Whole pork tenderloin is an excellent ingredient to have on hand. It’s tender and lean, and it cooks quickly, so it’s a great choice for weeknight meals.
If you find pork tenderloin on sale, go ahead and stock up on as much as you can afford. The meat freezes well without taking up a great deal of space. For those of you who are unsure how to defrost pork tenderloin properly, we’ve put together this guide.
How To Defrost Pork Tenderloin
The best way to defrost pork tenderloin is to place it in the fridge for 3 to 5 hours per pound. For this cut, that usually means it can be ready in time for dinner if you pull it from the freezer in the morning. Alternatively, you can thaw it in a cold water bath, or in the microwave as a last resort.
How Long Can You Keep Pork Tenderloin In The Fridge?
Pork tenderloin should stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days after you purchase it.
Just to be sure, take a look at the sell-by date on the packaging. If the meat was hanging around the store for a few days before you bought it, it might start to spoil more quickly. Often, supermarkets will alert you to this fact by putting bright stickers on the package and marking down the price.
Once the pork is cooked, you have another 3 or 4 days to consume or freeze the leftovers. If you wait any longer, the meat may start to show signs of spoilage (see How Can You Tell If Pork Tenderloin Has Gone Bad, below).
How Long Can You Store Pork Tenderloin In The Freezer?
In theory, you can freeze meat products indefinitely as long as the freezer temperature is set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. At temperatures this cold, microbes like mold and bacteria won’t have a chance to grow.
That said, it’s better to thaw and consume the meat within a year. For smaller cuts like pork tenderloin, we would suggest thawing within a 6-month window. If you wait too long, the texture might begin to deteriorate. This is true especially if the meat suffered from freezer burn in the meantime, as this phenomenon causes its surface to turn leathery.
How Can You Tell If Pork Tenderloin Has Gone Bad?
The first test is to give the meat a hearty sniff. Fresh pork doesn’t have a noticeable odor on its own. If it smells sweet, sour, or gives off a hint of rotten eggs, then it should be discarded.
The meat should also be just slightly moist to the touch. When the surface is sticky or slimy, it’s time to throw it out. This is true whether the pork is cooked or still raw.
A change in color alone doesn’t necessarily indicate spoilage. Some meat can be slightly gray or brown and still be safe to eat. Some iridescence on the surface is also to be expected, particularly with cured meats. Of course, you should toss the pork if you see any mold, or if the discoloration is accompanied by one of the other signs listed above.
3 Methods For Defrosting Pork Tenderloin
1. In The Refrigerator
The best way to thaw meat is to leave it in the refrigerator for a few hours, or even overnight. Set the package on a rimmed plate, or any container large enough to catch any drippings or condensation. Leave the wrappings in place, and make sure the fridge temperature is set below 40 degrees.
Place the pork on the bottom shelf of the fridge, toward the rear. Pork tenderloin is a relatively small cut, weighing about 3/4 to 1-1/2 pounds on average. That means it should thaw in about 3 to 6 hours. If the tenderloin was cut into medallions before it was frozen, it will thaw out in even less time.
Note that if you’ve frozen two or three pork tenderloins together, you should count them as one whole roast. Since the meat will thaw at a rate of 3 to 5 hours per pound, three large pork tenderloins might not be fully thawed until the next day.
2. In Cold Water
When you can’t wait several hours for the meat to defrost, try this technique instead. Place the pork, still in its wrapper, in a zip-top bag or other type of leak-proof packaging. Fill a container with enough cold water to cover the meat, then submerge the pork.
After 30 minutes, drain the container and start again with fresh cold water. A 1-pound pork tenderloin should only take 30-45 minutes to thaw using this method.
One reason we prefer the refrigerator method to this one: When the pork is thawed in cold water, it needs to be cooked right away. Of course, if you’re using this method, there’s a good chance you were planning on cooking the meat soon anyway.
Don’t use warm or hot water to thaw frozen meat. That will send the surface of the meat into the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees while the rest of it is still frozen, thereby inviting hazardous bacteria to the party.
3. In The Microwave
We consider microwave thawing to be a last resort. It should be considered only if you’re pressed for time. You’ll need to cook the meat immediately after thawing, so make sure you have everything ready to go before you add it to the microwave.
If your unit has a defrost setting, use it to thaw the pork. Otherwise, take a look at your user’s manual to determine the best setting. Either way, check the tenderloin every 2 to 3 minutes to make sure it’s thawing evenly. If you’re not careful, patches of the meat will cook while others remain frozen.
Tip: When the ends of the pork tenderloin are pliable enough to move, fold them underneath the thicker center. This will keep them from cooking while the rest of the meat thaws.
How To Defrost Cooked Pork Tenderloin
You can use any of the methods listed above to thaw cooked pork before reheating. The thawing times should be about the same, unless the meat was carved into smaller pieces when you froze it. In that case, it will thaw more quickly than a whole tenderloin.
Again, we don’t recommend using the microwave unless it’s an absolute necessity. Pork leftovers that have been thawed in the microwave have a dry, leathery texture.
Can You Cook Pork Tenderloin Without Thawing It First?
One well-kept secret of the kitchen is that it’s acceptable to cook meat from a frozen state. The trick is to avoid the dreaded 40-to-140 degree danger zone we mentioned earlier. You can do this by extending the cooking time by about 50 percent.
For example, if your grilled pork tenderloin typically takes 20 minutes to cook, expect it to be ready in about half an hour if you haven’t thawed the meat first. When you’re approaching the end of the estimated cooking time, use an instant-read thermometer to ensure that the pork has achieved an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees.
The Bottom Line
Pork tenderloin’s small size allows it to thaw quickly, with minimal effort. We would suggest freezing multiple tenderloins individually, instead of in one large package. That will allow you to thaw only as much as you need at one time.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!