It’s important to know how long pork shoulder will keep in the fridge both before or after cooking. That way, you can decide whether you have time to cook it off, or if you’ll need to store it in the freezer. This guide will help you explore your options.
How Long Does Pork Shoulder Last In The Fridge?
Raw pork shoulder should keep for up to 3 days in the fridge, assuming the temperature is set below 40 degrees. If you need to wait longer than that, it’s better to store the pork in the freezer. Once the meat is cooked, it should keep for 4 days in the fridge and 6 months in the freezer.
How To Select Pork Shoulder
When shopping for pork shoulder, make sure the meat is pinkish-red in color. There should be some marbling running throughout the cut, but this segment of the shoulder is typically a bit leaner than the Boston butt, so there might not be much.
The pork shoulder is often sold with the skin still attached. Depending on how you plan to prepare the meat, this could work in your favor. If you don’t want to deal with the skin, ask the butcher to remove it before you take the meat home.
This cut is a good choice for making ground pork because the meat has just enough fat to provide recipes with the moisture they need. If you do put the meat through the grinder, be aware that ground pork spoils faster than whole cuts—often after 2 days or so.
How Long Does Pork Shoulder Last In The Fridge?
Try to buy pork shoulder within 3 days of your projected start time. The cut is large enough to require a long cooking process, so you’ll want to plan ahead anyway.
Should your plans change, you can always add the meat to the freezer. When stored at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat should keep indefinitely. However, it might have a drier texture if you wait longer than 3 to 6 months before defrosting it.
Cooked pork shoulder should keep for up to 4 days under the right conditions. In some cases, you might be better off cooking the meat and allowing it to cool, then storing the leftovers for a few days. That way, you’ll have it on hand when you need it.
The guidelines for storing cooked pork shoulder in the freezer are similar to the ones you would use for raw pork. For best results, thaw and enjoy the leftovers within 3 months. Longer storage could result in freezer burn, which will ruin the texture.
How To Tell If Pork Has Gone Bad
You may be able to tell if pork has gone bad just by smelling it. Most of the time, the telltale sign of spoilage is a foul scent that’s reminiscent of rotten eggs. Spoiled pork may also smell overly sweet or sour.
Another way to test for freshness is to touch the surface of the meat. Fresh pork should feel slightly damp and moist to the touch. If it’s slimy, sticky, or as dry as paper, there’s a good chance it’s outlasted its freshness.
Finally, check the meat for discoloration. Dull gray or brown patches indicate that the meat is beginning to rot. It might be possible to cut these spots away, but if the meat underneath displays similar signs, you’ll need to throw the whole thing out.
How To Defrost Frozen Pork Shoulder
Your best bet for defrosting frozen pork shoulder is to set it in a large container on the lower shelf of the fridge. Kept in this manner, it should thaw at a rate of 24 hours for every 5 pounds of pork.
As an alternative, you can put the pork in a well-sealed bag and set it in a cold water bath. This method takes about 30 minutes per pound, so a 6-pound pork shoulder can be ready to cook in 3 hours.
Bear in mind that if you use the cold-water method, you’ll need to cook the pork right away. When the meat is thawed in the fridge, you should have 1 to 3 days to start cooking, depending on how long you kept it before adding it to the freezer.
How Long Can Pork Shoulder Stay at Room Temperature?
You should never leave pork shoulder—or any cut of meat—at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. This applies to prepared leftovers as well as raw meat.
There’s a reason why we keep our refrigerators at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When food is left in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees for too long, it’s easier for hazardous bacteria to form on the surface.
In warm weather, aim to refrigerate all meat products within 1 hour instead of 2. When the ambient temperature is 90 degrees or higher, the meat will reach the danger zone much more quickly.
What this means is that you should never consume leftovers that have been left out on the counter all night. Even if the meat looks and smells fine, it could still be harboring the type of dangerous bacteria that causes food-borne illness.
Reheating the leftovers won’t do any good in this case, either. Once the bacteria have been introduced, the meat is no longer safe to eat, even if you heat it past 140 degrees again.
This is also the main reason why it’s unsafe to defrost frozen meat products on the counter. Instead of thawing the meat more quickly, this practice invites bacteria to set up camp.
The Bottom Line
When you follow the proper storage guidelines, you should have a few days to cook off your fresh pork shoulder. For optimum results, though, try to purchase the meat no more than one day before you plan to start cooking it.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!