Creating the perfect pulled pork to enjoy with friends and family takes time and effort.
If you’ve got leftover pork, you’ll want to enjoy it in the days or weeks.
But how long can you keep pulled pork before it goes bad?
Let’s see what health and safety regulations and, more importantly, BBQ experts say about keeping your pulled pork tasty and healthy to eat for as long as possible.
- Freshly made pulled pork remains edible for only a couple of hours outside the fridge.
- You can keep pulled pork in the refrigerator for three to four days.
- Freeze pulled pork for up to three months, stored in an airtight container.
There’s nothing more delicious than leftover smoked pulled pork – the flavors seem to get better and better.
But how long do the flavors get better before the pork starts going bad? The answer is shorter than you think.
How Long Does Pulled Pork Last
The freshness of pulled pork is vital for both its flavor and safety.
As barbecue expert Meathead Goldwyn, also known as the Barbeque Whisperer, suggests, pulled pork is best enjoyed fresh off the BBQ. The slow-cooked, tender meat from the pork butt offers optimal flavor and texture when it's consumed shortly after being cooked .
According to the USDA's food safety guidelines, if you're serving pulled pork at a gathering, it should be eaten within two hours of cooking, or within one hour if the air temperature is above 90°F . This ensures that the meat is still within the safe temperature zone and reduces the risk of foodborne illness.
So, when pondering how long pulled pork can last, remember that while leftover pulled pork can be refrigerated and consumed for a few days, it's always best to eat it fresh from the smoker whenever possible.
Proper handling of leftovers, including prompt refrigeration and reheating to the proper temperature, ensures that your pulled pork remains a safe and delicious meal.
If it’s a humid or hot day, your pulled pork is good for one hour only before it potentially starts going bad. It means you have to start cooking pulled pork as soon as possible.
However, you can leave pulled pork out for eating and sharing if you keep it warm on the stove or in an insulated container at 140⁰F or higher, beyond the so-called danger zone .
Keeping the pork warm will allow you to leave it for up to four hours.
Unfortunately, if you leave the pork out for longer than four hours, for instance, if you forget to put it away overnight, it is not recommended to eat it.
Also Read: How Long Is Taco Meat Good For
The Best Way to Transport Pulled Pork
If you want to bring pulled pork to a party or share it with friends, you must store it and transport it carefully to prevent it from developing bacteria.
BBQ experts recommend using a Cambro, which is “an indispensable tool to caterers.
Made by Cambro Manufacturing, it is an insulated box in which caterers carry hot foods to weddings on the beach and keep them in the food safety zone above 140°F. Some models even have heaters in them” .
It’s simple enough to make a homemade Cambro to keep pulled pork from going bad during transport.
Wrap the pork tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Insulate a beer cooler or ice box with towels or newspapers, and then place the wrapped meat inside additional towels.
So long as you don’t open the cooler, you can keep your pulled pork in this way for up to four hours.
How Long Does Pulled Pork Last in the Fridge
Pulled pork is good for three to four days in the fridge.
To keep your delicious leftover pulled pork to eat later, allow it to reach room temperature and refrigerate.
The USDA gives guidelines on storing pulled pork in the fridge.
According to these guidelines, you can refrigerate cooked pulled pork for three to four days, so long as it is in a tightly sealed container and kept at 40°F (4.4°C) or below.
Eat cold refrigerated pork or heat it, so it is hot and steaming, around 165°F (73.9°C) according to a meat or probe thermometer.
Check for spoiled pulled pork before eating refrigerated meat: if the pork has developed a smell or discoloration, don’t take any chances. Rather throw it away.
Also Read: How Long Does a Pizza Keep in the Fridge
Storing It in the Refrigerator
To keep pulled pork in the fridge to eat later, you need to package the pork correctly.
If you know you will eat the pork for another meal, stash it in an airtight container for later heating as tacos or sandwich filling.
If you plan to eat the pork slowly over the next few days, store it in individual food storage bags, such as zip-top packets, or wrap it in aluminum foil.
Squeeze out all the air from the packages to keep fresh pork longer.
Investing in a vacuum-sealing device is the best way to ensure that your leftovers remain edible.
Vacuum sealing leftover pulled pork allows you to keep your pork in the fridge for up to a week.
Always keep pork or cooked meat products in the coldest section of the fridge to avoid food-borne bacteria developing.
The door is always the warmest part of the fridge, so avoid storing meat in that area.
How Long Does Pulled Pork in the Freezer
Frozen pulled pork is good for three months in the freezer.
If you’re sure you won’t be able to eat your leftovers within four days, or if you’re organized and have cooked up a lot of pulled pork for future meals, it is best to freeze the pork.
USDA “From Farm To Table” guidelines for pork explain, “It is safe to freeze ready-prepared pork dishes. For best quality, use within three months” .
Freezing is a great way to have a ready supply of pulled pork and avoid getting tired of eating it day after day. (Not that I’ve ever gotten tired of pulled pork.)
Before freezing pulled pork, allow it to cool to room temperature. Never freeze meat that has not cooled entirely for safety reasons. Avoid contamination, and prevent ice crystals from developing in the pork and ruining its texture.
Pork is notoriously dry when frozen and reheated. To avoid dry pork, set aside any cooking juices when shredding the meat.
Once it’s cool, scoop off any fat and freeze the juices alongside the pork in an airtight container. Keeping the juices to prevent the pork from drying out when reheating is vital.
Another great way of retaining moisture is to freeze segments of pork butt before you have shredded the meat.
Shredding dries out the meat, while whole pork sections will keep it better.
Storing It in the Freezer
Freezing cooked meat requires you to wrap it thoroughly and remove as much air as possible.
Store pulled pork tightly wrapped in aluminum foil and then stashed it in airtight containers or zip-top bags.
Ensure that the containers or bags are sturdy enough to stand up to freezing and thawing – you don’t want to lose your BBQ to freezer burn.
Flatten out the freezer bags or use shallow containers to stack easily in the freezer.
Remember to mark the date of freezing so that you don’t inadvertently keep the pork too long and risk food safety.
How Long Is Pulled Pork Good for After Thawing
Pulled pork is good for two hours after thawing.
According to the USDA, there are three safe ways to thaw fresh pork leftovers: in the refrigerator, in a cold water bag, and the microwave. Avoid thawing pork at room temperature.
The same rules apply to thawed pork as to freshly cooked pork – you can’t leave it out for more than two hours.
You cannot refreeze frozen pork after thawing, even if you have reheated it.
Not only are you opening up the door to contamination, but you’re also setting yourself up for some mushy, flavorless pork shoulder.
How to Reheat This Meat
There are many ways of reheating pulled pork to taste as great as when you made it.
Always ensure that you reheat pulled pork to 165°F (73.9°C) and that it is evenly heated.
1.) Reheating Pulled Pork Shoulder On The Stove
This reheating method works best if you’ve managed to keep some of the pork liquid.
Reheat pulled pork shoulder and the juices on medium heat until it is simmering and juicy. Reheating should take about 15 minutes.
2.) Reheating Pulled Pork In A Slow-Cooker
Again, this method is suitable if you heat the leftover pulled pork with some liquid. Put your leftovers in the slow cooker and set them to “low” for an hour or two.
Check the pork after an hour to see that it is not sticking, especially if you don’t have a lot of liquid. You can always add barbecue sauce if necessary.
3.) Reheating Shredded Pork In A Microwave
Place the meat and reserved cooking juices in a microwave-safe dish and cover. If you don’t have pork juices, use apple juice, BBQ sauce, or even a dash of water.
Heat the meat on low for a minute, removing the pork and stirring frequently.
Take special care if you use this method, as microwaves often heat food unevenly and can dry out your tasty shredded pork.
It's Time to Enjoy Pulled Pork
Enjoying pulled pork leftovers is a pleasure, especially if you’ve meal-prepped in advance.
How long you keep your leftover meat depends on how you store it.
Pulled pork can stand on a table for two hours with as much air as possible. After that, you can refrigerate it for three to four days, so long as it is in an airtight container. Freeze leftover pulled pork for up to three months.
Ensure that you thaw stored pork adequately and reheat it to avoid contamination.