Can You Freeze Pulled Pork?

Pulled pork keeps well in the fridge for only a few days. If you’re cooking a big batch, having another storage option is handy. Can you freeze pulled pork?

I make my pulled pork in the slow cooker. It doesn’t require that much hands-on time, but I hate the cleanup part.

Because of that, I decided to make more than I eat in a couple of days (that is, use all the pork shoulder meat that I have), and test freezing the leftovers. Fortunately for me, the cooked meat passed the test with flying colors.

If you want to know what you need to consider before freezing your pulled pork and how to go about it, this article is for you.

Prepared burger with thawed and reheated pulled pork
Prepared burger with thawed and reheated pulled pork

Can You Freeze Pulled Pork?

Meat, generally speaking, freezes quite well. That’s true for both fresh and cooked variety. And pulled pork is no exception. But before you freeze yours, let’s talk about the role sauce plays in the equation.

While I make my pulled pork without any (I add it before serving if needed), I know many people make it with sauce. If you’re in the latter group, there are two things for you to think about.

The first one is whether or not your sauce freezes well. If you don’t know, check your recipe for info or test freezing a small amount of it and see how it goes. Or, if you can’t be bothered with that, freeze the meat sans the sauce.

The second one is portioning. If you freeze just the meat, you should be able to scoop a couple of pieces from a big bag of frozen pulled pork (see video). But if the sauce is also there, it tends to bind everything into a big clump. That means your only option might be to thaw it all in one go.

Tip

If your sauce freezes well, but you want to scoop some pulled pork without defrosting it all, freeze the sauce separately. Freezing in an ice cube tray is probably the way to go.

Now that you know if you should freeze your pulled pork with or without the sauce, let’s get into the how.

Pulled pork without sauce
Pulled pork without sauce

How To Freeze Pulled Pork

The whole process is dead simple and takes only a couple of minutes. Grab a freezer bag, and let’s get it done. Here’s how:

  1. Portion the pulled pork. If yours is without sauce, feel free to put as much as you can into a single bag. If the sauce is there, consider using a couple of smaller bags. This way, each one can hold as much meat as you need for a single meal.
  2. Seal the bag(s). Remove excess air and seal the bags tightly. Add a label if you like.
  3. Transfer everything into the freezer.

That’s it. Your pulled pork is secure in the freezer and waiting for whenever you need it.

Frozen pulled pork
Frozen pulled pork (scoop as much as you need)

How To Thaw Frozen Pulled Pork

The time needed to defrost your batch of pulled pork depends heavily on its size and whether you froze it with sauce or not.

If you froze only the meat, you can transfer it onto a plate and arrange it in a single thin layer. This way, it thaws quickly. But if yours is a big clump of pork and sauce, it takes much longer to defrost.

Having that in mind, here are a couple of ways of thawing the meat:

  • Overnight in the fridge. The best option if you have a big clump to defrost. You can put the bag in lukewarm water to speed things up a bit. Make sure the bag isn’t leaky, though.
  • On the counter. Get a large cutting board or a plate, and lay the meat on it in a thin layer. The larger area it takes, the faster it thaws. Make sure it doesn’t sit like that for longer than about an hour (for safety reasons). Cook the whole thing right after.
  • On the stove. You can quickly defrost and reheat the meat on the stove. A large non-stick pan is great for that purpose. Keep the heat low and add a bit of water if needed. Once it’s defrosted, switch the heat to medium to warm up the shredded meat.
  • In the oven. The oven, just like the stove, is a great option if you want to both thaw and reheat your pulled pork in one go. Use an oven-safe dish with a lid, and add a couple of tablespoons of water if there’s no sauce. That’ll prevent the meat from drying out. Also, don’t preheat the oven – start it up once you put the pork in so that it’ll defrost more slowly.

I’m rather lazy, so I go with the oven and thaw and reheat my pulled pork in one go. I put the meat in a glass casserole dish and set the oven for 30 minutes and 350 F (or 180 C). The time needed depends on the amount of meat, so adjust accordingly.

Pulled pork before reheating
Pulled pork ready for thawing and reheating in the oven

Reheating Pulled Pork

The two most popular options for reheating pulled pork are, unsurprisingly, the stove, and the oven. The former is more hands-on and gives you more control, while the latter is more like set it and forget it.

If you feel comfortable with warming up the meat in the oven, go for it. If not, grab a non-stick pan and cook it on the stove. This way, you can react immediately if you see the meat starting to burn or dry.

No matter which one you go with, make sure the meat doesn’t dry out and burn. To take care of that, you might use a bit of water, fat, or add some sauce to the meat. And make sure to watch it closely.

If you’re reheating it in the oven, consider giving it a check halfway through to see if it doesn’t start getting dry or if it requires a quick stir. Be careful, though.

Either way, your first try might not be a home run, but you’ll get better.

Burger with pulled pork in the making
Burger with pulled pork in the making

Using Thawed Pulled Pork

There aren’t any limitations or restrictions on how you can use your frozen pulled pork. You can use it in all the same recipes you use fresh pulled pork in. Those include:

  • Salads
  • Burgers
  • Tacos
  • Pizzas
  • Stews and casseroles
  • Whatever else you can think of

Happy freezing!