About how much time do you have to cook off your pork chops before they start to turn the corner? And if you decide to freeze them, how long should you wait before defrosting?
This ultimate guide will let you know how long pork chops can stay in the fridge or freezer.
How Long Can Pork Chops Stay in the Fridge?
Fresh raw pork should keep for 3 to 5 days in the fridge. If you aren’t able to cook it during that time, store it in the freezer instead. Once you’ve thawed the meat, you have 1 to 4 days to cook it or refreeze it. Cooked pork chops should stay fresh in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
A Word About Sell-By Dates
Much of the time, retailers will label their meat products with a date headed “Best By” or “Sell By.” These dates can serve as helpful guidelines, but it’s better not to rely on them completely.
When the retailer uses the “Sell By” label, it’s supposed to remind the staff how long to leave the product on the shelf. After that date, it might not be at peak freshness anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat.
Instead of relying on the dates on the package, use the advice we’ve provided in the sections below. You should be able to tell whether the meat is still in good condition when you inspect the pork chops yourself.
How Long Can Raw Pork Chops Stay in the Fridge?
We recommend cooking meat products as soon as possible after bringing them home. Ideally, you would do your shopping the same day you plan to prepare the meal.
That said, we recognize that this strategy isn’t always practical. If you need to keep the meat on hand for a few days, it’s important to recognize the basic parameters.
Depending on how fresh the meat was when you bought it, raw pork chops should keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. Should you need to wait any longer before cooking them, it’s better to store them in the freezer (see section below for advice).
How To Tell if the Pork Chops are Fresh
When you buy fresh pork chops, the meat should be light pink to a darker purplish color. Dark pink pork isn’t indicative of poor quality. In fact, it means the meat contains high levels of myoglobin, which makes it more flavorful.
In addition, fresh raw pork chops should be slightly springy and damp to the touch. If you notice any discoloration or moldy spots, or if the texture is slimy or sticky, the pork has begun to spoil and should be thrown out.
When dealing with spoiled meat, you’ll probably be able to smell the difference before you notice anything else. Raw pork doesn’t have a strong odor. When it smells like sulfur (that is, rotten eggs) or ammonia, it’s no longer fresh.
How Long Are Cooked Pork Chops Good in the Fridge?
Once you’ve cooked the pork chops, any leftovers should keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. If time is running out and you don’t mind reheating leftovers, it might be a good idea to cook the meat and store it in the fridge rather than freezing it.
Let the pork chops cool before wrapping them and putting them in the fridge. Be careful not to leave them at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, though (or 1 hour if the weather is hot). This rule applies to raw pork chops as well as cooked ones.
Wrap leftovers tightly and store them on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. This will keep them away from the warmer air that enters the environment each time the fridge is opened.
Speaking of which, now would be a good time to make sure your fridge temp is set below 40 degrees. When meat is kept at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees for too long, it becomes a breeding ground for the kinds of bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.
Bear in mind that refrigerating the meat won’t halt the growth of bacteria—it will only slow it down. To stop bacteria from setting up camp, you’ll need to store the pork chops in the freezer. For more advice, see Tips on Freezing Pork Chops, below.
How To Reheat Pork Chops
Set the pork chops in the pan and add 1 tablespoon of liquid for each chop. Use water, chicken stock, apple juice or cider, or beer for the liquid (this should depend on the flavor profile of the dish). Cover the pan tightly with foil.
Reheat chops in a 350-degree oven until hot, about 30 minutes. The liquid will keep the pork chops from drying out, which is always a concern, especially if the chops are on the thinner side.
You can reheat pork chops on the grill, but you’ll need to be careful. Pork chops are lean and tender, and it’s easy to overcook them.
If you do decide to use the grill for reheating, keep the heat as low as possible. We’ve found that this method works better with thick-cut bone-in chops.
How Long Are Pork Chops Good After Thawing?
When you’ve frozen and then defrosted the pork chops, you should have 1 to 4 days to cook them off. The total length of time depends on your defrosting method (see below), along with the initial storage period.
For example, if you stored the fresh pork chops in the fridge for 4 days before freezing them, they were already headed toward the deadline. In that case, you’ll want to cook them as soon as possible.
On the other hand, when you freeze the chops as soon as you’ve brought them home, you should have up to 4 days to cook them off. That’s because the meat was still as fresh as possible when they went into a frozen state.
Tips on Freezing Pork Chops
Always wrap meat well before adding it to the freezer. When air is allowed inside the packaging, it causes ice crystals to form. This contributes to the dreaded phenomenon called freezer burn, which results in dry meat.
Label each package with the contents and the date. Try not to put more than 2 pork chops in each package. That way, you can thaw only as many as you need at one time. As a bonus, they’ll thaw more quickly, too.
When stored below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, pork chops should keep indefinitely. However, after 4 to 6 months, they’ll start to lose moisture. For best results, thaw and cook the chops within 6 months.
It’s safe to refreeze pork chops without cooking them first. Try to put them back in the freezer as soon as you know you won’t be cooking them off. Be aware that if you refreeze the chops, they might be a bit dry when you finally do prepare them.
Tips on Thawing Pork Chops
The refrigerator offers the safest and most reliable method for thawing frozen meat. Put the package on a rimmed plate to catch any juices, and set the plate on the lowest shelf in the fridge. The chops should be fully defrosted within 24 hours.
For a faster method, enclose the package in a zip-top bag. Submerge the bag in a container full of cold water for about 30 minutes. For larger bone-in pork chops, you might need to swap out the water and wait another 30 minutes.
When you thaw meat in a cold-water bath, you need to cook it off right away. The same is true if you use the microwave, but that’s a technique we don’t recommend, as the meat might cook through in patches while the rest remains frozen.
Pro Tip: There’s no need to thaw pork chops before cooking them if you’re really pressed for time. It’s safe to cook them from a frozen state. Just be sure to increase the estimated cooking time by about 50 percent.
What’s The Recommended Internal Temperature for Pork Chops?
Some cuts of pork need to cook for a long time before the meat is juicy and tender. Pork shoulder, for example, should reach an internal temperature of at least 185, and slightly higher than that if you intend to make pulled pork.
Since pork chops are taken from the loin primal, however, their meat is much leaner. That means they can cook to an internal temperature of just 145 before you take them off the heat.
Pork chops that are cooked to 145 degrees are considered medium rare. If you prefer well-done chops, it’s fine to leave them on the grill until the internal temperature hits 160. However, try not to cook them past this point, or the meat will be dry and tough.
The Bottom Line
From the time you bring the pork chops home, you should have about 5 days to cook them off. After that, you’ll have another 4 days to eat them. Keep that in mind when shopping, and try not to buy more than you can consume within that time frame.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!