If you’ve ever made pulled pork, you would know it involves cooking a pretty large cut of meat, and this, as is obvious, leaves quite a bit left over.
So, can you freeze pulled pork? Yes, you can freeze both cooked and raw pulled pork. When freezing pork, the goal is to retain as much moisture as possible so that the pork isn’t dry when it thaws. Vacuum sealing the pulled pork before putting it in the freezer for up to 4 months is the best way.
Read on to find out if you can freeze pulled pork, the best way to freeze it, how long it can stay frozen, and much more.
What Is Pulled Pork?
Pulled pork is a staple barbeque dish that is made with slow-cooked, shredded pork and barbeque sauce. The meat is slow-smoked or roasted over low heat until it becomes super tender and easy to shred.
The shredded meat is then tossed with barbeque sauce and served on sandwich buns with sliced onions, pickles, coleslaw, and more barbeque sauce.
It is often served with classic American barbeque sides such as potato salad, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese. You may also serve it in tacos, on nachos, or on its own.
What Does Pulled Pork Taste Like?
When cooked properly, pulled pork takes on a smoky, savory flavor with a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
When mixed with BBQ sauce, it takes on a sweet, smokier flavor and can be paired with several dishes.
How Long Does Raw Pulled Pork Last?
When it comes to meat, the fresher it is, the better. If you need to store it for a while, you can do so both in the refrigerator as well as the freezer. The time it can last in each, though, varies considerably.
Pulled pork cuts like pork butt and the pork shoulder can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. To ensure the best quality, the temperature of the fridge should be kept below 40°F at all times and the meat should be kept in an airtight container in the coldest part of the fridge.
If you want to store the raw meat for a longer time, you can freeze it for around 4 to 12 months. When you’re ready to cook it, give it at least 24 hours to thaw.
How To Cook Pulled Pork
There are several ways to slow-cook pulled pork. The best way is to smoke it outside over wood or slow-roast it in a Dutch oven.
You may also use a slow cooker or pressure cooker, but this method will not give a crispy and flavorful caramelization that is a highlighting feature of pulled pork cooked using the first two methods.
This is because the slow cooker/pressure cooker method requires more liquid and skips the part where the meat is seared.
Large, tougher cuts of pork are ideal for cooking pulled pork. The high amount of connective tissue takes a bit to break down, but it also prevents the meat from drying out during the slow and long cooking process.
Use the following cuts of meat to make the absolute best pulled pork:
- Pork butt roast or Boston butt
- Pork shoulder
- Center-cut pork loin roast
How Long Can You Store Pulled Pork After Cooking?
You may often find yourself with leftovers that need to be stored properly. There are simple ways you can store pulled pork so that it retains its quality and taste and can be enjoyed at a later time.
Pulled pork should be ideally refrigerated within 2 hours after being cooked. Leaving it at room temperature for longer won’t affect the flavor but could expose the meat to other elements and contaminants.
You can refrigerate pulled pork for about 4 days. If you want your pulled pork leftovers to last longer, it is best to freeze them.
Pulled pork can be left in the freezer for up to 3 months, after which, although it will still be safe to consume, the quality might deteriorate. You may notice that the meat will become mushy and will not be as flavorful.
For a detailed guide on how long pulled pork lasts, you can read our other article: How Long Is Pulled Pork Good For?
How To Freeze Cooked Pulled Pork
You can freeze cooked pulled pork but you need to make sure that it is done properly so that it can be just as flavorful, juicy, and delicious when thawed as it was when it was freshly cooked.
Whether you like freezer meals or are simply looking for a way to store your leftover pulled pork, freezing it is a great way to safely store it so that you can use it for weeks or even months!
When frozen properly, the cooked pulled pork stays tender and succulent and there shouldn’t be an issue with thawing it later on.
With the pulled pork’s fine texture, you may want to freeze it in a way that prevents it from drying out. Also, you need to keep in mind how any additional sauces may affect the freezing process.
When freezing cooked pulled pork, the best way to do so is by vacuum sealing it as it eliminates exposure to oxygen. This prevents freezer burn, retains the flavor and texture, and also makes the reheating process much easier.
If you do not have access to a vacuum sealer, you may follow these step-by-step instructions for the best results:
- Let the pulled pork cool down to room temperature if it is still hot from cooking.
- Divide the meat into small portion sizes, depending on how much you may require at any given time. This will prevent having to defrost the entire batch when you need to use just some of it.
- To eliminate any contact with air, wrap the meat in a layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Lay each portion of meat onto a separate piece of plastic and wrap it tightly to ensure all the corners are properly sealed.
- Once wrapped, place the meat in large, resealable freezer-safe bags, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing them.
- Label the bags with the date and place them in the freezer.
How To Prevent Frozen Pulled Pork From Drying Out
To prevent loss of moisture and tenderness, there are two things you can do:
Tip 1: Shred only as much pork as you need and leave the rest of it whole for freezing. This will allow the moisture to stay inside the meat when frozen.
Tip 2: Do not discard the cooking juices. Once the cooking liquid has cooled off, scoop the top layer of fat and discard it. Freeze the rest and add it to the meat on reheating to add moisture and additional flavor to the pulled pork.
How To Freeze Pulled Pork With Sauce
You can freeze pulled pork with sauce, but you have to be mindful of the type of sauce as some of them don’t freeze as well.
Barbeque sauce, which is most commonly used with pulled pork, freezes fine and you should have no problem freezing it with the meat.
Emulsified sauces, like mayonnaise and homemade vinaigrettes, are a different story as they will not freeze as well.
They will freeze, but when thawed, they will lose their original flavor and texture. For this reason, it is best to add such sauces later on to the pulled pork when you thaw and reheat it.
When freezing pulled pork with sauces, freeze them in portions as you would freeze plain pulled pork. Scoop each portion into a resealable freezer-safe bag and press out all the air before tightly sealing it.
How To Thaw Vacuum-Sealed Pulled Pork
To thaw vacuum-sealed frozen pulled pork, submerge the entire sealed bag of meat into a pot of water and let it boil for about 5 to 10 minutes. It may take longer depending on the portion size.
Turn off the heat and let the sealed meat sit in the water for an additional 10 minutes before taking it out and using it in your dish.
This will ensure that the juices stay intact and thaw together with the meat, resulting in a tender, juicier end product.
If you don’t already have a vacuum sealer, they are worth checking out. My favorite vacuum sealer is from FoodSaver.
Can You Refreeze Pulled Pork?
No, it is not recommended to refreeze pulled pork once it has been frozen and thawed. Doing so will affect the texture and quality of the meat, resulting in pork that will be mushy.
If, however, the frozen pulled pork hasn’t thawed completely and is still in the refrigerator, you can refreeze it safely.
To avoid having to refreeze pulled pork and risk ruining its quality, freeze it in portions so that you defrost only as much as is needed at a given time.
How To Use Pulled Pork After Freezing
When it comes to frozen pulled pork, there aren’t any restrictions on what you can use it with.
You can use frozen pulled pork in the same way you would use freshly cooked pulled pork. Just make sure it is safely thawed and properly reheated before using it.
If frozen and defrosted properly, we guarantee you won’t be able to tell the difference between fresh pulled pork and one that has been sitting in the freezer for a month!
Some dishes that you can use frozen pulled pork in include:
How To Reheat Frozen Pulled Pork
There are several ways to reheat frozen pulled pork. You can choose the best way depending on the resources you have available. The trick with each is to heat the meat through without drying it out.
Regardless of the method you choose, you will have to thaw the meat first. The best way to do so is to leave it in the refrigerator overnight. You will also have to make sure that the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F for safe consumption.
Method # 1: Slow Cooker
The slow cooker method is super easy and almost foolproof. Simply add the pork to the slow cooker and top it either with a splash of liquid or mix it with some barbeque sauce.
Set the heat to warm and let it sit for 2 to 3 hours. If you are pressed on time, you can also cook it on low for 1 to 2 hours.
Just make sure to keep checking on the meat and stir it occasionally. It’ll be ready to serve when the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Method # 2: Oven
Using the oven is another great method that takes only about 30 to 45 minutes. Simply preheat the oven to 225°F, place the pork in a roasting pan, and add a liquid of your choice for added moisture.
Cover it with aluminum foil and let it roast until the meat is heated through. If you want, you can add some BBQ sauce in the last 5 minutes.
Method # 3: Grill
Preheat the grill on low and place the meat in a disposable aluminum pan with a liquid of your choice.
Set the pan on the grill rack and let it cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the meat is heated through. You may add BBQ sauce at the end if you like.
Method # 4: Stove
Add both the meat and the liquid of your choice to a large skillet or saucepan and set the heat to medium-low.
Cook the meat for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Keep a close eye on the liquid and add more if necessary to prevent the meat from drying out.
Method # 5: Instant Pot
An instant pot is a great and quick way to keep your pulled pork nice, juicy, and tender. Start by adding enough liquid inside the instant pot to allow it to come to pressure.
Place the trivet inside the pot and set the meat on top of it inside a heat-safe dish. Close the pot, seal it, and set it to steam for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally or perform a quick release once the cooking time is up.
Method # 6: Microwave
The microwave is a great kitchen appliance that always works when you’re looking for a quick and easy way to cook or heat something.
Place the meat on a microwave-safe dish, add a splash of liquid or some BBQ sauce, and cover it. Heat it on high for about 2 minutes, or until the meat is perfectly hot.
Now that you know all about freezing pulled pork and how to do it to retain its flavor and texture, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have.
Can you eat pulled pork cold?
Yes, as long as your pulled pork is cooked properly initially at the right internal temperature, you can eat it cold.
How to tell if pulled pork is bad?
The best way to tell if pulled pork has gone bad is by smelling it. Spoiled pulled pork will develop a sour odor that will intensify over time.
If you try to cook it, the unpleasant taste and odor will grow stronger. Also, check the texture of the meat. If it develops a slimy layer or you notice weird growths, it is time to throw it away.