Ground meat is a versatile choice—not just for the grill, but for many cooking applications. The trouble is, the meat tends to spoil faster than whole muscle cuts. About how long does ground pork last in the fridge once you’ve brought it home?
How Long Does Ground Pork Last in the Fridge?
Fresh raw ground pork should stay good for 1 to 2 days with the proper storage. Once ground pork is cooked, it can keep for up to 4 days. Should you opt to freeze the raw pork or cooked leftovers, try to thaw the meat within 2 to 3 months.
Can You Buy Ground Pork?
Many butcher shops and grocery stores have ground pork available for sale. If you don’t see it on the shelf, ask the butcher if they can grind some pork for you. It’s easy to do, and you’ll know the product is as fresh as it could be.
Those of you who own meat grinders can buy whole muscle cuts of pork and grind it on your own. Pork shoulder and Boston butt are good choices.
Bear in mind that most of the ground pork that’s sold commercially has a meat-to-fat ratio of 85 to 15. This gives it a relatively lean texture. Ground pork that’s intended for sausage (see below) should contain more fat—preferably 25 to 30 percent.
Is Ground Pork The Same Thing As Sausage?
Although most sausage is made from ground pork, not all ground pork is sausage.
Ground pork is a basic ingredient that has no fillers or seasonings added, just meat and a small amount of fat. Sausage, on the other hand, is ground meat that’s been mixed with various spices and a generous quantity of salt. It should also have a higher fat content.
Also, be aware that there are alternatives to pork sausage available. Turkey and chicken sausage are popular options owing to their lean texture. You can also make sausages from beef, lamb, or even vegetarian ingredients like soy and eggplant.
How Long Does Raw Ground Pork Last in the Fridge?
Raw ground pork is best when cooked and consumed within 1 to 2 days. Whenever possible, try to purchase it the same day you plan to use it. That way, you won’t have to worry as much about spoilage.
You should be able to tell when the meat has gone bad because it will turn a grayish brown color. Fresh raw pork should come in various shades of pink, with flecks of creamy white fat.
The meat may also give off a foul odor when it’s gone past its peak. When pork is fresh, it doesn’t really smell like anything. Spoiled meat, on the other hand, often smells strongly of ammonia or rotten eggs.
Check the texture of the pork as well. The meat should be slightly sticky and tacky, but not slimy. Pork that displays any of these signs should be discarded immediately.
How Long Does Ground Pork Last in the Fridge After It’s Cooked?
Depending on how you plan to use the ground pork, you might be better off cooking it as soon as you bring it home, then storing it in the fridge. When kept in the proper conditions, refrigerated cooked ground pork can last up to 4 days.
Let the cooked pork cool to room temperature before putting it away, but be careful not to leave it out too long. Meat should never be held at room temp for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour when the ambient temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Store the pork in sealed containers or zip-top bags, forcing as much air as possible out of the containers. If air is allowed to get inside the package, the meat will spoil more quickly.
Make sure your refrigerator temperature is set below 40 degrees. Keep leftovers stored on the bottom shelf, well away from the door.
When reheating leftovers, bring the meat to 145 degrees before you consume it. That will take it out of the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees.
A Word About Internal Temperature
Unlike pork chops and tenderloin, ground pork needs to cook to 165 degrees before it’s considered safe to eat. You can eat the chops and other whole muscle cuts medium rare, but that’s not the case with ground meat.
All ground meat should be cooked thoroughly. That’s the case whether you’re dealing with poultry—which should cook to 165 degrees anyway—or red meats like beef and pork.
Why the discrepancy? It’s because the bacteria that cause food-borne diseases linger on the surface of the animal’s flesh. When you sear pork chops, the bacteria on the surface is destroyed by the heat, even if the insides are still a bit pink.
With ground pork, the flesh on the surface gets distributed throughout the entire mixture. The only way to ensure the destruction of all potentially hazardous bacteria is to cook the meat all the way through.
Can You Freeze Ground Pork?
If it’s not possible to cook the ground pork within a couple of days, you can freeze it instead.
It’s important to wrap ground pork well before adding it to the freezer. Use an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid. Alternatively, you can wrap it in a freezer bag or a layer of plastic wrap followed by heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Label all packages with the contents, as well as today’s date. That will serve as a reminder to thaw and cook the pork as soon as possible.
When stored below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, ground pork should keep indefinitely. However, it’s better to thaw it within 3 months. Longer storage periods can cause the meat to dry out, especially when it’s ground meat.
You can follow similar guidelines for cooked ground pork. Since the cooking process will have leached plenty of moisture from the meat already, try to thaw leftovers within a 2-month window.
How To Defrost Ground Pork
Defrosting ground pork in the fridge will give you more leeway in terms of preparation time. When you put the raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge to defrost, you’ll have up to 2 days to cook it, depending on how long it was in the fridge before you froze it.
Frozen meat can also be thawed in a cold water bath, but if you use this method, you’ll need to cook it off right away. Make sure the package is sealed tightly before adding it to the water, and always use cold water—never warm or hot.
As a last resort, you can use the microwave to defrost meat, but we don’t recommend this practice. Microwaves often heat food unevenly, which means portions of the pork could remain frozen while others are fully cooked.
If you do use the microwave, be forewarned that you need to cook the meat as soon as it’s thawed. Never attempt to defrost meat at room temperature, as that will keep it in the “danger zone” for too long.
Cooked ground pork should keep in the fridge for up to 4 days after it’s fully thawed. It may turn the corner more quickly, depending on how long the leftovers were stored before you froze them.
The Bottom Line
On average, raw ground meat doesn’t keep as well as whole muscle cuts. When you’re planning on a dish that’s made with ground pork, try to do your shopping on the same day, or the day before at the earliest.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!