Depending on how long you’ve been grilling, you may already know that leftover cooked pork lasts a bit longer than fresh raw pork. But how long is cooked pork good in the fridge? Should you freeze it as soon as it cools off, or wait a while? Let’s find out.
How Long Is Cooked Pork Good in the Fridge?
Cooked pork should keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, assuming the meat was stored properly. Make sure the refrigerator temperature is set below 40 degrees, and wrap the pork well before storing it on a lower shelf. Alternatively, you can freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.
How Long Is Raw Pork Good in the Fridge?
Before you cook the pork, it should keep for 3 to 4 days. Note that this guideline applies to whole muscle cuts like chops, tenderloin, pork shoulder, and Boston butt, among others. Raw ground pork should be cooked off within 2 days.
You can usually tell if the pork is past its prime by the smell, appearance, and texture. Raw pork doesn’t have a strong odor. You might catch a whiff of fresh blood, but if it smells sour, it should be discarded. Slimy or discolored pork should also be thrown out.
How Long Is Cooked Pork Good in the Fridge?
After the pork has been cooked off, it should stay good for 3 to 5 days. The total shelf life depends on the storage conditions. If you follow the proper protocol, the pork will keep longer.
First of all, never leave meat out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. This applies whether the product is raw or cooked, but it’s easy to leave leftovers out on the counter for too long, especially when you’re entertaining.
In warmer weather—that is, when the temperature outside exceeds 80 degrees—be sure to refrigerate leftover pork within 1 hour. At these temperatures, the pork will enter the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees much more quickly.
In the danger zone, the types of bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses are able to multiply rapidly. The pork might still look and smell fine, and it would probably taste fine too, but you still shouldn’t eat meat that’s been left out for too long.
Once the cooked pork has had a chance to cool, put the leftovers in sealed containers or zip-top bags. Fill the containers or bags as full as you can, and do your best to force any excess air out of the bags.
Keep leftovers on the lower shelf of the fridge. If you put them toward the back, they’ll be protected from the warm blasts of air that occur when you open the refrigerator door, especially if there are other products lined up in front.
When stored in this way, the pork should stay good for up to 5 days. As with raw pork, test the leftovers for freshness by giving them a good sniff. A sour or sweet smell indicates that the meat has outlasted its freshness.
How To Reheat Leftover Pork
Your reheating technique should depend on what type of pork you used, as well as the cooking method. Here are a few of our favorite hacks for reheating grilled or smoked pork.
Grilled Pork Chops or Pork Steaks
Set the oven to 350 degrees and place the leftover chops in a roasting pan. Add about 1 tablespoon of liquid for each pork chop. You can use water, chicken stock, beer, apple juice, or apple cider for the liquid, depending on the seasoning.
Cover the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. When the oven is hot enough, place the pan inside and heat the chops until they’ve achieved an internal temp of 145 degrees. This may take just 10 minutes for thinner cuts, or up to 30 minutes for thick-cut chops.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin
A lidded frying pan is your best bet for reheating grilled pork tenderloin to perfection. This might soften the crisp exterior, but the meat will retain its moisture, which is important for lean cuts like this one.
Choose a pan that’s large enough to fit the pork tenderloin in a single layer. Note that a lid is only necessary if the meat is already cut into slices. If the tenderloin is still mostly whole, the lid might come in handy, but it’s not essential.
Add a small amount of neutral oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, you’re ready to add the pork.
Set the meat in the pan and cover with the lid. Flip slices every minute or so until heated through. This should only take 3 to 5 minutes with slices about 1/2 inch thick.
For whole (or mostly whole) pork tenderloin, you only need to turn it every 3 minutes. In 12 to 15 minutes, the meat should be heated to a safe internal temperature.
Smoked Pulled Pork
You can reheat pulled pork on the grill or smoker at 225 degrees. Just put the leftovers in an aluminum roasting pan along with the cooking juices. You can use water, chicken stock, or apple juice if you don’t have enough liquid left over.
Reheated pork butt or shoulder will be juicier if it’s still in one piece. The process might take longer, but the meat will be able to retain more of its original moisture than if you’d shredded it in advance.
When the smoker is hot enough, cover the pan with foil and set it inside. Reheat until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If you don’t want to fire up the smoker, use a 225-degree oven instead.
Smoked Sliced Pork Shoulder
For pork shoulder that’s been carved into slices rather than shredded, use the oven method. Since the meat was slow-cooked, we use a lower temperature for this cut, setting the oven to 250 degrees.
Arrange the sliced pork in a roasting pan, along with a small quantity of whatever liquid you prefer. Cover the pan and reheat until the slices are hot, about 25 minutes.
How To Freeze Leftover Cooked Pork
For those times when you just can’t get to the leftovers within a few days, freezing is always an option.
Try to freeze the pork as soon as you know you won’t be eating it anytime soon. The longer it sits in the fridge, the faster it will spoil when it’s time to thaw it.
Wrap the pork tightly in plastic wrap or freezer paper, then add it to freezer bags. Alternatively, you can add a layer of aluminum foil on top of the first wrapper. Set the packages in the freezer, which should be set to a temperature below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Leftover cooked pork will keep in the freezer indefinitely, but it will start to dry out after a couple of months. For optimum results, thaw and reheat the pork within 3 months. Be sure to label the containers with the contents and the date as a reminder.
The Bottom Line
Like all grilled and smoked meats, pork is better when it’s served right away. That said, it’s possible to enjoy leftovers just as much, provided you use the right methods. If you won’t be able to reheat it within a few days, be sure to freeze the pork instead.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!