said, try to thaw only as much as you plan to consume right away.
How To Reheat Pulled Pork
Reheated pulled pork should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees before you serve it. If you overestimated your serving sizes when thawing the meat and wind up with leftovers, let them cool before putting the meat back in the fridge.
On The Grill
Set a pellet grill to 225 degrees. If you have a gas grill, use the lowest setting. You can also use a charcoal grill as long as you wait for the fire to die down to medium-low.
Set the pork and reserved juices in a disposable aluminum pan and mix well. Set the pan on the cooking grate and close the lid. Reheat the pork for 20 to 30 minutes, then add sauce if you’d like and heat for another 5 minutes. Stir and serve.
In The Oven
To reheat pulled pork using this method, preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Set your leftover pork in a roasting pan and drizzle with reserved cooking liquid. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and heat in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
Once the pork is heated through, you can add barbecue sauce if desired, then reheat for another 5 minutes. A vinegar-based North Carolina-style sauce is a good bet here because it has a thinner consistency than its tomato-based counterparts.
Stir the pork well before serving with additional sauce on the side.
On The Stove Top
This method is faster, but it requires more hands-on supervision. Add the pork and juices to a heavy skillet. Set the skillet over a medium-low burner and reheat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
When you reheat pulled pork on the stove top, you might need to add more liquid from time to time to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan. If you don’t have any cooking juices left, use chicken stock or water.
When the meat has heated to the correct temperature, add sauce if desired, then reheat for another minute or two before serving.
Can You Reheat Pulled Pork Without Thawing It First?
It’s fine to reheat the pork without waiting for it to thaw, but for obvious reasons, it will take a bit more time to reach the correct temperature. You can use any of the methods we’ve listed above, but there’s a more convenient way to do it.
Put the frozen pork in an airtight, heatproof bag. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then set the sealed pork in the boiling water and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much meat you’re reheating.
Remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit for another 10 minutes before removing the bag from the water and the pork from the bag. Serve as desired.
We should point out that this technique works best if the pork was already mixed with reserved cooking juices when you froze it. Otherwise, it might turn out too dry.
For a long time, we thought it was unsafe to refreeze thawed meat products. As it turns out, the practice isn’t dangerous—it just might affect the moisture content, and that’s a problem that’s easy to overcome.