Bought too much pork or can’t use your supply before it spoils? Your first thought probably was: can you freeze pork, and how long can it sit in the freezer?
The good news is that you can freeze pork, both cooked and raw, and it freezes quite well. There are hardly any downsides to freezing pork, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.
Interested in learning more? Let’s dive in.
Can You Freeze Pork?
Since pork has a short storage time, freezing it is probably the best way to preserve it.
Prepping the meat for freezing takes roughly a couple of minutes (more on that later), and the loss of quality after freezing and thawing isn’t that big. If you’re like me, you can hardly tell if your pork was frozen or not.
And in case you’re wondering, you can freeze all kinds of pork meat: ground pork, whole cuts (like shoulder, tenderloin, ribs, and the rest), and cooked pork. The last one with some limitations, though.
Can You Freeze Cooked Pork or Any Pork-Based Dish?
You can freeze cooked pork or any dish involving pork as long as freezing it won’t mess up the dish.
The freezing process leaves the meat pretty much intact, but if the dish also involves some crisp fruits or veggies, they will turn out mushy and watery. And you don’t want that.
It’s best to freeze only the meat. You cook your pork ribs, chops, tenderloin, belly, or shoulder however you like, and freeze the meat. Then you thaw it and add all the veggies or dairy-based sauces you like while reheating it.
If you’re looking for an example of frozen cooked pork, I freeze my slow cooker pulled pork.
- Pork (raw, cooked, ground, whatever you like)
- Portion the meat. Consider how much pork you need for a single dish, and cut it up into dish-sized portions. That will make for easy thawing and meal planning in the future.
- Transfer portions into freezer bags. Each bag should contain a single part. This way, you just grab the bag when you need to thaw the meat. Remember to seal the bags tightly and squeeze out all the air. Label the bags with the name and date if you like.
- Transfer the bags into the freezer.
This freezing method is as simple as it gets and works for both cooked and raw pork. Grab a cutting board, a knife, a few freezer bags, and let's get it done.
How Long Can You Freeze Pork
Uncooked pork cuts keep best for 4 to 12 months, while ground pork retains quality for 3 to 4 months. When it comes to cooked pork and leftovers, use them within 3 months for best results.
As you probably know, freezing keeps food safe to eat pretty much indefinitely ([CANR]). As long as it stays frozen at all times, of course.
The only downside is that the quality of pork (and all frozen foods) gradually decreases. And at some point, you will start to notice that.
When exactly is impossible to say, it all depends on your taste buds and how much you pay attention to your food. I had chicken thighs that were frozen for more than six months and didn’t notice much of a difference. It works the same for pork.
Overall, you don’t need to pay that much attention to the periods outlined above. If you protect the pork from freezer burn and season it well, there’s usually hardly any difference at all.
If you’re having over any food snobs, opt for fresh pork instead of frozen. They might actually notice that slight difference in quality.
How To Thaw Pork
Here are your options for thawing frozen pork:
- In the fridge. That’s the recommended option, as you can refreeze any meat defrosted this way. The only downside is that it takes time – about one day for every 5 pounds of weight ([CANR]). I put the meat into a bowl with cold water and then into the refrigerator to speed things up. This way, a 2 – 3 pound cut thaws overnight.
- Microwave. Microwave the pork on defrost, or on low to medium setting. Once it starts to defrost, switch to short increments, especially if you want only to thaw the meat, and not necessarily cook it in the microwave. Cook the meat immediately after defrosting.
- Skip defrosting. You can start cooking pork on the stove or in the oven when it’s still frozen. That works best if it’s already cooked, and you just need to thaw and reheat it. It takes about one and a half times as long to cook the meat and requires watching the meat closely so that it doesn’t burn. But it’s a viable option if you forgot to defrost your pork and don’t have anything else for dinner.
When it comes to using thawed meat, you should use it within 4 days. Unless, of course, it was quite “old” when you froze it. If that’s the case, use it the same day it defrosts or the next day at the latest.
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